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| 11 minutes read

CMO Series EP71 - Tammy Mangan of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll on identifying and taking advantage of opportunities as a legal marketer

Change is inevitable. But how law firms react to it is a defining characteristic of successful legal marketing. Shifts in the economy, emerging industries and changes in regulation happen often and being able to respond to new opportunities is a skill that marketing leaders need to exercise now more than ever before.

Jennifer Green is lucky to welcome to the CMO series Tammy Mangan, Director of Marketing at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, to explore how legal marketers can recognise and take advantage of opportunities in the market.  

Jennifer and Tammy cover:

  • How Tammy came to be in your current role and when was it in her career that she realised how important it was to be aware of and able to take advantage of opportunities as a legal marketer
  • Why looking for opportunities and turning them to the benefit of the firm is so key for marketing at a law firm
  • What a potential opportunity look like for a firm and what marketers do to be more aware of possible developments
  • How marketers be nimble and ready to move quickly enough to make opportunities  matter
  • Once the opportunity becomes obvious and the firm has committed to the plan, what the first steps are in making the most of that development
  • Advice for marketers looking to see and react to opportunities facing their firm


Intro: Welcome to the Passle podcast CMO Series.

Jennifer: So, as we all know, change is a huge part of the legal industry. Shifts in the economy, emerging industries, and changes in regulation happen so regularly that the ability to see and then react to new opportunities is a defining characteristic of successful legal marketers. So today we are lucky enough to welcome to the CMO series Tammy Mangan, Director of Marketing at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. Welcome to the podcast, Tammy.

Tammy: Hey, thank you so much. I'm really happy to be here.

Jennifer: Absolutely. Well, we're very excited to have you, and if you are ready, I would love to just jump on in.

Tammy: Sure. Let's go for it.

Jennifer: Okay. Tammy so I would love to know, and I know the listeners would also love to know how did you come to be in your current role and when would you say, at what point in your career did you realise how important it was to be aware of and able to take advantage of opportunities as a legal marketer?

Tammy: So I want to start a little bit earlier and tell you a story from, I guess, early in my career because I think it serves as a reminder to seize on the opportunity when it's placed in front of you. Yeah, I didn't set out to be to have a career in marketing. I certainly didn't set out to be a legal marketer. I was actually working in the HR and recruiting space when I was approached by the then CMO at Baker & Hostetler. There was a newly created spot on the marketing team and she approached me to see if I was interested. That's Barbara Kay. She was one of the pioneers in the early days of legal marketing. And as we were talking about the opportunity, she said something like, I promise you, if you take this position, you're going to love marketing and you're never going to look back. And she was right, because I've been building my career in legal marketing now for about 25 years, and it was all because she saw something in me. So, thank you, Barbara. But jumping ahead, here I am. I just started a new position earlier this year leading the marketing team at Cohen Milstein. The firm is not quite 50 years old, but it's anxious to see its brand evolve to match the impact of the work that the people there are doing. And I'm very excited to be getting that work underway and for the opportunity to help the firm tell its story.

Jennifer: Amazing. And it sort of sounds like to me, just from my perspective, it sounds like your career right now, it almost happened in a serendipitous way of what led you here, and it sounds like it really happened organically, which is something really unique and special.

Tammy: It is.

Jennifer: Tammy, why do you think looking for opportunities and how to turn them into a benefit of the firm is so key for marketing at a law firm? Well, that's a good question, and I've been reading a lot in recent years about the evolving role of the CMO. In one survey that was commissioned by Accenture, it was called Rethink the Role of the CMO. 90% of organisations say that they view the CMO as the connective tissue between lines of business and in breaking down internal silos and essential to driving growth. In another study, Deloitte said, the CMO is seen as, listen to this, a growth driver, innovation catalyst, brand storyteller, and capability builder. So that's a really full plate. But I do believe that to truly bring value to your position as a marketing professional, you have to be looking beyond the traditional tactics of positioning and promotion. Right. Looking for new opportunities at the firm level and at the individual attorney level. We all know that competition is as strong as it's ever been, and I'm talking at all levels in the search for talent as well as in bringing in business. So growing market share has become incredibly challenging, and marketing professionals should not overlook the role that they can play in identifying and driving new opportunities forward. I think it's critical.

