#324: International Loyalty Awards - Success Tips to Win

The International Loyalty Awards are the highlight of the global loyalty calendar, with leading loyalty brands from all over the world competing for the most prestigious awards in the industry.

Now in their 11th year, the International Loyalty Awards celebrate loyalty programs across all sectors and in more than 86 countries, providing an opportunity for all of us to celebrate our work and our industry.

Joining me today to discuss her insights as a Judge for the International Loyalty Awards is my colleague Amanda Cromhout.

Listen to hear our secrets to success and winning an International Loyalty Award for your brand or program.

Show Notes:

1) Amanda Cromhout

2) International Loyalty Awards

3) International Loyalty Awards: Call for Entries

4) Feedback Link

Audio Transcript

Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an Industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

This episode is sponsored by Epsilon. Today I’m delighted to announce a unique opportunity for one lucky listener of Let’s Talk Loyalty to enjoy a complimentary workshop with the loyalty experts at Epsilon, one brand every month will have the chance for a unique, independent loyalty lab, a review of your loyalty program, where Epsilon will share their expert ideas, how to drive your program’s performance to a whole new level. This workshop is a powerful way for you to measure and then increase the return on your investment in your loyalty program. So to apply, head over to letstalkloyalty.com/epsilon and enter your details.

Hello and welcome to episode 324 of Let’s Talk Loyalty and episode three of 2023. Today I’m back chatting with my colleague Amanda Cromhout, this time in her role as a judge for the International Loyalty Awards based in London. As you all know, the International Loyalty Awards are the highlight of the global loyalty calendar with leading loyalty brands from all over the world, competing for the most prestigious awards in the industry.

Now in their 11th year, the International Loyalty Awards celebrate loyalty programs across all sectors in more than 86 countries, providing an opportunity for all of us to celebrate our work and our industry. The International Loyalty Awards are open for entries until the 1st of February, 2023. So you have just four weeks left to enter.

Having taken part myself over several years, I can definitely say that being part of the International Loyalty Awards is one of the annual highlights of the year for me. So please do enjoy my conversation with Amanda Cromhout, CEO of Truth in South Africa, and Judge for the International Loyalty Awards and our tips on creating a winning entry.

Paula: So Amanda Cromhout, welcome to 2023, and welcome back to Let’s Talk Loyalty in 2023.

Amanda: Yeah. Thanks paula. Let’s hope it’s a fabulous year for all of us.

Paula: For sure. I think it’s going to be, actually, it feels quite exciting already in terms of everything that’s bubbling up. So, uh, I guess that’s the perfect way to, uh, to say that today we are here to talk about, uh, probably the most exciting event of the year globally, which is the International Loyalty Awards of which you are an esteemed judge.

So we’re gonna tell everybody how to create a winning entry. But before we get into our conversation about the I L A, please do tell me, Amanda, what is your favorite loyalty program of the day? I know you’ve answered this question for me before, but we’re gonna shake it up a bit today. Huh?

Amanda: Yeah, thanks Paula.

It’s obviously a difficult one because I’m so involved in some phenomenal programs, but I’m actually going to refer to a brand for two reasons. The first reason, cause I’ve just had the privilege for Let’s Talk Loyalty of interviewing their head of marketing and um, Also because they have been voted by South Africans as the most used loyalty program in South Africa.

So it’s Click’s Club Card. And next week we have the honor of showcasing for your audience, Let’s Talk Loyalty, um, the Click’s Club card story, which really is, a phenomenal story. It’s 27 years old. Wow. It’s very established program here in South Africa, and always voted are the first or second most used loyalty program in the South African market.

But why do I also personally like it? Apart from, from a professional point of view as a consumer, I use it extensively. It’s super, super simple. It’s a rich value proposition. So the base earn rate is 2%. But if you trigger a certain threshold, which I easily do every month, boosts up to 4%, which is very, very rich for retail as we know.

Yeah. Um, Clicks is a pharmaceutical retailer, the biggest in South Africa, and, they own, they also get it right, like in the store. It’s super obvious that Clicks Club card members get better deals. You get better deals at points of sale. You get the points that build up for your cashback, you get personalized vouchers and the app works superbly.

So it all kind of comes together and, not only from a professional point of view do I respect it enormously and, and our results of the white paper show that, but from a personal point of view, I get enormous benefits from it. So I’m really pleased to be able to say right now for, for today, they’re my favorite loyalty program.

Paula: Yeah. Love that. And, and I love when the, the reward rate is so clear, Amanda, so I think that absolutely 4% is incredible. And I think we all know, even in other markets, when it is a generous reward rate like that, you do feel it. So it’s not a program that you end up getting frustrated with. It’s actually the opposite.

You get to enjoy, enjoy the benefit. So, well done to Clicks and uh, yes, super excited to hear next week’s episode and, uh, the details of all of that. And I, I hope they’re entering the International Loyalty Awards, are they for next year?

Amanda: I hope so. I do my best as a judge based here. There’s two of us who are South African based, who are on the International Loyalty Award judges.

The other one is Pieter Twine, who many of you know Yeah, from the Let’s Talk Loyalty September show that when I interviewed him to talk about My School, My Village, My Planet, and they’re also a winner, both of, um, local awards, but particularly of the International Loyalty Awards. So, So we, we have a job to do to get our South African brands to enter.

