The awards section should be a sort of micro-site, with:
A new and different design template. Note: don’t cheap out here since design helps convey credibility.
Microbranding: Give the awards its own unique, catchy name to help establish it as a separate entity and distinguish it from the main site.
A dedicated, soft offer to monetize traffic. The lead gen offer on the main site isn’t a fit here. In fact it could turn people off and hurt distribution. So create a free guide download as the sidebar offer.
Trust symbols: include “as seen in” logos and badges for industry organizations you belong to.
From a structural standpoint, you need to include:
- A main index page that explained what you are doing and why.
- A page on criteria used to select the nominees.
- 10 article category pages and on each you can:
- List and link out to each business you nominate.
- Include a snippet of original, overview text for each business submission for search engines to grab onto.
- Enable a voting component, using WP Polls.
- Share buttons
Worth noting here is these article category pages rank well and still drive a continuous stream of passive traffic for queries like:
[“industry topic” + “your target niche”]
[“industry topic” + “your practice specialty”]
Which is intentional from the outset.
Outreach and Promotion
Once you have your list of nominees, send each a personalized letter to let them know they’ve been nominated or accepted for an award competition.
In the letter, be sure to include:
- Why their business was chosen.
- The URL of where they can vote.
- The voting deadline and when you plan to announce winners.
- Links to nominee badges (we created custom award nominee badges as part of the link building/branding campaign).
You can also encourage everyone to help spread the word, share it with their employees and customers, and to vote for their favorite business.
The positive response we got when we did something similar was overwhelming and a little unexpected. A majority of nominees thanked us for the honor and for helping promote their work. They were genuinely appreciative and grateful, which felt good.The positive response we got when we did something similar was overwhelming and a little unexpected. Click To Tweet
Now, given the number of small businesses you will involve, you will have some fantastic “built-in” distribution. But you also need to get the word out to other outlets in your market. So promote the heck out of the awards to:
- Industry journals
- Trade pubs
- Industry bloggers
- Related organizations and national associations
Fire off a few press releases as well when you launch the awards and when you announce the winners. In sum, the awards will get a ton of media coverage.
On the flipside, if you string this all together with spammy shortcuts and tricks and with a sole goal of “generating leads,” you never will generate a significant level of coverage, distribution and participation.
How Things Should Shake Out
During the weeks your awards run, lead generation will spike when you announce the awards. There will probably be some retracement starting in week two, but then it will be off to the races again during the final week of voting.
Award Show Interest
As for other KPIs, watch the following:
Editorial links: The article authors and the organizations/pubs they work for publish posts announcing the nominations and encouraging their audience to vote for them. Post awards, they will run congratulatory posts for the winners and runners up.
Badges: Entrants will show your custom, branded badges with HTML embeds for the nominees, as well as badges for the winners and runner ups on their websites.
Social links: There will be a healthy amount of self-promotion and vote solicitation by nominees on Facebook and Twitter from the business owners and their employees.
Coverage links: The awards may also earn coverage on high-profile industry pubs, blogs, and a few major industry associations when you announce the awards and also when you release the winners later.
All-in-all, it can be a tidal wave of publicity. What’s more, since this publicity comes exclusively from industry-related media, they will be highly-relevant to your practice and about as natural as you can get.
The publicity will also be highly defensible, since few, if any of your competitors would try to replicate this sort of lead generation campaign given the level of time and effort. Most are consummate followers who are still relying on outdated and low production marketing tactics.