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In Search of Recognition…

Using Awards to Differentiate Yourself

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

If you’ve listened to, followed or read materials from any decent marketing expert, you’ve surely heard that somehow, someway, you need to differentiate yourself from your competition. Some experts refer to it as your “Unique Value Proposition” or your “Unique Selling Proposition.”   I’ve often referred to it as your “Inside Reality.”  What it boils down to is this: “What’s so special about you?

Unfortunately, this is the place where most business owners (in any industry) will fall into the trap of “platitudes” and “ad speak.” Rather than identify real, tangible, specific, unique bits of evidence that prove and demonstrate your unique advantages, we spew vague intangibles that we presume people really want to hear:

  • We serve our customers with pride and integrity.
  • We’re dedicated to serving your needs.
  • We’re the premier pool builder of <fill in the name of your city here>.”
  • And my all time favorite: “We’ll go the extra mile for you.

Why do we head down this empty path of “Well I would hope so!“, when deep down, we already know what people really want and need to hear about us?

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. What sort of training and certification do you have?
  3. What do you do differently than other pool builders?
  4. What sort of industry recognition have you achieved?
  5. Have you ever gone bankrupt, or not finished a job?
  6. Have you ever won any awards?

I can assure you that the answers to any of these six questions are 100 times more powerful, compelling and interesting than any of the lame platitude statements shown further above. (Do you have any idea how much more interesting your website would be if you scrapped all the “ad speak” and talked honestly about the answers to these six questions instead?)

But let’s go a step further – Let’s back up your answers with EVIDENCE that proves our statements. For example, when it comes to training and certification, I like to show the certification logo and a photo of the certificate with your name on it. If we’re talking about awards, that’s very easy to prove too. Just show a photo of the award(s), like this:

award_2006_traditional_601_gold.jpg Lew with 11 of 12 Awards, 2004.jpg ESS Awards Wall photo (cleaned).jpg

And since we’re on the subject of awards, I’d like to tell you about the newest and perhaps most prestigious award in the history of the pool industry – the GAVA Awards. GAVA refers to “Global AquaTekture Visionary Awards™,” and is designed to recognize “the most innovative concepts, designs, materials and applications of water-inspired environments from across the globe.”

What I’ve found especially intriguing about this program is that:

  1. It’s open to anyone in the world who creates any sort of “water inspired environments.”
  2. It’s not judged by people in the swimming pool industry. The judges are artists, architects, interior designers and other specialists who can offer a unique and unbiased perspective on the creations.
  3. The organization has a philanthropic bent, and goes out of its way to help nonprofit organizations participate in the program.

But what I like most about this program is that winning this award would be a major feather in your cap.  Tens of thousands of people have won “Awards of Excellence.” But only a few dozen experts in the world have ever won a GAVA award.  So if you want to talk about “differentiating yourself,” baby – this is it. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that the award itself looks pretty darn cool too:


Coincidentally, the awards submission program for 2010 just happens to be open right now. In fact, you have until the second week of April to submit your entries. But I wouldn’t waste time trying to enter with amateur photos.  Unless you’re exceptionally good at photography, and have an extremely tall ladder, I would encourage you to hire a professional photographer.

Besides, if your project is worthy of winning a GAVA award, then you should be using your photos of that “award worthy” project like crazy in all of your marketing and advertising already anyway – regardless of whether or not you win an award. Yes, it’s good to have honest, detailed and sincere answers to the questions above. But killer photos of beautiful projects make for a pretty darn powerful and compelling bit of evidence too.

So please go get some photos, and win some awards. It makes my job so much easier….


2010 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc.  May not be used without permission.

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