If your business is located in Cleveland Heights or University Heights, this local recognition program provides an opportunity for free and low-cost marketing. Here’s how this year’s program works, and how to take advantage of it in your business:
How it works
People fill out nomination forms for their favorite Heights businesses in 19 categories, and those receiving the most votes are named “Best of the Heights” at an event on Oct. 7. Nomination forms are available in the Heights Observer (they’ve been running since May) and online through FutureHeights. It’s that simple.
How to exploit it for your own good
1. Nominate yourself. There’s nothing wrong with self-promotion, and nobody will ever know you were the first person to nominate the business. Ballots require your name and contact information, but that isn’t shared publicly; it’s just to make sure the nominations are valid. Here’s a link to the online form.
2. Ask staff, family and friends to nominate you too, and tell then what category they should use.
3. Ask customers – and let them know which category. The very act of asking customers to nominate you puts them on your team and brings them closer to you. Here are ways to make it easy for them to nominate you:
- Keep a supply of forms on your counter (you can photocopy them right out of the Heights Observer; we don’t mind). Present them nicely, in a basket with a sign and leave another clearly-marked basket for completed forms. You can mail them or drop them off at the Observer all at once. (The Observer/FutureHeights office is in the former Coventry School.)
- Use your website and e-mail communications to ask people to nominate your business. Provide a link directly to the online form in those communications to make it as easy as possible. This is a welcome opportunity to communicate with customers without asking them for money. You’ll be surprised at how many are happy to engage with you at this level.
- Put a message on your company’s Facebook page and any other social media sites you use. Make it direct, something like: “Joe’s Eats” is excited to participate in this year’s Best of the Heights Awards. Help us by nominating us in the “Best Bar, Pub or Tavern” category. Here’s a link to the nomination form: http://bit.ly/htsbest.” (The link works; you can cut-and-paste it.)
4. Get your staff involved. Make sure everyone on your team knows this is a special initiative. Give each his or her own supply of forms (they can place their initials in a small spot in the corner) and offer a reasonable incentive – a cash bonus or gift certificate – to the staff member who brings in the most valid nominations.
5. Team up with friends in your business district. While you’re soliciting nominations, offer to suggest businesses in other categories if they’ll do the same for you.
6. If you’re a finalist or a winner, promote yourself. Put the honor into your advertising, on your letterhead template, in your e-mail communications, etc. Where appropriate, provide a link to the Heights Observer’s coverage of the winners (probably in October).
When all is said and done, the nominating process is a useful and refreshing way to promote your business. It engages your customers at a different level; it helps them think of your business not just for what it sells, but for how well it runs.
Even if your business is tiny or new and you think you have little chance of being named a finalist, the process is likely to strengthen some existing relationships and create new ones.
It might also reveal areas where you need to build up your marketing, such as building your Facebook network, or tidying up your customer database, or creating regular e-mail communications.
In the worst case, if you find people aren’t excited to nominate the business, you’ll have learned something important – and can begin looking for ways to improve the customer experience.
The Best of the Heights is designed to highlight and honor the many excellent independent businesses that are located here. But it’s also a platform for you to do some honest self-promotion.