Jennifer: Absolutely. That's an amazing point. And with that being said, I would love to hear, from your perspective, what does a potential opportunity look like for a firm, in your opinion? And also, what can marketers do to be more aware of possible developments?

Tammy: Yeah, I can give you an example. This one's a little bit older, but I think it's a really great example. So some years ago, I was working for an IP firm. We were representing some of the most innovative companies in the world. And one of the things that I did was I tracked trends to see where the flow of venture capital was going to. Weekly, I read a report about the latest details from across all kinds of tech sectors. And at that time, money was flowing into spaces like biotech and pharma into medical devices and a lot of other fields where our clients were active. But then I began to notice something new, right? So what was I doing? I was reading, I was tracking trends. I think that's a really important piece here. So weekly I was reading those reports, and I started seeing something that was different. It was money flowing to a new space called clean tech. So I could see enough activity, and I could recognise that the attorneys at our firm had core technical backgrounds that were relevant to that field. And so I believed that our firm should really get onto the playing field. So I took that idea to the managing partner, armed with my data, of course. And I made the case that as a firm that was working for innovators, bringing new technology to the marketplace, a clean tech industry group was a logical business move. And I'm happy to say that I got to help launch that practice. And that was a really exciting time. So the takeaway there, right, was I was reading, I was educating myself, I was looking at trends. That's how I was able to spot a potential opportunity.

Jennifer: That's absolutely fantastic. And I'm sure that was something very rewarding to be involved in as well. So obviously, definitely, yeah. Amazing. And it sounds like timeliness is such a huge factor as well. So I'd love to know, and I know the listeners would love to know, how much of being successful in taking advantage of these windows of opportunity is being prepared to move beforehand. And how can marketers be ready to move quickly enough to make these moments matter?

Tammy: Well, as I mentioned before, I've been doing the research, right? I had solid numbers, and that's critical when presenting to a management team that's likely made up of professional sceptics. But in addition to being prepared, I think this is an important point. You can't be afraid to speak up even if you're someone who's in a more junior role and maybe you don't have the ear of the managing partner. You do have channels for bringing ideas forward. So it could be to your CMO, could be a practice leader, or someone with whom you have a relationship in the firm. So please, please don't discount your own ability to create a real business opportunity. And remember that getting to the market early with a new idea can sometimes be the difference between success and failure.

Jennifer: That's great advice. Thank you so much for sharing that. And I am sure we could do pretty much an entire episode on this question, but perhaps as a follow-up. But if you are ready once the opportunity becomes obvious and the firm has committed to that plan, what would you say are the first steps to take and make the most of that development or that opportunity?

Tammy: I think the keyword for me would be action. Think about this. We're living in a time when the news cycles moving at lightning speed and attention spans seem to be growing shorter and shorter. So you've got to be in a position to make an impact. Once your goals are set, you’ll probably memorialise that in a plan. You've plugged in your tactics to get you there, make sure you've got a timeline to keep your efforts on track. I know this sounds like 101 kind of stuff, but sometimes the fundamentals are the most important. Understand where your reporting points are going to be along the way to make sure that you're setting expectations with your internal stakeholders and of course, make adaptations to your plan where necessary. So keyword going back, I believe, is action.

Jennifer: So Tammy, we just have some fun quick-fire round questions that I would love to ask you.

Tammy: Sure.

Jennifer: So number one is what's your favourite business and your favourite non-business book?

Tammy: Well, I'd have to say, I don't really think I have a favourite business book at this time. I have found lately that I prefer reading about things that foster my ability to think big thoughts, I call it. And so I've kind of put the business theory books aside to focus on more creative things and visual things because I find this helps me sort of open up my mind.

Jennifer: Absolutely. 

