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Oct 8, 2023

How to encourage more applications for your awards program

Applications are your awards program’s bread and butter, so the more the better, especially if you have opted to organize a paid edition, in which case submitted applications directly translate into revenue. So, what can you do to boost your application rates? We have a handy guide to help you along. 

Define & communicate your program’s benefits 

The first essential step to encourage more applications is properly motivating people to submit them. This process includes: 

  • Defining the benefits — as part of your overall awards planning process, you need to decide on any prizes you will be giving out, such as physical prizes, trophies, or good old cash, in addition to non-tangible benefits such as industry recognition and networking opportunities. You can also consider neat perks such as digital seals, advertising materials, and so on;
  • Communicating those benefits clearly — once you have decided on the benefits of participation, you need to make sure that your target audience knows about them. 

Categories matter 

Naturally, the number and type of categories depend on the nature of your program. That said, consider creating multiple, specific categories to attract more applicants. While broad categories can be good too, having niche categories might help applicants identify with them better, see a better chance of winning, and as a result, feel more motivated to apply. 

While one potential downside to this is getting overwhelmed with too many categories, you can sidestep this trap by organizing said categories into groups, which is generally easy if you use the right online award application solution. 

Focus your marketing efforts 

This takes us to the next step where you need to come up with the right marketing approach. While a lot goes into a comprehensive awards marketing strategy, we have a few pointers: 

  • Consistent messaging — focus on your award program’s benefits and unique selling point and make sure to communicate them across all your marketing channels;      
  • Choose the right marketing channels — on that note, rather than spreading your efforts and your budget too thin, select the right channels, that is, where your target audience is, and focus your marketing efforts there; 
  • Make use of your program’s online home — regardless of whether you incorporate your awards into your existing website or have a separate webpage, your program needs to have a dedicated online space — use it to promote your awards and list the benefits of participating there as well; 
  • Get brand ambassadors on board — you don’t have to do it all by yourself but rather, you can ask your jury members, sponsors, and previous editions entrants and winners to help out, spreading the word about your awards and the benefits of participation; 
  • Upsell & cross-sell — encourage more applications by offering categories bundles, special offers, 2-for1 promos, early-bird rates, discounts for returning applicants (if this is not the first edition of your program), etc.;  

Ensure top-notch assistance — have a dedicated person or a team to help out applicants, answer questions, help out when needed, and generally make the whole process smoother and more applicant-friendly.

Ensure smooth processes for applicants

Alright, you have gotten your potential entrants’ attention. Now you not only need to keep it but also convert their interest into actual applications. Here’s how you do it: 

  • Smooth registration process — actual applying is preceded by registration for your program and the fewer steps you include in this process, the better. Ideally, potential applicants should be able to register right from your program’s website since sending them on a registration quest risks at least a few of them just giving up along the way;  
  • Ensure secure payments — you need to worry about this only if your program is paid, but if it is, make sure your applicants know they can trust you (and your website) with their money. Pro tip: If your program is paid, consider asking for payment at registration, which is a proven way to lift submission rates;
  • Top-notch application experience — after you have gotten people to register for your awards program, you can encourage them to actually submit by providing them with a dedicated space to work on their entries, along with an engaging application form, and clear criteria and instructions; 
  • Make sure your applicants never miss a deadline — even the most well-intended applicants can get side-tracked and miss your submission deadline and unfortunately, good intentions do not equal submissions. Find a reliable method, such as email automation, to send them timely reminders about pending submissions and approaching deadlines.

All of the above will significantly lift the likelihood of your applications completing the submission process. 

Get the right awards management software 

While it may not seem immediately obvious, using dedicated software for your awards program could have a big impact on your application levels. Here’s why: 

  • User-friendly registration & application — awards management solutions usually enable smooth registration (complete with payment options) and feature applicant-friendly portals that also encourage submissions; 
  • Email automation — the software takes care of reminding your applicants about pending submissions;  
  • Freed up resources for marketing — using awards management software rather than old-school spreadsheets means that you don’t need to spend as much time on mundane tasks but can instead focus on your marketing efforts or overall program growth strategy to attract more applicants. 

How Evalato gets the job done  

Now that we have established that using submission management software is a good idea, let’s see why using Evalato specifically is an even better one:  

  • Embeddable registration form or a webpage — the embeddable registration form ensures that applicants can register straight from your website; or if you prefer a separate online space for your awards program, Evalato has you covered there too with an automatically generated yet customizable webpage; 
  • Option to set up multiple categories — if you choose to encourage applicants with multiple categories, Evalato not only gives you the option to have as many as you wish but also to sort them neatly into groups and even subgroups if needed; 
  • Option to ask for payment at registration — that, coupled with Evalato’s fully secured payments, multiple payment methods, and 160+ currencies supported, lays the groundwork for monetizing your awards if you choose to do so;   
  • Customizable application form — Evalato gives you the power to build the ultimate application form to hike submission rates. You can choose from a multitude of fields, including questions, images, and videos that your applicants can upload, with each field featuring its own settings to make the application form as user and applicant-friendly as can be;   
  • Intuitive applicant portal — this is where Evalato brings out the big guns for applicants — they can enjoy a full-feature next-gen submission portal, where they can create, edit, save, resume, and submit their work. You can meanwhile customize it and add instructions to make it even easier for your applicants to complete their submission process; 
  • Email automation — Evalato’s automated emails handle most of your communication with applicants (and judges, for that matter), so you can customize them to send reminders;  
  • Intercom & HubSpot integrations — you can use those to add chat functionality to your program’s pages, enabling applicants to reach you directly. This way you can help out in case of questions, and resolve issues that would otherwise prevent people from submitting, which would ultimately result in a higher submission rate;      
  • Winners webpage — regardless of how you announce results and winners, Evalato gives you the option to set up a special webpage for that purpose, that you can use for post-awards marketing to drum up interest for the next edition of your program; 
  • Analytics — and speaking about the next edition, Evalato’s analytics will give you insight into your program’s performance so that you can improve going forward. 

It’s hardly surprising then that Evalato boasts a 99% applicant satisfaction rate, which in turn helps awards organizers rake in more submissions. 

Switching Evalato made the whole process much more efficient and easy to manage. We increased the entries into the Awards this year by almost 100%,” Harry Shackleton, Commercial Director at TAF 

At the end of the day  

Evalato can significantly enhance your efforts to get applications for your awards program. You can see how it works for free or book a call with an Evalato expert for even more insight into how this submission management software can completely transform your awards program.

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