As many of you noticed, we recently wrapped up the First Annual Tastiest Small Biz Brand Award campaign.

The event/marketing efforts lasted nearly three months and worked to accomplish (or surpass!) several goals. These were:

  • Help establish Word Chef authority in the topic of branding
  • Promote the launch of my new class, “Find Your Secret Sauce (and Create an Addicting Brand)”
  • Increase traffic to the Word Chef website by 25%
  • Increase subscriptions to our mailing list by 25%
  • Build new connections with branding peers
  • Showcase the outstanding efforts being made by small businesses online
  • Create a portfolio of case studies to be utilized in blog posts and course curricula

What Was Actually Achieved?

Was there an increase in website traffic over the course of this campaign? Absolutely. During the months of October – November 2011, total site visits were 4,832 (with unique visitors at 3,590). The highest day of traffic during that period was the result of  a comment I left on another blog. (Click the image below to view the large version.)

Oct-Nov 2011 site traffic

Word Chef site visits for Oct – Nov 2011


Between December 1 and January 31, total site visits jumped to 7,586 (5,588 unique visitors) — an increase of just over 60% in both of those categories.

Dec Jan site traffic

Word Chef site visits for Dec 2011 – Jan 2012


Over that same time period, there was a 52% increase in the size of the Word Chef mailing list:

mailing list growth

Subscribers went from 321 to 607

In addition to all that fabulousness, I connected with two thought leaders in branding: Pamela Wilson (of Big Brand System) and Karen Post (the Branding Diva).

Are we best friends now? No, of course not. But we’ve had several email exchanges and I feel like they would remember who I was if my name came up in a conversation.

I also successfully launched the new class (we’re currently underway using and testing the ruzuku platform), with a total of 8 students — a perfect number for testing out something completely new.

The Branding Award Marketing Plan Outlined

There were three phases to this campaign. Here’s what I did, step-by-step (and what resulted from each step):

Phase I – Solicit nominations and sponsors

  • Create the page on my site to announce the award and solicit nominations
  • Create the page on my site to solicit sponsorships. In exchange for their help in promoting the event to their mailing lists and social media networks, I gave sponsors reciprocal exposure on my site, in my emails and to my social networks.
  • Utilize HARO ( to solicit nominations (businesses could nominate themselves)
  • Encourage nominations by offering a prize package worth nearly $500 to one lucky winner (to be drawn at random from those who submitted nominations)
  • Give all nominees an “I’ve been nominated” badge to display on their sites (which linked back to mine)
  • Give all sponsors a “Proud sponsor” badge to display on their sites (which linked back to mine)
  • Ask all nominees to share the good news with their lists/networks (there were over 400 shares via Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin)
  • Post and share the event via my own mailing list and social media networks (of course!) – I shared links via Twitter at least once each day over the course of December and at least once each on Facebook and Linkedin.
  • Support the promotion by focusing all blogging efforts on the topic of branding (there were a total of 19 posts written during December/January with that focus). Include a blurb at the end of every post pointing people to the branding award info.
  • Do online interviews about the topic of branding (there were two during December/January)
  • Offer a free webinar on the process of finding your Secret Sauce and make the recording freely available (it’s been viewed 210 times)

Phase II – Select the Finalists

  • All nominees were encouraged to ask for votes so that finalists could be chosen (Note: the votes were NOT the final word on who was selected. See the voting page for more details.)
  • During the voting process, the public was asked whether or not they wanted to be notified by email of the results and had the option to also check a box that would add them to the Word Chef mailing list (this is where the bulk of the new sign-ups happened).
  • Allow voting from January 1 to January 29, 2012. (There were a total of 408 votes received.)
  • Give all finalists an “I’m a finalist” badge to display on their sites (which linked back to mine)
  • Write a post to announce the finalists; share the link via email, social media

Phase III – Promote the Winner

  • Write a final post to announce and showcase the winner and runner-up; share the link via email, social media
  • Give the winner the winning badge to display on their site (which links back to mine)
  • Engrave a ladle with the winner’s name and share a photo of the winner holding the ladle via email, social media (will do this as soon as we get the photo)
  • Thank sponsors, judges and voters publicly and privately; let them know I’d love to have them back again next year (handwritten thank you cards sent out)
Tastiest Small Biz Brand Award - the silver ladle

The Famed Silver Ladle – engraved and ready to send to the winner

What I’d Do Differently

If I do this again, here’s how I plan to improve on the process:

  • Begin promoting the fact that nominations will open a month earlier (mid-October) –and talk about the award at every opportunity so that people have more time to think about who they might nominate.
  • Enlist the help of judges to solicit nominations/share with their networks (I didn’t do that this time because I didn’t want to make the judging too much of an imposition).
  • Allow only two weeks for nominations. Too much time allows people to forget to follow through.
  • Do at least 10 different guest posts on the topic of branding to get the word out (needs to be timed properly).
  • Create a video promo with this year’s winner and next year’s judges to include in the announcement for opening nominations.
  • Allow only two weeks for public voting. A month was too long and people didn’t follow the call to action as promptly as they should have because they felt they had enough time.
  • Triple the number of sponsors and solicit at least one big national sponsor — start on this process six months earlier.

Do you have any other ideas about what I might consider adding to the mix? I’d love to hear from you. Questions or suggestions are both welcome!