Winning Strategies for Design Contests

With the remodeling market still slow, marketing should be in the forefront of everything we do. One of the most successful marketing tactics is creating a campaign from awards we have won.

In order to promote awards, obviously you first have to win them. So, one might ask, how do you win a remodeling award? The answer may seem simple: Execute a great project. Obviously. But there are a lot of great projects out there; few of them win awards. So I would like to talk about what you need to do to make sure your great project wins an award.

Keep these steps in mind:

1. Think about entering the project even while you are selling the job
2. Put the idea in your client’s head
3. Get a before floor plan
4. Take before pictures
5. Write a project plan for your submission
6. Take after pictures
7. Ensure your client is OK with submitting the project
8. Assemble your submission

As you can see, the process actually begins while you are selling the job. Every time you are on a sales appointment, you should be thinking, could I enter this in a remodeling contest? We ask our clients to envision a completed project which will exceed their expectations and be award-winning on top of that.

After selling the job, try to get a floor plan of the space as it currently exists. You will want that for your submission. Then take your before photos. Judges will want to see before and after shots taken from the same vantage points.

This can be difficult if you have not finalized the design. Err on the side of taking lots of pictures. Once the project starts, it will be too late to go back and take before pictures.

Photography

Your before photos do not have to be of the same quality as your after photos. (Sometimes the poorer the before photos are, the better the after photos look.) On the flip side, your after photos must be taken professionally. In 10 years of judging QR’s Master Design Awards, it is the after photos that provide the judges with the wow factor.

Hire a professional. It might cost you a little more, but sometimes the difference between winning and not winning an award is due to the photography — and that award may be the difference in your winning or not winning a huge project.

Also, just as our industry has areas of specialization, so too does photography. Make sure you hire a photographer who specializes in architectural photography.

Floor plans

As I mentioned, it is important to include both before and after floor plans. The plans need to provide the judges with a few basic facts: scope of work, room titles so they know adjacency to the other rooms in the house, and a general feel to what was accomplished by the renovation or addition. Several submissions I have seen have floor plans which identify where the pictures are taken. This makes it easy for the judges to understand the submission.

Most remodeling contests also require a project statement. The project statement needs to be short and concise, since judges have only a few minutes to review your presentation. Make sure the statement is easy to read. In other words, make sure the type is large enough and in an easy-to-read font. Check and recheck for typos and grammatical errors.

Assemble your submission

How you actually assemble your submission is up to you. I like to introduce my plans because as an architect I understand two-dimensional drawings. I also display before and after plans on facing pages. This makes it easier for a judge to view them, as opposed to flipping back and forth between pages. I also like to submit my before and after photos of the same wall or space on opposite facing pages.

Many entrants have gone to a more storybook presentation where the project scope, description, plans and photos are intertwined in the pages of the presentation. This is another acceptable solution as long as you keep it simple and concise.

The photos and plans and project scope seen on this page are from an award winning submission. Good luck.

As always, my quote of the month: “Every man owes a part of his or her time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve within his sphere.” — Theodore Roosevelt.

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