How to write a knock-out awards application

woman thinking what to write in diary, long-term thinking

It’s no secret that winning an award can do wonders for business growth, but fewer realise the huge potential benefits on offer to firms that simply enter an awards competition.

Make the shortlist in your chosen category and you’ll harness valuable exposure for you and your brand, access new audiences and maybe meet investors who can help you get your latest product or service off the ground.

But to make this happen, your entry form needs to be in top condition. Read on to discover key do’s and don’ts that will give your application the X-factor it needs to stand out from the crowd.

Select your award category carefully

Similar to most enterprise competitions, the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards has a wide range of categories for firms of all sizes to enter, from Start-up and Scale-up, to Young Entrepreneur, Service Industries, Creative Entrepreneur and many more.

You need to pick a category that will put your business in its best light, one that plays to your strengths, not your weaknesses, and through which you can specifically showcase your best successes.

Next, dig deep and think about what you’ve been working on the past year, then tailor the stories to bring out the issues that are most relevant to the award you’re targeting. This is especially important if you’re entering more than one category.

Answer the question

It might sound strange, but many candidates – whether by accident or intention – fill their response space with information that’s not asked for. Read the questions carefully, and circle keywords to ensure your focus remains on what’s important.

Questions will probably change according to the awards category, so be prepared to put in some research to help you zone in on what the judges are looking for; remember they are entrepreneurs too and won’t suffer waffle gladly.

Be concise

A potential cap of 300 words means you need to make every sentence work. Concision comes through revision and re-drafting, so have fun with your first edit – pour out everything you think you need to say, then re-read and trim the bits that don’t add informational value.

Early drafts may be full of words such as ‘really’, ‘very’ and ‘absolutely’ and emotive language to add impact. Overuse of adverbs and adjectives makes writing sound less authoritative, not more passionate, so employ emphasisers sparingly. Write only what’s needed to convey your message honestly, and your answer will be far clearer.

When you’ve finished, send your entry to friends or colleagues who can proof-read, and make sure you’re not over – or too far under – the word limit.

Remove technical babble

Depending on the complexity of your business, service or product, you may need to use some jargon. Your judges will understand the technical terms, but applications that use clear English and bring out the personality of the business itself will be far more attractive to read.

The NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards is about the entrepreneur, not just the balance sheet – we look for the inspirational stories that colour the business journey. Applications that explore and justify your passion as an entrepreneur will be more likely to capture the judges’ interest.

Provide proof

If possible and where appropriate, include evidence to support your words. These might be testimonials, third-party endorsements, an interview or a great review in an industry magazine.

If you’re providing media coverage, make sure it’s a real publication and not sponsored content, unless it’s directly asked for.

And finally…

This is no time to be humble. So, if you want to secure the silverware, be proud about your success; underline how you’re different from your competitors by demonstrating the niche you’ve carved in your segment of the market and how it benefits all stakeholders.

Think about the value your business brings to consumers or clients; don’t give away your secrets, but share the bigger picture of your experience. Whether you’re a disruptor, innovator or thought-leader in your sector, now is your time to shout your message and share your passion with the world.

About the author

Francesca James is the co-founder of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards, which acknowledges the hard work and inspiring stories behind British entrepreneurs and businesses in Great Britain. To find out more, visit

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