We do manage to get a couple of them to enter and Clicks will certainly be amongst other brands. Brands will be encouraging to put the toe in the water and, uh, think big and go beyond just the South African borders for recognition.

Paula: For sure, for sure. And again, I mean we’ve both been brand side Amanda for many years and it’s always something that’s on the, you know, must do, you know, top intention of the New Year list and frequently suffers just from a lack of time.

So I think that’s why we’re here today, to really say to people, look, it’s the start of January. We have a hard close entry date of the 1st of February, so I think as, as things stand, there’s a full four weeks to to pull it together. Um, and really there’s nothing like it. I think once you do put the time and effort in, and sometimes I even think, and I’d love your perspective on this, Amanda, once you do take the time, to sit back and reflect and put something together that’s coherent for a judging panel like you are about to go into with the International Loyalty Awards.

There’s also, I suppose, an internal recognition automatically because you start to reflect on how much you’ve done in that particular year once you take the time. So would that be your experience? Yeah.

Amanda: Definitely, I think it’s an essential process for you to be able to celebrate. You know, I, we come across a lot of situations where brands have to get internal buy-in for future investment or new initiatives.

So this is a perfect way to create almost your internal sales deck as well. Yes. By collating what is required to create a winning entry. And we’ll get into that in a moment. But, I know these things can really seem like a bit of a mission and a bit of hard work over and above, uh, very busy day jobs.

But actually, as you’ve just said, when you put your mind to it and you, you look at what’s required, it really is just an opportunity to showcase all the hard work you’ve done over the past, even if it’s more than 12 months, or it might be accumulation of three years of hard work. Um, and it can’t be wasted because you can use that internally for, for your internal stakeholder management and so forth.

So, mm, I think, I think a lot of brands need to almost, leap over that mindset of, oh, goodness me, it’s a, an awards entry. What is it really going to be worth the effort? And of course, it’s gonna be worth the effort if you really can showcase the phenomenal work you’ve done and your teams have done. Yeah.

You know, there’s a number of different reasons why you should enter loyalty. Not Loyalty Awards, any awards, but we’re talking today about Loyalty Awards and internally some of those can be the most powerful, like the recognition of your team being recognized on the global stage. It’s such a boost for confidence, for energy.

Your teams are working flat out. The leaders of the teams are working flat out. The directors of the teams are super happy when they, when they win, and it’s absolutely worth the recognition without question.

Paula: Absolutely. Absolutely. So listen, um, as you know, I’m a media partner, uh, for the International Loyalty Awards, um, which rebranded a couple of years ago.

Um, I’m also a former judge, so I have a little bit of insight in terms of the huge amount of work, I suppose that you, and I think it’s 24 other loyalty experts. So 25 people around the world in total that are supporting the International Loyalty Awards. In its 11th year, I was just looking back to see, you know, how long this has been happening.

So this year, um, what have I seen? There are 20 categories. Um, very exciting. We’re gonna go through, um, as well as some regional, I suppose, as awards as well. So, You know, as we sit here today, to me, I suppose the first thing that struck me that I’d love you to, to, to comment on Amanda, is, uh, first of all, the process of the responsibility, the confidentiality, and, you know, I suppose the principles and epics that judges are expected to observe because I think the first concern for brands is, Oh my goodness, there’s going to be confidential information. It’s commercially sensitive, you know, what’s this judge going to do with that information? So can you start by, by telling us exactly what process you go through to safeguard that information for, for entrance.

Amanda: Thanks for asking that, Paula, cuz it was, um, in preparation for today’s podcast, I actually really thought that through because it is so important.

So every year the organizers of the International Loyalty Awards email us to confirm if we’d still like to participate. I guess they also have the choice to decline us as well, which, um, So that can work both ways, but I don’t think that necessarily has gone that way. Like if someone’s capable of being a judge, they, they carry on if they’re, if they’re willing and able, but we can’t carry on unless we’ve signed two pieces of paper as a minimum.

And those two pieces of paper, the first one is a confidentiality clause, so to speak, that outlines exactly of what you’ve said, that every single thing that is submitted is confidential, unless it is then published thereafter. So obviously the, the, as a media partner you will be interviewing maybe the winning brands or, um, the actual, the, uh, running, the guys who run the program, the ladies who run the program and it, whatever they say in public, can be used obviously by anyone publicly afterwards, and they issue a short writeup per per winning entry or per shortlisted entry. Mm. So if there’s 10 brands shortlisted for a particular category with a short description of why they’ve been shortlisted, that then becomes public knowledge. So the judges are fully aware of that. But anything that we receive in the confidential entry forms and, supplementary, um, files that support that we cannot use whatsoever unless it’s a video that’s already on YouTube in a pub, in a, in an open forum, for example. Okay, so obviously the judges are a mixture of professionals like myself who are, whether you’re consultants, whether you are a vendor, whether you are ex uh, brands, maybe. On the, on the sidelines of loyalty. So there are, there have been concerns raised, you know, when, when, as you, as you’ve rightly said, around, well, what are the judges going to do with this information? And a judge also signs the code of conduct and in that code of conduct is, your commitment to the timelines.

