Tips To Win: Entering the Professional Beauty Awards 2016

Above image: Perfection Health and Beauty

With the entry deadline for the Professional Beauty Awards 2016 looming, Eve Oxberry asks previous winners and currecnt judges for their tips on how to put together a standout entry 

1. Explain why you’re different
When we quizzed previous winners about how they put together an awards entry, they all told us they plan it out first, to make sure their key points of difference come across. The team from Perfection in Wiltshire, which won Beauty Salon of the Year: Three Rooms or Fewer in 2015, put their entry together by brainstorming the salon’s unique selling points (USPs) and special touches over a team meal. Meanwhile The Grange in Lincolnshire, which won the 2015 Day Spa category, started with a skeleton plan of what makes the spa stand out from its competitors. “This was just sub headings to start, then evolved into the completed entry,” says owner Matt Craven. “We covered customer service, retail, sales and marketing strategies, and how we look after our team.”

2. Prioritise pictures
Photos are so important as they are the first thing most judges will look at. “The quality of photos make a real difference,” says previous Nail Professional of the Year winner, and now judge, Jenni Draper. “They don't need to be taken by a professional but you need to look professional in them, so no selfies.”

When submitting photos of your business the judges are unanimous in their advice to show the full exterior, a good representation of the whole communal area and a treatment room. “Arty close-ups of products or towels are useless,” adds Maria Mason, who won the Beauty Salon of the Year: Four Rooms or More award three times and is now a judge.

When entering the individual awards, such as Make-up Specialist or Nail Professional, judge Alyn Waterman, a pro make-up artist, advises, “Only include your best work. Select one image from each shoot.”

3. Be concise
Start your answer to each question with bullet points to spell out the top five or six things you want to get across, suggests Mason, then when you add more text, bold up key words that relate to the initial points. Judges will see these first and use them to refer back to, so the things you really want to get across will be the ones that stick in their minds.

Just because there is a maximum word limit for an answer, don't feel you have to fill it. "Think of it as if you’re doing a Powerpoint presentation to the judges," adds Mason. "You wouldn't include every detail, just the real selling points."

4. Answer the whole question
While it’s important to stick to the point, it’s even more vital to make your answer match the question exactly. “Judges mark your entry to criteria set by the Awards team, so telling them the walls are pink when they've asked about your commitment to ongoing training will lose you marks,” says previous Nail Salon of the Year winner turned judge Belinda Price. “If you’re asked to give examples, make sure you do.”

Morag Hague, owner of Glow Aesthetic Training and a judge for the Medical Aesthetic Clinic of the Year Award, adds, "If you give no answer for a question you’ll score zero so write something, even if you feel it is negative.” For example, if you’re not proud of your marketing, she suggests being honest that you’ve not had the resource to give it the attention you would have liked then listing what you have done.

5. Show your passion
“Tell us the reason you wanted to become a make-up specialist and who or what inspires you in the industry,” suggests Waterman. And its advice that applies for all categories. “I want to know what makes you tick: what's your passion and your vision for the future? How are you making our industry better or giving something back?” says Andy Rouillard, who is on the judging panel for the salon and therapist categories.

In fact previous winner Alison Smith, who picked up the Therapist of the Year award two years in a row, feels confident that highlighting her passion helped her entry stand out. “Thinking about the message you want to convey is really important and I wanted the panel of judges to understand my passion for the industry and dedication to my clients,” she says. 

Pure Spa

Image courtesy of Pure Spa

6. Back up statements with evidence
“I continuously thought about my short term and long-term goals and demonstrated the steps I am taking towards them,” says Smith.

Rouillard says evidence is the most important part of any entry. “We can't award points for claims that aren't backed up. For example, don't just say, ‘I have excellent customer service skills’, as that doesn't tell us anything. Give us some examples or include client testimonials to prove it.”

As a word of warning, Hague adds, “Remember when entering that you’ll need to back claims up if you get through to the finals and are mystery shopped or trade tested so be honest, even on little things. Don't say ‘we always answer the phone within five rings’, if you can’t deliver.”

7. Ask your team and clients for input
“If you’re entering the employer category, ask your staff what makes you a great employer. There may be reasons you’ve not thought of,” suggests Mason.

Even if you are entering one of the other categories, input from your team can make a huge difference to how you approach an answer. “Definitely include your team and clients in the process,” adds Stead. Perfection did an e-shot to all its clients asking their thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of the salon and the reasons they choose Perfection over its competitors. “We were able to use this information in our entry,” says Stead. “Try to try view any criticism as a tool to improve the client experience. Ask about telephone communication, correspondence, refreshments, treatment standards all the way through to how you roll your towels.”

8. Make an effort
“If you write one-line answers because you’re in a hurry it will be obvious,” says Hague. Likewise, it doesn’t work to copy and paste huge chunks of text from your website or brochure without adapting them to answer the exact question asked. “Upload photos, price lists and examples of any marketing material with your entry so that we can see your salon and the range of treatments you offer,” adds Rouillard. “Don't just point us to your website to hunt this information down for ourselves.” You don't have to spend hours crafting each answer, but by showing passion, professionalism and care, you’re on to a winner.

Entering the Professional Beauty Awards 2016

Now you know how to put together a winning entry, what are you waiting for? Enter the awards for free online before Tuesday, June 23.