Guest Column | September 17, 2018

What Retailers Need To Know About Awards

By Mary Ellen McClanahan, Georgia Department of Economic Development


Receiving an award is a thrilling experience for a retailer. What business would not want a third-party endorsement they can use to show customers and partners that their products and services are worth purchasing? Companies that make the annual Inc. 5000 list or receive a similar national recognition proudly show their award on store windows and websites. While most retailers are familiar with recognitions issued by industry associations and consumer media outlets, there are also many opportunities to nominate your business for awards at the state and regional level.

Every award program is different, and there are a few key points that you should consider when researching award opportunities to maximize your potential return on investment.

What To Consider Before Submitting A Nomination

History of the award – How long has the program been running? What are some examples of companies that have been awarded by the program in the past? When you hear about an award that you think your retail business has a chance of winning, make sure to investigate the award program’s past. Awards that have been around for a few years and have recognized prestigious companies from your industry or community will likely resonate more with your customers.

Organization behind the award – Who runs the award program? Recognition from a legitimate organization will have more of an impact when your customers see that you have received an award. Research your state and regional industry associations to see if they run award programs for local retailers. Chambers of commerce and state departments of economic development may also run award programs that your customers will recognize.

Award announcements – How will the award winners be announced? Some programs simply send out a certificate and rely on the business to publicize their recognition. Other programs invest in events or a media push to help their honorees receive the attention they deserve. For example, the Georgia Small Business Rock Stars, which is an annual award program recognizing stand-out small businesses based in Georgia, are announced at a luncheon in Atlanta every year. The luncheon not only emphasizes the resources that abound in Georgia, but also helps maximize the visibility of the award winners and provides the local business community with the opportunity to network and meet potential new customers. Consider prioritizing award programs that include similar tactics for recognizing honorees.

Nomination cost – Is there a cost to submit a nomination for an award? Many award programs are free, but some include a submission fee. If there is a submission fee, be sure to weigh the cost of completing a nomination against the potential odds your business will be recognized. In addition to fees, consider how much time it will take to complete a nomination. Some awards have extensive nomination forms that may take hours to complete. The time requirement is particularly important when you’re coming up on the submission deadline. Make sure to give yourself enough time or find an award nomination that you can quickly complete against an impending deadline.

These tips will help you identify awards for which to nominate your business. If your business is honored with an award, there is even more you can do after receiving that recognition.

What To Consider After Winning An Award

Sales Collateral – Once your business has won an award, make sure to proudly display your recognition where it will catch your customers’ eyes. Most award programs allow honorees to incorporate the award logo into sales collateral, including on websites, store front windows, email newsletters, social media pages, e-commerce websites and more. In Georgia, the city of Thomasville recognized local Small Business Rock Star honorees by placing stickers on their storefronts along downtown. This action helped retailers such as Southlife Supply Company, a 2018 Georgia Small Business Rock Star honoree, receive attention in local media as reporters informed residents of the meaning behind the prominent award stickers.

Engage Local Media – Reach out to your local newspaper or TV station to alert them that your business has won an award. This presents an opportunity to tell your company’s story and reach potential customers in your area. Every year, the businesses recognized as Georgia Small Business Rock Stars generate awareness of their award win through local media coverage. 2018 award winner Gottwals Books, a Georgia-based book store chain, participated in interviews with local TV outlets to talk about their award and provide a tour of one of their stores. When your business receives an award, consider drafting a press release and distributing it to your local news outlets to help generate awareness of your recognition.

Keeping Current On Your Awards

If your retail business is looking for new customers or business partners to help accelerate growth, a newly won award can serve as a conversation starter to show that your company is firing on all cylinders. However, customers and partners will likely not be as impressed with an older award win dating back a few years. If you decide to make awards a part of your business strategy, make sure to regularly revisit different award programs that may be a fit for your company so your recognitions remain recent and top of mind.

For more on Georgia’s Small Business Rock Stars program and how Georgia helps support small businesses every day, visit

About The Author

As Director of Entrepreneur & Small Business Development for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Mary Ellen McClanahan helps find solutions and effective ways to build an entrepreneurial environment to support small business through mentoring, professional development, strategic planning and resource awareness.