Cause the timelines are extremely pressurized. And that’s something else I just want to add in a moment. And your commitment to the process so that you decline judging a particular category. If there’s any conflict of interest, you have to declare if you work for, or have worked, I’m not sure the p I can’t remember the time period of when you previously may have worked for an entry or for a competitor of an entry.

So it’s very important if, yeah. Um, a grocery retailer enters and you are actually maybe the loyalty strategist company, supporting the main competitor. You are conflicted. You have to decline that category. Great. And that’s super important because. You can’t, you, you have to not be biased in any way and you have to judge the entry based on what you read on the, on the forms that are submitted.

Um, so that is extremely important. And I mentioned the timeline, so we, it is a lot of work for the judges, but obviously we do it willingly cuz it’s a great initiative for the industry. But that’s why I think for all the brands listening and considering entering, there should not be any leeway on the final date, because the process to organize something as complex as this is a lot of work for the organizers, they have to come back to us, us as judges to say, are you conflicted? You know? So to, just to reassure you of the confidentiality and the seriousness of the code of conduct. The, the entry dates are set for a reason cuz there’s a lot of work behind the scenes.

It’s not as simple as receiving and sending, you know, they’ve got a short list they’ve gotta collate, they’ve gotta check everything’s there. Yeah. It’s a lot of work and I would just really support them and encourage the industry to adhere to those timelines so that it’s, it’s more straightforward. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to, if you are entering these awards, you’ve got to trust, trust the judges, because they are, have signed this confidentiality.

They’ve signed the code of conduct. and if you don’t trust the judges, you may as well not enter, to be honest, because they can’t judge on on lukewarm information. You know, the information has to be yeah, solid, detailed, and compelling. And to do that, you’re gonna have to give away. Not give away, but put down on paper some commercially sensitive information.

What some brands do, and I’ll go into this later as we talk about what needs should be submitted, but what some brands have done in the past. And this, this is okay if it, if, if it makes the submitting company feel better about it. They kind of put in bold red writing. This is commercially sensitive above.

Section that they’re filling in and. Yeah. You know, and that also maybe directs the, the judges, the, the organizers to never be able to use any of that in the headline story about the winning brand, for example. But yeah, I personally don’t think it’s necessary because everything that the judges and the organizers sign, Is guaranteeing that confidentiality.

And as a judge myself, I know for a fact, for example, that we come across, let’s say I’ve been allocated three different categories to judge and I know there’s 10 brands in each category starts 30. 30 brands I’ve been exposed to or their loyalty. Yeah. Uh, submissions. Maybe four months later I might be thinking about something today, let’s say it’s B2B loyalty, and I’ll go.

Wow. I remember I judged 10 brands on the B2B loyalty. What I look at, I’ve, I disregard entirely the submissions. Once the judging is done, it’s, they’re, they’re removed from my lap laptop, so to speak. And then I literally look at the, the summary brands that are, have been made, the top 10 shortlist.

Yeah. And then my research team in the company, goes and looks what’s available on public forums. Okay. So that’s, you know, that’s literally the, the everybody has access to that short list, so you need to trust the judges. They, yeah. They are extremely professional and extremely committed and have to sign these pieces of paper before they get exposure to anything and declare conflict of interest. Yeah. Once we know who the shortlisted brands are.

Paula: Absolutely. And yeah, and it is a small industry in a small world in loyalty as well, Amanda. And I think we would know very quickly, you know, this has been running, um, you know, for 11 years, this is said already, and with the utmost of integrity and the utmost of celebration, like there’s only positive energy around the International Loyalty Award.

So, so as much as this is the time of year When it is, you know, head down and we’ll talk now exactly about how to create a winning entry. But it, but very much is that, you know, a, a reason to celebrate, as we said, a way to celebrate. Um, so yes, you know, it’s easy enough to mark a particular section if anybody does want to, uh, specifically say something can never be shared, uh, just for peace of mind.

But otherwise, you know, we’re here to, to learn from each other. You know, and that’s again what, what we are about on this show. It’s inspiration education as we always talk about. So, you know, one thing I would love more of, um, you know, coming out the other side, I suppose, of the International Loyalty Awards is really to be able to showcase, as you said, who won, why did they win, and all this amazing work that we’re all doing.

Because I do think we’re all so passionate about loyalty. At the end of the day, we love to hear when something is working. And particularly now that it’s positioned as an International Loyalty Awards, it is global best practice. So we want to be able to make sure, as we said, whether it’s a South African award or an award from Dubai or something, uh, we want to put it on the international stage.

Yeah. So let’s get into categories. Amanda. As I said, there are 20 categories this year. I think the single most important thing is, you know, there is a very detailed booklet available, um, on the internationalloyaltyawards.com website. So there’s literally a full 20 page booklet actually, that people can go and download, of course, to get this in detail.

But just in summary, Amanda, talk us through the categories that are going to be judged in 2023.

Amanda: Great. Thanks Paula. So yeah, the categories are well described on the, on the website. So the website is extremely well put together and everything’s available there. So that way you find the categories. You’ll see there’s the list of categories that typically are sort of the sector, industry sector categories.

So whether it’s food, retail, whether it’s travel, whether it’s leisure, whether it’s B2B, whether it’s financial services or CSR. So it’s almost bucketing the industry, uh, loyalty initiative or program, actually it’s best program, not initiative into those categories, but that only makes up sort of about, uh, a quarter, I think, of the total categories.

