Companies of all sizes and in all industries have countless opportunities to apply for awards each year. Winning an award can set your company apart from the competition and aid in recruiting top talent and highly desired clients. Award programs can be local, regional, national, or international, and eligibility can be be based on location, size, industry, etc.. How well your company performs financially, how much your team enjoys working for your organization, how well your product works, and your involvement in the community are just a few well-known categories.

The competition for award programs can be fierce. Follow these four tips to identify the right programs for your company and stand out from the crowd in your application.

Identify Your Goals

You should approach any award program with a goal that extends beyond the temporary thrill of winning. Before you begin researching award programs, identify your long-term goals. Would you like to showcase your company’s culture to a broader audience of prospective employees in your region? Perhaps a prestigious industry award would help you attract more investors. Maybe an award for your company’s steady financial growth would provide the validation your sales team needs to continue bringing in bigger and better deals. Clarify your motivation now so you can focus on the right programs later.

Find Opportunities

Many organizations that offer award programs have a detailed information on their websites. Industry organizations, media outlets, and trade shows typically offer several opportunities throughout the year. If the information you need is not easily accessible on the website, reach out to the organization directly on a listed email address or through a contact form. Information you need to know includes: application deadline, application fee, guidelines for submission, and award announcement date (helpful tip: create a calendar of application and announcement deadlines so you never miss one). This information can serve to qualify or disqualify your interest in applying for the award.

It’s also helpful to research past winners to see what kinds of details will bolster your application. Even if the previous winners seem more qualified than your company, (unless it’s a strict financial guideline), keep in mind that it every year’s applicant pool varies and you can’t win if you don’t submit an application.

Prepare Throughout the Year

All applications have different requirements, even if it’s for the same type of award. Some award programs require employees to complete surveys through a third-party administrator; other programs require photos of your company’s accomplishments or financial information from several previous years. Making note of these requirements and proactively preparing for your submission throughout the year, rather than undergoing a mad dash the week before the application deadline, can make the whole application process less daunting.

If your goal is to highlight your company’s involvement in the community, maintain a list of events you participate in throughout the year, take plenty of photos, and keep notes about your level of involvement (volunteer time donated, money raised, etc.). Alternatively, if your purpose is to show financial strength or growth, compile relevant documents, like tax forms and P&L statements for easy reference when it’s time to submit your application. For awards that honor company culture and employee satisfaction, be sure to have an up-to-date list of employee names and email addresses, as well as information on perks and benefits your staff enjoys.

Maximize a Win

You won an award? Congratulations! Don’t just display your trophy or certificate in your office; think about how to communicate the award to your employees, clients, and community.

In addition to notifying your team and sharing the news on your company’s website and social media, should you write a press release to inform local, trade, or national media about your recognition? That’s ideal, but keep in mind that many publication-based awards (especially those from local outlets) won’t be covered by other local or regional publications. However, your local and trade publications might be interested in major national award wins, like the Inc. 5000. The awarding organization may provide a press release template as a courtesy, which you can customize to reflect your company’s message. Ask your contact if there is an embargo on sharing the news; sometimes an awarding organization will request winners to refrain from publicly sharing the news of the award until an official announcement date.

Aside from media outreach around your award, look for ways to leverage the award to place yourself ahead of the pack in the hiring game. Potential employees appreciate knowing a company they’re interested in has great perks, a record of success, and happy staff members. Ask if the awarding organization can provide a graphic that you can add to your website, advertisements, and collateral materials. Additionally, awards for the quality of your company’s product or service can be a great tool for your sales team; provide them with assets about the award, such as an email newsletter or fact sheet, to share with current and potential clients.

Award opportunities are available year-round, and new opportunities arise each year. Keep your eyes open and on the prize to maximize your company’s award strategy.