My business was just over two years old, so it was still in the early stages but growing rapidly - turnover had doubled from year one to year two and client numbers were increasing, mainly through word of mouth and social media.
Two of my clients were winners in the Smarta 100 the year before. They suggested that I should enter myself, and when I saw what a positive effect the award had on their business, I decided to give it a go.
It was fantastic. It was a very simple entry process - which, let's face it, is so important when you are busy running a business. The build up, announcement and voting stage were all exciting too.
I won several awards last year, but what was different and better about the Smarta 100 was the support and networking opportunities after the event. There is a thriving Facebook group for winners where we all support each other in our different businesses.
My business has benefited hugely in many ways. Traffic to my website doubled for the months before and after the awards and I was overwhelmed by the number of calls and email enquiries I had as a result of being in the Smarta 100. A year later, people mention that they noticed me and my business via the Smarta awards.
Being in the Smarta 100 also resulted in PR coverage, not only on the Smarta website but also in several business trade publications and regional media. Finally, there is the feel good factor; getting recognition from the Smarta100 judges was a huge pat on the back and a boost to my confidence. It was nice to get some positive feedback from somebody outside of my business - it showed that I was doing something right.
I have continued to work with exciting and innovative new start-ups, securing high profile national publicity for them.
Since winning I have also developed my services further, offering PR mentoring and training for businesses that want to do their own PR, called the PR Toolbox package. This option allows people to learn the tricks of the trade - I share contacts, tips and teach people how to run their own campaigns. It is proving a big hit.
Don't be afraid to say what you are doing well and different. Sometimes it is hard to praise yourself, so why not ask your clients what they think is different and better about you and your service. Why do they love you?
If you are a Smarta winner make sure you maximise the PR opportunity that it brings. Tweet about it, tell your clients and potential clients in a newsletter, write a blog about it, post the news on your website and send a press release out to your regional and trade contacts.
For all the information about the Smarta 100 and how to enter, click here.