And then what the awards is encouraging is other, other activities around loyalty that may not necessarily get the exposure as being the best financial services program, but actually maybe as really creative, um, techno use of technology or creative innovation. So they have other categories like best use of gamification or best use of technology.

As I’ve mentioned, best use of analytics customer data. Yeah. Um, innovation. Eco initiative, um, how you communicate, best use of communication. So I really encourage every brand, even if you’re sitting there thinking, how could I ever win best, retail financial services. Maybe it’s not your year to win that.

Maybe you don’t feel that you are established enough to do that, but maybe you’ve done some really fascinating work around game using gamification or, um, yeah, some use of your data analytics that, you know, covertly is changing the playing field of your, your loyalty and your loyalty program versus competitors in your market.

But actually you’re not quite confident enough. So I’d still encourage you to encourage to enter your sector. Because you never know, and you could be shortlisted at least. And that’s great recognition in its own right. Yeah. But, um, look at the other categories as I say, like innovation, eco, technology, gamification.

And then there are other, um, more, uh, sort of campaign led, uh, categories around best short-term loyalty initiative or CSR, you know, so social responsibility initiative or best, um, sort of voucher based program, which is slightly different than being a broader category, program, so it really is. And then, uh, you know, let’s not forget this.

I think that, you know, to win best program overall for your sector, you’ve gotta have been around for some time. You can’t disappear and be the new kid on the block and suddenly the very, very best cause you’ve gotta prove it’s got longevity, a loyalty program Yeah. As we know, is not a short-term campaign.

It’s a long term initiative. But they do also the awards also want to recognize the best new launch. Um, you know, so if there’s been an impactful launch and a program that’s showing some great promise, let’s, let’s recognize that as well. So yeah, I encourage you very much so to study those categories and have an open mind and enter as many as you can because yeah, you may have one program that is doing great stuff with gamification, data, and in its own sector, that’s three opportunities you have for recognition. Yeah, um, so that is a real, um, a real thing like enter more than one category if you can, and there’s no reason why you can’t. It’d be, it’d be very strange that you feel restricted because. Yeah. The organizers have thought that through to get the breadth recognized.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s great advice. Amanda and I did that actually myself last year. You know, I mean for me, you know, with my podcast, you know, I’m so proud of course, we’re also proud of what we do and for me, you know, I feel in my mind, you know, the podcast is very innovative. So I went and entered the best loyalty industry innovation, but also I entered best use of communications because I think that actually is much more logical actually.

So, so my perception, and I suppose the, the industry’s perception were quite different, and it was the best use of communication that I was shortlisted for. So, you know, that’s, I think as you said, really important to make sure that you enter multiple categories, um, depending on, on the particular work that you’re doing.

And the other thing you said, which I also think is super important, is it’s so competitive and there was hundreds of entries I think the big influx last year. I think particularly coming out of, I suppose, the pandemic and, you know, the fact that we’d all been, you know, working so hard behind the scenes, almost reinventing ourselves.

Um, so I definitely know the volume of entries went up, but being shortlisted was a huge honor. So I would definitely say it’s not even just about winning, it’s about getting on the radar. And as you said, it might not be your year the first year, but definitely there’s opportunities from year to year.

Amanda: Definitely. I mean, if I think about the South African brands here who have entered in the past to be shortlisted, to be recognized, that’s typically you’re within the top 10 globally of that particular category or that particular initiative. It’s an incredible accolade. So yeah. Um, Absolutely enter for and then again, that helps you with stakeholder, internal stakeholder management to say, Hey, listen, this isn’t just good stuff in our local market. We’re being recognized globally against the best there, there is out there. So yeah, definitely, uh, take a short listing as a huge, a huge acknowledgement of great work.

Paula: Absolutely. Another thing that struck me today, Amanda, um, just going through this, um, this overall brochure, um, for 2023, um, awards was the key words, um, which I noticed is being mentioned in the introduction. So, The key words for people listening are customer centricity, and what the organizers are saying is the customer has to be at the heart and they want to see evidence of this.

So, you know, I’d love your, your, your perspective or comments, but, what I think I’m reading and hearing is, you know, 20 different categories, as you’ve said. Sometimes it’ll be geographic, sometimes it’ll be by sector. So lots of different ways, but regardless of what you’re entry, you have to prove that the customer is at the center of the overall award entry.

Amanda: Definitely. So I would encourage every brand. not ignore those keywords and hints and tips the organizers have put down in the, in the, on the website and in the brochure you can download. Yeah. Because that’s how we are briefed as judges. So we separately have received a judging booklet, with our guidelines and what of how the process is gonna run, the dates and what to look for, and then obviously, depending on which categories we get allocated, cuz that all depends on who’s entered, what’s the conflict of interest and so on. So, My advice based on what you’ve just said about the customer applies to everything that’s written in that brochure because I really just, it’s been written for a reason and not to ignore it.

I’m the world’s worst at having to read instructions on anything , so I have to properly focus and read it. Yeah. Um, and read it carefully and keep to the rules. My, my broader recommendation is, the rules are set for a reason. So if it says they’re off, you have a section to fill in. It’s a maximum and maybe an executive summary of 200 words or 500 words.

