Event blog: From ROI to Return on Ideas

Event blog: From ROI to Return on Ideas

Published on 10th October 2014

In the latest of our BD & Marketing Directors' networking breakfasts, Ambition was joined by Claire Mason, passionate founder of PR agency Man Bites Dog, to discuss "Next Generation Thought Leadership" for professional services firms.

Claire offered an engaging approach to idea generation as well as advice for the successful pursuit of big ideas in the often challenging environment of professional services firms. 

Rethink your ROI

We all recognise the critical importance of ROI, yet Claire suggested a significant shift to the popular acronym, referring to it rather as Return on Ideas, a built-in business case for why organisations should embrace big thinking. After all, it pays to think big because powerful ideas propagate themselves. 

Claire talked us through the four greatest thought leadership challenges facing marketing and BD folks, from idea generation and incubation to interference and integration.

At the heart of this is the challenge of gaining financial and emotional investment from fee earners in marketing and BD campaigns. Something which, in this traditional market, often seems like an impossible task. But, of course, there is a way, and many firms are engaging fee earners effectively. 

Ideas are the new currency

Claire pointed out that the foundations of professional services firms are ideas. Whether their offer is legal, finance, architecture or management consultancy services, they are called the “thinking professions” for a reason. Revenue generation is driven by their ability to solve problems and find new ways of thinking about opportunities. 

As marketers in professional services, you are actually working with likeminded idea generators; a treasure trove of knowledge and possibility that is often overlooked and cut off from the marketing and BD function. All we have to do is tap into this resource and move fee earners from the zone of interference into helping us generate and champion big ideas. 

What I thought was enlightening, and moreover relevant to multiple professions, is the open approach to ideas as a positive creator of revenue. Can we align fee earners behind creating a return on ideas as a more powerful form of ROI? 

Why are new ideas so scary? We can be afraid of being shot down after working hard on something, but perhaps, as a marketing and BD professional, your success is largely determined by your ability to overcome setbacks and develop the resilience required to push your ideas through the organisation and assemble champions behind it.

Embrace technology 

With technology advancing faster than you can say coding, it is becoming more apparent which firms are embracing these new advances, both in terms of the quality of their ideas and how they take them to market. 

From a recruiter’s perspective, ideas and innovation are now at the forefront of a candidate’s impression of a firm. 

Where do they look when researching for a potential move? The firm’s websites and online media channels. What do they look for? Evidence of your thinking and openness to new ways of doing things. 

Many candidates come to me asking to be placed at a particular firm because of their forward thinking presence in the market; a reason as frequent and as reliable for determining their most desired firm as having known someone who worked there who recommended it. 


As Claire and I discussed, perhaps employer thinking is the new employer branding. And while great work attracts great candidates – the opposite is also true. Claire’s emphasis on ideas has highlighted that smart thinking and innovative marketing and BD is becoming progressively critical for firms in more ways than we think. 

Ultimately, the message is clear; firms who want to attract the best marketing and BD candidates should consider not just their Return on Investment but also their Return on Ideas.