How to write a winning entry for the PB Awards

We round up eight top tips for writing a winning entry from judges and previous winners of the Professional Beauty Awards.

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 salon in Wiltshire 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 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. 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, owner of Beauty Time salon in Bristol.

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 judge Belinda Price, “If you’re asked to give examples, make sure you do.”

Morag Hague, owner of Glow Aesthetic Training, 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

“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 judge Andy Rouillard, who runs Axiom Bodyworks.

6. Back up statements with evidence

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

“Ask your staff what makes your salon or spa great. There may be things you’ve not thought of,” suggests Mason. 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 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.

Now you know how to put together a winning entry, what are you waiting for? Entries for the Professional Beauty Awards close on Thursday 6th July. 

Click here to submit your application.