Yeah. Forgive me, I dunno the exact wording per section, but it’s there for a reason and you can’t double it. You can’t suddenly do a thousand words cuz you got so much to say. Why? Because the judges have got 10 maybe. Typically. I, I remember in the few years that I’ve been judging you get, three or four categories, and there could be up to 10 entries per category.

So that’s 30 or 40 entries. Yeah. And we take this role really seriously. So we’ve got really focus per, per entry, per category, and then compare them. Yeah. So they have to be comparable, you know? Yeah. So you can’t suddenly have double the volume of evidence per one versus the other. Yeah. And actually brutally, honestly, less is more.

So if you can get your point across, More succinctly and more clearly, um, with less words and more to the point real evidence. Yeah. Then that is gonna be well received. So, um, it’s, it’s very important to be, be to read the details. They’re there for a reason. I’ll help unpack some of the sort of KPI, commercial KPIs that certainly we look for.

But when it comes to the customer, there are ways of proving you’ve got customer at the center. You know, whether it’s, whether it’s, um, obviously through the data performance, or is it your NPS scores are changing, or are you able to prove your strategic use of anything you gather from the loyalty program to drive broader strategic customer centricity rather than just campaign ROI you know, anyone can prove a campaign ROI, but actually what is the broader customer impact across the whole organization? Yeah. So you, you know, those keywords are set for a reason, but I just do want to take that back to a broader principle around, read the, read the website, read the guidance that the team have put together because yeah, we as judges are briefed to respond to that.

And as a judge, I, I want to have a, a, a clear entry to read. I want to leave reading the entry going, wow, that was clear. I loved it. Yeah. Or that was clear, but I don’t think it’s impactful for the following reasons. And you can assess it for that reason in the judging criteria. Yeah. but as long as it’s written, as long as it’s within the rules.

It’s the rules are written for a reason, even down to details around the naming convention of your files. Because if you don’t keep to those rules, the poor organizers have to spend more time juggling the naming convention. So us judges understand which attachments are attached to which entry. Yeah. Than actually. Doing the shortlisting, which is a more important process. Totally, totally. We’d rather so, so those little details around your file naming convention and the logo, real requirements to be on a transparent background or whatever the rules are. Yeah, please do. Please do a dear to them because yeah, it allows the judges or the, not the judges, the organizers to spend more time on the really important stuff, which is the shortlisting process.

Paula: For sure. For sure. And, and I think the word count is extremely important. So I looked it up actually just while you were speaking there, Amanda. So, um, just so people listening know, the title will just be a 10 words title. Then there will be a 50 word entry description, and then the next piece is 250 words. So that’s the actual summary.

So I think that’s, you know, super clear as you said. , I’m thinking back to some other awards from a few years ago actually as well in, in, um, in Ireland, Amanda, where because those words are so precious, um, I know that a lot of the more, um, ambitious and competitive brands would actually get professional copywriters involved to craft those words.

So I think if it was me and I was really believing it, you know, it’s my year to win, then I’d nearly go for the professional copywriting, in fact, because, You are quite limited and as you said, for a reason. So what you want to be able to do is wow the judge with exactly why you deserve to get to get the award.

And of course there is much more detail in the, um, in the, the, the booklet about the exact format for the submission paper, of course, and attaching submissions and links to YouTube and all those kind of wonderful things. So lots, um, available to go in and, and substantiate. and as you said, I think it’s fantastic to make sure those key things like NPS scores and whatever those, um, commercial KPIs are, like for me, I found them quite lacking. Amanda, I dunno your experience without obviously naming names, but the couple of years I did it, I found there was sometimes an awful lot of the, you know, the, the communications piece for example, or the videos of the social media, but there seems to be a reluctance to actually, you know, nail it and put in.

The return on investment and the NPS improvements. What’s your experience in terms of getting clear and measurable results?

Amanda: Definitely, and I think that probably links back to this, um, concern around, around confidentiality. So I hope, yeah. I’ve re I’ve reassured on behalf of the other judges and the, the organizers that, that confidentiality and code of con conduct is a serious matter.

Um, I read it carefully cuz we have to sign it every year. We don’t sign it once, we sign it every year. And I read it carefully to make sure I know what I’m committing to and I’m, I’m confident all the other judges do as well. and therefore, uh, the, the brands really can give improper, solid, concrete information.

Without that, it’s really hard to, to judge. So I know when it comes to the actual decision, if there’s a close call on which brands are gonna win, which category? It’s very frustrating for the judges when there’s not enough clear, solid evidence because, you know, you need to, if you think about the commercial, think about a commercial KPI slide that you’re presenting to the board.

That’s almost what you need to be giving. So you need to be giving return on investment over clear time periods. You need to be giving incremental performance, not, you know, to say, oh, well, in the, let’s take a retail loyalty program. The basket size is double non loyalty members, or the frequency is double.

Yes. That’s interesting. But it’s not really proving anything cuz it could just be self selection of your best customers have joined the program. They might not have actually changed their behavior whatsoever. So think about how you have to prove the worth of your program within your business to get more funding.

And use those KPIs like is it the percentage of sales? Total turnover through the loyalty program, cuz that has global benchmarks we can judge it against. Yeah. Is it churn rate? Is it, you know, um, as I mentioned earlier, Clicks in the interview, we’ll hear next week. She talked about churn rate and I was like, that’s incredible.

