Nominations have begun for the 2013 Best of the Heights Awards. 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
The program is a little bit different this year. It’s being run in 2 rounds. First is an open nomination period running through June 15. Anybody can nominate any local business in any of 22 categories.
Companies receiving the most nominations in each category will be named as finalists. Voting on finalists takes place in the second round (July 1-Aug. 31).
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 – also prompting the correct 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 to the Observer all at once.
- 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 get to the next round by nominating us in the “Best Bar, Pub or Tavern” category. Here’s a link to the nomination form: http://ht.ly/kChN7.”
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 are named a finalist, repeat the whole process in the second round.
7. 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. I hope you’ll make time to do so.