Organizing an awards program can be a lot of work, many tasks to manage, and several stakeholders to communicate with. We feel you! If you aim to increase the number of applications you receive, you will need to add some more tasks to the list!

Let’s start with some common mistakes you need to avoid to keep your submissions number from going down.

First, getting caught up with planning your awards program, that the marketing part becomes a secondary task.

Second, starting your marketing campaigns only after the program is live and applications are open.

Third, waiting till the deadline to track applications and assess if you are close to the target.

Finally, prioritizing other administrative tasks over creating an outstanding applicant experience.

If you care about your program growth, you need to have the right mindset for increasing conversion and decreasing churn, how? There are two sides to the program growth coin we are going to cover below:

  • Effective marketing and outreach.
  • Smooth applications process.

First, on the marketing side.

1. Communicate The Benefits

Before attempting to fill the application form, applicants will be looking for motivation, and you need to give them a good one. Your program landing page should answer most of their questions, but most importantly, the one question that drives conversion: What’s in it for me?

The answer doesn’t always have to be the cash prize, although it is one crucial reason. Still, you need to highlight the purpose of the award and how their participation would be an added value to the problem. It would also help if you mention how non-winners would be recognized maybe through a great learning experience, mentorship, networking, etc.

When you answer those questions clearly and early enough before they lose interest, you push the right candidates to apply for your program.

2. Informative Program Website

The website doesn’t have to be a huge one with several pages and a fancy design. Just an informative landing page should keep the applicant informed and do the job. To keep it simple, you can just start with a landing page that includes the “Apply” button, along with key information and appealing visuals.

A program landing page can include the below content:

  • Concept.
  • Call to action.
  • Prizes.
  • Program timeline.
  • Eligibility criteria.
  • Judging criteria.
  • Benefits.

Read more about the essential building blocks of a program landing page guide that goes through each component in detail.

Remember to make the landing page visually appealing and use your program’s branding to make it stick. Just use the right colors with suitable visuals to create a simple and neat design.

Untap provides fully customizable templates, to quickly build your program homepage. Learn more about our super easy and highly customizable website builder to help you build an amazing program website in no time.

3. Clear Communication Messages

Create a communication document that includes the main messages and call to action you need to convey in your program announcement. Define the tone of voice that should attract the right audience and reflect your brand persona.

Make sure to cover all points in the below checklist:

    • Unified and comprehensive messages including the prize, the target, and what solution or proposal you are looking for. Don’t forget to communicate the deadline consistently and include a link to the application page.
    • Communicate the elements included on the website on social media and via email. For example, make a post on the application process, one for the eligibility, another one for the judges with their profiles, etc.
    • Include a blog on your website to communicate news and updates. Publish posts answering some of the questions you get frequently asked on social media, website chat, or info email.
    • Communicate the application process from A to Z using an infographic. Highlight important milestones.

4. Automated Notifications

Set automated messages for communicating with applicants. For example, deadline reminders, confirmation messages upon registering, and reminders to start/finish the application form.

Your submission management software should allow you to filter participants who created an account but haven’t applied and ones who started their applications but haven’t finished. Communicate with both groups and send reminders to ensure you don’t lose any of them.

5. Social Media

It is no news that social media has become a key part of our everyday life. There were nearly 3.6 billion users on Social Media in 2020, out of the 7.7 billion world population.
Make good use of your own social media accounts to spread the word about your program. Create informative and shareable posts, asking your partners and sponsors to share them.

Post categories:

  • Updates and news.
  • Deadline reminders and countdown.
  • Judges profiles.
  • Testimonials from winners in previous editions.
  • Posts about the prize and benefits.
  • Program tracks.
  • Important milestones.
  • Eligibility criteria.

6. Targeted Ads

Owned media is a great tool to spread the word among your existing circles and their communities. But if you need to extend your reach to potential circles outside your network, you need to use targeted paid ads.

When doing targeted ads on social media, you need to pick the channels wisely. Facebook is great if you are reaching out to students; the same goes for Twitter. However, it is better to use LinkedIn and target by job title or interest if you are targeting professionals.

7. Target Online Communities

You can also reach more audiences beyond your existing followers organically. There are lots of online communities for almost all interests. You can find Facebook groups or pages, and LinkedIn communities concerning all fields of interest.

Make sure to do your research and keep a list of relevant communities. You can post your announcements directly to their wall, but in some cases, you will have to send the admins so they can approve first or publish it themselves.

8. Partnerships

Marketing partners are often overlooked when thinking about outreach. However, they work wonders when it comes to reaching relevant audiences.

If you are targeting students, you should partner with universities or have some student activities on board. What if you are targeting professionals in a niche industry, for example, a certain specialization in engineering? You should think of partnering with syndicates!

If you are targeting developers and software engineers, you need to think of developers platforms (Also, forums and online communities). Finally, if you are targeting startups, think of partnering with accelerators.

Now, let’s also have a look on some important aspects for the applicant experience.

9. Application Form Experience

The application form is the hero of the participant experience. If you create an engaging and straightforward application form, the completion rate is going to change drastically.

Here below are some tips for a successful application form that converts.

  • Include a progress bar. Participants like to understand how much they accomplished and the amount of work left. Also, the sense of accomplishment helps them to keep going.
  • Divide the application form into pages. For example, the basic information, their proposal, the team…etc. Pages help applicants focus on each section separately.
  • Make the application form visually appealing. Try to use icons and colors.
  • Autosave applications! Since some application forms are not made to be done in one sitting. Applicants should have the option to leave and come back later to edit their applications.
  • Use conditional logic questions. Condition logic means that some questions depend on the applicant’s response to previous ones. It controls which fields appear based on the applicant’s answer. Avoid confusion with questions that include a note (Answer only if your reply to the previous question was X).

10. Chat Support

Besides including an FAQs section on your website, you need to consider having live chat support.
Chat support is timely and provides personalized solutions for technical questions.

11. Multiple Phase Submission Process

Instead of having to fill out one long application form, an applicant is less intimidated and more encouraged to submit an application that is on point and relevant to the stage they are at.

A multi-phase submission breaks down the application process into phases, only qualified applicants are moved to subsequent rounds. This helps create focus for participants and makes entry to your program much easier.

12. Dedicated Applicant Account

One of the form builders disadvantages is that everything disappears after submitting. Alternatively, applicants can track their progress in the application funnel, get feedback, and check their application status on a dedicated dashboard.

In conclusion, you need to make sure you reach to the right audience, and make their application journey smooth.

Learn more about our platform that make the participant experience an amazing one.