Cause she gave me exact numbers, you know? Yeah. Which I know in, in. in your podcast, you really want practitioners to share. Yeah. Redemption. Redemption rates, you know, you know, it’s all very well and good to say, well, we have a high redemption rate. What does that mean? Yeah. Like what is the exact redemption rate?

Yeah. Um, what is your exact activity level over what period? How do you define the activity level? Yeah. So it’s almost like pretend you’re sitting in front of the FD of your business and what was he gonna ask you and say those things. Yeah. Um, so I really encourage that so passionately because once we’ve got that we can judge properly.

Yeah, and get excited by the results and compare brand versus brand submission versus submission.

Paula: Totally. And the other piece as well, I always like to see Amanda and, and specifically to your point about, you know, there cannot be a conflict of interest. So it may be that as a judge you’re judging a category that you’re unfamiliar with.

So what I think can be useful there. There might not always be a direct comparison with another entry, but at least if you say, this is the KPI, this is the expectation, the business set at the start of this investment, the start of this initiative, like our, our internal KPIs were X, our actual performance was Y.

And then at least, you know, okay, well the business is delighted. Yeah. So you can kind of see where that, so yeah, because I, I do think I always like for example, as you know, I did a lot of work in telecommunications loyalty, and we didn’t have a lot of direct comparisons or a model that we could say, this is, you know, the best in the industry because it was the only in the industry.

Um, so yeah, I definitely think anything that can be used to substantiate, to excite and to prove, um, versus expectations versus industry averages, I think it’s all incredibly useful.

Amanda: Absolutely. And yeah, sometimes there aren’t external benchmarks to go against, so at least put it against your internal KPI targets.

But what is an interesting debate is, um, and this is a strange one because we are asking the judges to sign confidentiality and code of conduct. We need to make sure that the submitting entries are completely factual as well. You know, there cannot be any generalization that makes it feel Yeah. Uh, bigger than it is or more successful than it is.

So, yeah. Um, I do also encourage everyone to take that role very seriously that what you submit is factual and could be evidenced if required. Totally. Totally. You know, you know, so if there were two brands that were exactly like for, like, for argument’s sake and they, the judging process could not differentiate one versus the other.

I’ve never seen this happen, but it has been discussed around the judging table. Like, should we go back to these two winning brands and get them to evidence? Why they said X, Y, Z versus the other brand that said PQR. Yeah. How do we then differentiate one versus the other? So yeah, the role of the company and the role of the individual submitting their entry is also very serious that they, and it’s not to put anyone off, it’s to encourage them to do what’s right. And um, yeah. There are times you read things and you think that’s very high polluted and a bit um, uh, potentially exaggerated. You know, there’s no point in doing that. It’s like, you know, just put it down. Be factual. Be yeah, truthful and, yeah. Um, May the best man win. . .

Paula: Totally, totally. Best woman win. Best woman win. Exactly. Best brand, best everything. Um, yeah, no, and I, of course, because these are judged entirely, um, obviously remotely. Um, for, for the process. We’ll go through that. Now. I know there’s some kind of in-person, but. I think the key thing is everything has to be submitted online.

Um, it’s not that there will be an opportunity ever to, to discuss your, your entry of course. So, you know, I know other awards and other industries are done, you know, in an interview format, in person, for example. So that’s not the case with this. It’s all done online. And if I’m right, um, I think it’s still the same, Amanda. So just again, for, for brands listening, um, and even agencies, because we do of course know that an awful lot of, um, global loyalty marketing agencies take the opportunity to enter their. You know their clients. Yeah. Which is very exciting as well to hear and definitely encourage that. I know there’s a key principle about having, of course, the, the client’s permission and signature if there’s an entry going through from, you know, a supporting agency or vendor.

So that’s a good principle as well. So lots of those important details. Again, all in the booklet, but just the process itself, Amanda. So, you know, let’s take it from here. Start of January, four weeks to the entry date. What’s your, you know, top tip in terms of um, you know, having a winning entry. What do they really need to keep in mind?

I know we’ve talked about a couple of points, but let’s really summarize this, um, this phase of it for them.

Amanda: So I would say start thinking about it now. I mean, I know the team have been, um, encouraging entries for months now, and it is almost like the last week everything comes in. Yeah. Don’t leave it till the last week because you’re gonna be busy.

Some, some work priority’s gonna take over and then you’re gonna resent doing it, and then you’re gonna either not do it at all or do a bad job of the submission. So almost brainstorm with your team, just get the facts down. Don’t worry about how eloquently it’s written at this stage. Get the facts down and then worry about whether you need a copywriter or, uh, gathering a video to back up the evidence and so forth.

So my view would be, start now you’ve got four weeks. You can spend a week brainstorming a week compiling the report a week, refining the report, and then check and send or send earlier to help the to help the organizers. But yeah. But, you know, the, the key would be don’t leave it to the last minute.

I mean, I am fully aware that often these are done the night before the submission, and it’s never gonna be a winning entry in that sense. Yeah. And you know, the, there’s a huge debate in awards globally, whether, the winning brand is the winning brand because it’s genuinely the winning loyalty brand or marketing brand, whatever the awards are or whether it’s the best written submission, totally, but at the, but at the end of the day, fairness to the organizers of any awards process.