Tammy: In terms of a non-business book, these are a little old, but if you've never read Bill Bryson's travel memoirs, I would encourage you to do it. These are not your Rick Steve's type of books. Bill Bryson uses humour, irony, and sarcasm as he takes you along on his journeys and his travels. And two of his works are really terrific. One, A Walk in the Woods, is about his journey to walk the entire 2100 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Well, and then the other is called In a Sunburn Country. This one recounts his adventures travelling in Australia, his encounters with the people, some of the extreme weather, and some of the most lethal wildlife on the planet, which actually left me questioning whether I would ever visit Australia. So do read them.

Jennifer: Yeah, I'm going to add them to my list. Absolutely awesome. Okay, and what was your very first job?

Tammy: Okay, so I thought about this a little bit and my first paying job outside of Babysitting was actually working as an elf in Santa's workshop at the local mall. Yeah, the green outfit, the whole thing. Yeah.

Jennifer: Oh boy.

Tammy: I don't know if I had pointy shoes. I can't remember. Thank God there are no pictures. I've got to say though, that teenage me, remember I was a teenage girl, I was mortified to walk through the mall in that elf outfit, just in case someone would see me and recognise me. But thinking about it now, it was a good exercise, I would say, in getting outside of your comfort zone.

Jennifer: And humility, maybe.

Tammy: Yeah, exactly.

Jennifer: That's incredible. If there's any picture proof, I will need it sent to me immediately.

Tammy: I have seen none, thank goodness. I would just say that I think it served me well because learning how to get outside of your comfort zone is actually something that is a good thing and helps you to get to the places where you want to go in your career.

Jennifer: 100%. And speaking from experience, I do believe first jobs tend to push you out of your comfort zone. And what are you listening to at the moment? So this could be a podcast, music, audiobook, anything?

Tammy: Yeah. Well, I have to say, I have always been a huge fan of public radio. I love StoryCorps, Fresh Air, The Moth Radio Hour, you name it. I love them all. I love the interview format, I love their first-class storytelling. I'm not spending as much time in my car these days commuting, and so I'm not as dialled in as I would like to be, but I always love their programming.

Jennifer: Of course. How funny. I feel like I used to be such a podcast guru before COVID hit, and now I'm in my car maybe for work maybe once a week. So it's just very interesting how that sort of shifted. Where is your favourite place to visit and why?

Tammy: Well, I love to travel and I have a huge bucket list. I want to see and experience as much as I can. But I'd say one place rises to the top and it's the mountain. And it really doesn't matter which ones they are. It could be the mountains here in Maryland or the beautiful Green Mountains in Vermont. I just love being in their presence and find that they bring me a sense of calm and a sense of being grounded. And so I love to spend time in the mountains.

Jennifer: Yes, being grounded really is the best way to put it. I would recommend Vermont any time. I went there for the first time this past year for my 30th, and it was absolutely stunning.

Tammy: Wonderful. Well, my daughter went to college there and so as a result, I got to spend a lot of time there and I love it.

Jennifer: It's so beautiful. And last, but certainly not least, what makes you happy at work?

Tammy: Yeah, well, I think the first thing that comes to mind for everyone is always the people, right? The bonds that you build, and in some cases, the lifelong friends that you make along the way. But I think there's something else that makes me happy and it's really seeing the impact of the work that we do. And, you know like I said earlier, I've been at this for 25-plus years, and along the way, at each place, I've got to be part of something that I'm proud of. It could be a team transformation or building a training program that benefits others, or the many branding initiatives that I've had the chance to drive. And I love the creativity that all of these opportunities have allowed me to experience. And that's what makes me happy at work.

Jennifer: I just love that. And thank you so much for humouring me and answering those questions. That was really fun and definitely adds a fun little twist on the thing. So I just want to thank you again so much for sitting down with me, taking the time to be a part of our CMO series. We're so excited to have you on and hopefully, we will chat soon.

Tammy: Well, thank you. This has been a lot of fun.

Jennifer: Amazing. Thanks, Tammy.


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