The start of a new year brings energy, enthusiasm and motivation, both in a personal and professional context. As we look ahead to 2018 and return to work fresh from having enjoyed valuable time with family and friends (and perhaps a little too much turkey), I thought it would be worthwhile sharing a recent experience to give you some professional food for thought for the new year.


I was recently involved in judging a set of prestigious marketing awards and thought it would be worthwhile sharing my thoughts on what success looks like and sharing some common issues I see in award entries. Award entries can take a bit of time and effort to get right, but even getting on the shortlist can reap dividends in terms of industry recognition and credibility, increasing motivation of colleagues and raising the profile of your brand!

What follows is discussed in the context of an award entry, but could equally be applied to business cases and achieving success in your own CRM programmes with internal stakeholders across other departments. After all, a successfully approved business case is itself a highly prized award! Hopefully these thoughts will help sharpen your focus and tighten your arguments as you strive to win in 2018.

In my experience, there are three areas an award entry needs to focus on: Strategy, Creativity, and Results.

1.     Strategy

In an award entry (or a business case), it’s beneficial to articulate the business problem that you are tackling and state what the objective is. Think about the perspective of the audience and consider the reader. The reviewer is unlikely to have the in-depth detailed knowledge of your business, so don’t assume anything. Do set the scene with the business context and cover off ‘The What’ and ‘The Why’ early, as what follows in your document will demonstrate and showcase the positive impact of your programme. Next, evidence the insight that’s driving the strategy, either from market research or analytics. Having evidenced the issue and explained why this is important, there’s a need to get under the skin and demonstrate an understanding of the detail and explain the insight that’s driving the strategy.

2.     Creativity

Award entries should stand out and demonstrate innovation. Creativity can touch a number of areas including:

Data – Using the right data, identified from insight and discovery activities. One of the biggest things I see as a judge is that the analysts involved have not considered or used all the data that is available, whether that’s customer behaviour, operational data, demographic, or industry data.

Channels – Joining up of offline and online activity, ensuring previous interactions are reflected in the customer journey, creating a consistent conversation using all information provided by the customer, including preferences such as interaction channel, marketing preferences, etc. A previous Comet blog by my colleague, Alistair Ewing, brings this very subject to life.

Analytics – As Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities advance, there is the opportunity to harness greater analytical techniques and deploy innovative machine learning and adaptive models to tailor the customer experience.

Communications – Creativity doesn’t just relate to the visual impact of the communication, but extends across personalisation of the entire message including content, imagery, language, offer, call-to-action, and incentive. One size does not fit all – a topic recently discussed by my American-based colleague Sara Hogan.

Execution – Innovation also extends across the execution and deployment, and covers aspects such as always-on automation, use of real-time data, use of contact strategies and an interaction history, plus the ability to react and respond to new information provided by the customer. 

3.     Results

One of the most common pitfalls I see is a lack of rigour in the measurement framework and failure to clearly demonstrate and quantify the positive impact of the programme. Lack of focus on explaining the results creates the impression that measurement was an afterthought (my previous post on the importance of measurement is available here) Common issues include:

  • Metrics – Failure to provide a definition of success and setting targets for the activity.
  • Control Cells – Lack of control cells or fallow groups and the calculation of incremental results, with a common pitfall being that all gross results are attributed to the activity.
  • Statistical Significance – Often there is a lack of appropriate tests to identify statistical significant results. Appropriate use of statistical rigour adds rigour and credibility to all results.

So, you’ve covered the core aspects of Strategy, Creativity, and Results. What other things can you do to increase your chances of a successful award entry or successful business case submission?  Well, here are some ideas for consideration – some are reasonably simple, but as we know, common sense is not necessarily common practice!

  • Pick Your Author – There’s the temptation to ask the analysts or subject matter experts (SMEs) to scribe the entry, but that’s often not the best approach. Instead I’d recommend having your PR manager or internal creative team review the submission – whilst they may not fully understand the content, they will be able to help craft the entry with engaging language and a clear structure, ensuring the reader is not left with unanswered questions.
  • Conclusions – Even though there’s a word count limit, award entries still need a well-rounded conclusion. What is the direction of travel? Did it perform better than expected? What would make it even better next time, and how will this activity feed continual improvement?
  • Scalable Success and Other Applications – Call out key insights from the activity and identify how these will benefit other parts of the business. Did the activity create a foundation for wider business success? Are there opportunities to improve the customer experience across other channels and interactions?

Whilst these are general pointers and thoughts for crafting an award entry, they are equally pertinent to business cases. In each case, you’ll be proud of your activities but you’ll need to make it easy for the reader to understand the business context and the insight driving the strategy.  You’ll need to showcase creativity and innovation and ensure appropriate measurement is behind the results so that the impact and benefits hold up to scrutiny.

Hopefully that gives you a few suggestions as you look to the year ahead, and perhaps it’s given you a few thoughts to consider as you strive to make an even greater impact in 2018. I wish you every success for the year ahead and hope you achieve your goals!

P.S. Congratulations to my colleague Mark Jones and his team that worked with our client Virgin Trains East Coast on their award-winning entry in the ‘Best Use of Email’ category at the 2017 DMA Awards.  More information on the Virgin Trains East Coast pre-departure programme can be
found here. Many congratulations!


David Thomas

Senior Consultant at Merkle|Comet

David is a Senior Consultant within the Strategy & Insights practice at Merkle|Comet. He is an experienced CRM & customer insight professional, with a passion for delivering customer centric projects using data, systems, analytics & insight. David has 15 years' analytics experience in Financial Services (both in the UK & Canada) and is a keen believer in working with people, whether that’s coaching & developing individuals, working with client teams, or actively participating in his role as a member of the Direct Marketing Association’s Scottish Council.