They can only judge what you put down. Yeah. You can’t expect them to know your brand and know, especially not on a global platform like the International Loyalty Awards. How can, couple of judges like Pieter and myself in South Africa know what’s going on in Turkey for, for illustration, you know, like Yeah.

You have to write a brilliant entry to, to get your point across. So yeah, I, I, I, I often have this debate with companies when they enter awards to say, yes, of course. If you can write a brilliant entry, you’ve got a better chance. But if you’ve got brilliant stuff to say, we’ll write it down and write it well.

So yeah. So. Don’t leave it to the last minute. And then going back to a little bit, I know you asked me for one thing, sorry it’s not one thing, but really do focus on giving those hard KPIs. The exposure they deserve and trust the process. Trust the judges aren’t gonna use, there’s no confidentiality issues.

Yeah. Um, I’ve never heard in the times that I’ve been involved and I’ve never heard of any issue whatsoever of none concerns about it being broken. So, yeah. I would just trust the process and throw, throw, throw everything at it. And more is, yeah, more detail is better, but less words are better.

Paula: Yes. More is more, but yeah, the right word.

The right more . Yeah. Yeah. Brilliant, brilliant. Um, and then from that, so as you said, midnight 1st of February is absolutely definitively in 2023. The, the closing date for submissions. Um, after that, then I know there is a select group, um, and I know David Parker is the chair of the International Loyalty Awards, um, judging Committee.

So I know David and a smaller group will, I suppose, essentially select the shortlist. So from the hundreds that come in across those 20 categories. They will be, um, assigned to various judges. Um, I’m sure that takes a couple of weeks as well. Just the sheer volume again, of entries that’s coming through, which is super exciting.

Um, then they’re assigned to you, as you said, Amanda. Probably you’ll be given maybe 10 short lists, times three categories, so you’ll have a certain amount of time, of course to work through all of that and report back. What kind of detail do you have to give? I remember a numerical ranking. Is there any kind of justification or commentary that you put? I, I seem to remember I did that, but it’s a few years since I was judging. So just give people a sense of what you are sending back in then when it comes to making those, you know, uh, I suppose second to final decision, cuz I know there is a, a judging day as well. I want to understand. .

Amanda: Yeah, so, so you’re absolutely right. There’s a short listing process. And then all judges are involved in the remote judging, and we get sent prior to that, we get discussion around is the conflict of interest and then the organizers have to allocate you the appropriate panels to judge on. Yeah. So typically, as I remember it, for the past few times, I’ve been on three or four, categories, allocated to three or four categories, and you get sent a Dropbox with all of the entries, plus the associated supporting evidence. And then a spreadsheet which asks typically five, four, five or six, killer questions around that entry. And you can only enter in a score. Um Okay. Yeah. Into a formula.

So you put into the formula box, I can’t remember if it’s that five or ten, but let’s say arguments say five is high, one is low. So let’s just say it’s on the commercial impact and I might think this brand is outstanding, have put a five and then, it’s what are the innovation? You know, the, so the, depending on the category, there are different questions.

They’re not all the same. Because Yeah, if you’re judging the best long-term program versus the short-term campaign, yeah, it’s very different criteria. So as a judge you have to take each category very separately, not assume you, and also some entries remember, can enter more than once. You can’t assume and look at the scores you gave it on the previous category, cuz it could be entirely different judging criteria.

So once we fill that in, but what we do, we are encouraged to populate some notes with it because as you say on the day, what then happens, you send it back as a judge. Yeah. If there are any questions, the organizers come back and say, uh, what did you mean by, you know, your schools don’t correlate to whatever.

But that’s never really been the case. Yeah. if there is a clear cut winner, or, uh, runner up, so to speak, by the results. Now, how they assess those results is up to the organizers. Obviously you’ve got points, uh, allocated, but you would also have rankings, so how many of the judges put them first versus second, because some judges might be very generous scorers and others very, uh, minimalist scorers and so on.

Yeah. So they’ll be looking at other things, not just the exact number of points allocated. Once that that’s allocated, some categories may have a very clear winner. Maybe it’s 20% higher than every other, uh entry, and they will be declared on judging day. So then there is a judging day, and the organizers will say we’ve got 25 categories and of the 25 categories, 15 of them. I’m making these numbers up, but 15 of them have a clear winner and that is not open for negotiation. Great. Because we’ve had remote judges. Not all the judges are here today cuz you can’t all physically be at the judging day. Although it has been remote during the covid years, which has been easier.

Yeah. So the judging process remotely on the Excel spreadsheet is a serious process cuz that category may not be opened up again for discussion. Okay. So let’s say brands, uh, Clicks for argument’s sake, cause I talked about them earlier, is a clear, clear winner of its category, it isn’t open for debate and then the organizers just state it and everyone goes, okay, cool.

But let’s say, um, Four retailers are re, or two retailers are super close in their scoring, and the same number of judges rank them first or second. Yeah. Then that is opened up for debate, and the judges who judge that category are leading the debate. Basically. There isn’t a, there isn’t one person who’s sitting there. The organizers don’t have final say. You know, the judges debate it and then. Is they bid, correct? Is that, what is the chairperson? So if there comes, I think this is the right process and I’d have to check. I think there is a right of final stay from the chairperson, but it rarely gets put to the test. We have to sort it out as judges.

