Before you discredit this blog with a sour grapes theory, let me point out that we have been to the top of the rankings before. Back in 2010, EXIT Marketing won Best Advertising Agency and PR Firm in Arkansas Business (not one but two Best of Biz awards). We were thrilled. And a bit shocked that we won. Sure we were proud of the product we were delivering and we felt it was well qualified for the recognition. But our reach was extremely small. We were a small agency with a small client list (in relationship to our competition). We didn’t dig deep for an answer. We thought maybe a super-satisfied EXIT client campaigned for us and was successful in building some voting momentum? Maybe we caught our competition napping? We promoted it and it felt good! Six months later, we found out a member of a networking group were in did a mass email voting for every member of the group. We had no idea this was being done. We won because someone we were associated with out emailed our competition. Not a real inspiring story behind our coveted awards.
The honest truth is these annual lists were created to give publications an additional product to sell. Want people to buy ads? Stroke their egos a bit. It’s amazing how much we value advertising our own success. And it doesn’t stop with the winners. Vendors of winners who want to show their support are also asked to buy space. And then you have the non-winners, who are angry they were overlooked, crash the party with a full page “How ya like that?” ad. I gotta give it to the media folks, it’s a really smart concept. Something that the publication can rely on each year to whip up the competitive spirit in companies and loosen the grips on the tight marketing budget. I guarantee every year, more than one marketing director says to their print rep, “We won!? Well, we can probably find money in the budget for a congratulations ad.”
What I’m revealing is probably not news to most people. But I still feel like it needs to be said- directly to the publications that author these annual lists. We, your readers, are not stupid. We know how these things worked. Yes, we enjoy your annual lists. It’s entertaining content. But a company’s ranking doesn’t tell us that this company is going to bring us the best product. It doesn’t even protect us from that company delivering poor service. The only thing your lists tell us for sure is that the winners have figured out how to out email their competition. And you have enjoyed another good month of sales.