Case Study: $695,000 Awarding Seals of Approval

I know this headline sounds like one of those bogus get rich quick offers, but it’s entirely real. The catch is that you need to have an established name in your own niche. And unless you’re big – as in “Inc. Magazine” big – then you will probably have to settle for a substantially lower number.

Still, it’s an incredibly easy and lucrative way to enjoy an almost automatic cash windfall each year.

Here’s how Inc. Magazine is doing it. and if you offer a service like this, your results will of course vary.

Each summer Inc. Magazine opens up their annual ‘Power Partner’ program. Business to business (B2B) companies may apply to receive a Power Partner Award and be featured in the November issue of Inc. Magazine as a business that other businesses can use. Chosen businesses also get an Inc. seal of approval to place on their website.

According to Inc. Magazine, if you can provide a few good references, then “…you stand a good chance of making the list as a Power Partner. We’ll even take care of the heavy lifting by sending a super short survey to the references you provide.”

It sounds like they will approve as many applicants as they possibly can. Moreover, they will take all the applications businesses care to submit to them.

Are they doing this out of the goodness of their heart? Umm… no.

The cost to apply – that’s right, just to APPLY – is $695 for early birds and $895 if you don’t make the first deadline.

For your non-refundable $695 (or $895) they will send out ‘short surveys’ of 4 questions to the reference email addresses you provide, presumably read the responses they get back, most likely approve you, and place your business name in a long list of other business names in the November issue.

Oh yes, you also get a thingy-bob to place on your website telling the world you paid $695 to Inc. Magazine. Except, of course, many people won’t realize you essentially purchased the Inc. Seal of Approval (cue barking seal) making your business look super awesome to prospects who like to see this type of endorsement (and some really do, believe me.)

The questions they ask your referred customers/clients are,

  • “How likely is it that you would recommend [company] to a friend or colleague?” Rate 1-10.
  • “How would you rate the value of the products or services [company] provides?” Rate 1-10.
  • “In terms of quality, how much better is [company] than its competitors?” Rate 1-10.
  • “What is it about [company]’s products or services that makes you choose it over its competitors?”

I know I sound jaded and maybe I am. But within this story is the seed of something greater, something that you might be able to apply in your own business.

This might work not just for B2B businesses but also B2C businesses as well.

Offer some sort of awarding or credentialing system to your customers. If they’re a business, give them a way to earn your seal of approval and give them a spicy award title such as one of these:

  • Excellence in Innovation Award
  • Customer Service Excellence Award
  • Outstanding Leadership Award
  • Small Business of the Year Award
  • Social Responsibility Award
  • Entrepreneur of the Year Award
  • Outstanding Startup Award
  • Corporate Social Responsibility Award
  • Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Award
  • Outstanding Marketing Campaign Award
  • Environmental Sustainability Award
  • Women-Owned Business of the Year Award
  • Excellence in Technology Award
  • Community Impact Award
  • Corporate Philanthropy Award

If they’re customers, you might give them a diploma and list them as a graduate when they complete your course.

I know of one marketer who sells courses on hypnosis. In his sales letter he tells prospects they will be accredited with a certain hypnosis organization when they complete the course. It’s a good selling point and I’m sure he makes more sales because of it. The thing is, he created and owns the organization doing the credentialing.

And if you don’t think these sorts of things are profitable, try doing a little math with the Inc. Magazine scenario.

If just 1,000 businesses apply and they all get the early bird discount of $695, that’s $695,000 that Inc. Magazine has earned for doing very little, and this is annually. As in, EVERY YEAR. As in, “Whoo-hoo, windfall money, honey!!!”

My guess is they get five to ten times that number applying each year, because on their site they clearly state, “This award is open to companies of all sizes and types, in all industries and locations. Public, private, non-profit, subsidiary, U.S.-based and international companies are all encouraged to apply.”

Yup. Come one and come all, as long as you’ve got $695.

They offer over thirty different business categories and welcome you to apply in as many categories as you like. Each one will entail a separate application form and another entry fee.

If you establish a great reputation in your industry, you might use this business model to add a significant lump of cash to your bottom line each year with minimal effort.


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