Um, and then that’s where the supporting evidence and the key KPIs is so critical because now it’s gonna get debated. Totally. So why, why are we saying that the retailer X is better than retailer Y? Well, retailer X is actually showing an ROI and an incremental uplift and a percentage of sales of this, but the other brand is less.

Yeah. Okay. , even though they wrote a more eloquent entry, they haven’t given evidence. So, yeah, so that’s why it’s really important. And um, and also remember, the judges aren’t in your, it’s very, maybe they are in your marketplace, but maybe they’re not. Yeah. So you do need to describe what does your product do? What is. you know, where are you positioned sort of within the marketplace? Are you, you know, for example, as in the South African marketplace, we’ve got the South African loyalty white paper that states where, who, which brands are most used? That would be a great way of showing how big or successful your program is to the judges straight away.

Yeah. So it’s that kind of thing. Like give, give your judges context straight away so that they understand, they’re not shooting in the dark.

Paula: Totally. Totally. Yeah.

Amanda: And then, sorry, we were answering the question around the process. So the judging day, we leave the judging day, 90% wrapped up, but there have been a couple where it’s just not, there haven’t been solu a solution. So the organizers then with a couple of the judges who are key on that category still debate it. Okay. Um, and obviously then the judges are, we have to keep mum, we have to keep quiet cuz we know the results. Yes. Um, until the, the actual gala event in June. So Absolutely. So that’s a, that’s a very exciting process because we know the results, but, um, But we don’t inter, you don’t, if you didn’t attend the judge’s day and you only judge three categories, you don’t suddenly get sent an email saying these are the results of the other 22 categories. The organizers keep it quiet.

Yeah. Um, and we don’t, we don’t know what went on with the rest of the categories.

Paula: Yeah, for sure, for sure. And it is an incredibly exciting night, of course, I think a lot of people listening to this show have been and will be in London, of course, again, on the 15th of June this year, I believe there’s over 500 people expected.

So super glamorous, full black tie, and certainly from last year, Amanda, you know, I can certainly say for me it was just a wonderful, almost like a week in loyalty where. You know, and I know, please God, you’ll be there this year as well. Everybody is just, you know, happy to be together, uh, to celebrate those winners, to celebrate the success of our industry.

And one thing I really feel very certain of is, you know, as we came out, you know, of this pandemic, you know, or are coming out towards the final end loyalty has you know, only increased in stature and, you know, the quality of the work is, is only, um, you know, continuing to grow. So I really look forward to, to the big announcement on the night, the, the tension, the excitement, and you know, all of these tables of brands and their industry partners as well, and people like you and I, who are always just so happy to see the rest of our colleagues there and, uh, celebrating their success.

So I think that’s all my questions, Amanda. I did write a quick summary of the, the keynote that I picked up. So I might just quickly, um, summarize them and then if I’ve missed any or if you’ve got anything else. The first thing I heard from you is take the time, you know, start now in terms of really thinking about your entry.

There’s four weeks to go, but please don’t leave it till, you know, the last day of the last night. Um, make sure to enter multiple categories because there’s lots of different ways to win. And as we said, 20 categories to choose from. So make sure to enter as many as you are eligible for, really reflect the keywords.

And as we said, customer centricity is going across all 20 categories, but again, within the booklet there’s very specific criteria that you’ll be asked for. So to reflect those keywords. And then I think the key one we’ve talked about, of course, is the KPI’s. To make sure that we’re giving the compelling evidence and proving why, uh, particular brands and their programs or initiatives deserve to win.

So, so I hope I’ve done justice, Amanda, to the, the whole International Loyalty Awards. Is there anything I’ve missed out, do you think?

Amanda: Maybe one thing I haven’t mentioned actually, that I think is very important is sort of the innovation around when we talk innovation, a lot of people are immediately think of tech and gamification or Web 3.0 and so on.

Yes. But actually innovation can mean so much more. You know, it could be that you ha you run a covert by invitation only club that is driving a change of behavior just for a thousand customers. Yeah. So I really encourage you to not, um, not feel that your work isn’t worth showcasing and pull it out as we, we came up with this innovative idea that did X, Y, Z, or so, just really dig deep into, yourself, self-appreciation of the hard work you and your team have done and a lot of ideas that may not, may not seem technically innovative. But actually from a customer experience point of view could be very innovative in your marketplace. To pull those out as well. I don’t, I feel like sometimes the world gets a bit obsessed with new technology innovation rather than customer experience innovation.

And at the end of the day, this is about the customers. So whatever you’re doing that’s slightly off the beaten track and slightly different, that is creating a difference for your customers. Yeah. Is worth highlighting for sure.

Paula: For sure. Yes, very wise words. And again, as we said at the start, it’s like once a year an opportunity to sit back and reflect and celebrate both internally and externally.

So I, for one, am super excited, I’ll be dying for this, uh, big awards night, the big reveal in London on the 15th of June. So with that said, Amanda Cromhout Founder and CEO of Truth in South Africa. And of course, judge for the International Loyalty Awards. Thank you so much from Lets Talk Loyalty.

Amanda: Thanks, Paula. Always a pleasure.

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