As a Product Marketing Manager, I was regularly mistaken for a Product Manager. The lines were often blurred. The struggle was very real!
Now and again I’ll find myself embroiled in a discussion about the difference between a Product Marketing Manager and a Product Manager. Notably, when a business employs both roles, there is often a lack of clarity between the two roles. Who is responsible for what? I’m sharing my experience as a Product Marketing Manager to see if I can un-blur the lines.
“We think you’d be great for this Product Manager role”
Another week, another inbox full of ‘amazing’ job opportunities. The majority via LinkedIn. Some via trade show registrations (yes, that’s how some people use them). A few from recruiters that have come across the last CV that I uploaded to a job board, which I believe was towards the end of the last century.
The one thing that these ‘amazing’ job opportunities have in common, is that they’re invariably for the wrong job.
You see, before running my own agency, I spent 12 years as a Product Marketing Manager. Yet, recruiters seem to think that my cv/profile ‘is a great match for a role they are recruiting for’ as a Product Manager.
Ok, I realise they are only different by one word – but that one word makes a big difference. I thought it would be useful to separate the key responsibilities of product marketing and product management, as I see them.
My life as a Product Marketing Manager
The first few years of my 12 years in Product Marketing were for an organisation with longer term product development. Each member of the product team was allocated a specific product to see through from start to finish. This meant we were constantly overlapping responsibilities between Product Management and Product Marketing – often resulting in duplicated effort. This also caused issues whereby important functions fell through the cracks as nobody was 100% sure where the responsibilities began and ended.
My progression to what I see as a true Product Marketing Manager function was when I moved to a fast moving software company. Here the roles were very clearly defined and Product Managers worked closely together with Product Marketing Managers. Our individual key responsibilities helped to take the products from the initial strategy sessions through to market adoption.
How did they define the role of a Product Marketing Manager?
I’ve researched the differences between a PM and a PMM a lot over the years. To say that there is still a lot of confusion out there would be an understatement. However, there are several sources where certain responsibilities are always featured for a Product Marketing Manager. So to answer this question, I dug out my old job description, as it includes all of them.
- Driving demand and revenue growth through strong positioning, effective sales enablement and creative campaigns.
- Providing expert knowledge on competitors, industry, target audience, and customers’ buying criteria.
- Enabling go-to-market by working closely with the product team to define core positioning, pricing, selling processes and strategy.
- Developing compelling positioning for existing and new features and how to differentiate them, including using client feedback to identify value, use cases and core messaging.
- Providing case studies, training, customer stories and other core materials to aid Sales Enablement to effectively sell to new and existing clients.
- Working on creative, impactful co-marketing campaigns and compelling launches.
Can a Product Manager and a Product Marketing Manager be the same person?
Well, of course they *can* be. The real question is *should* they be? The answer to that question is very much dependant on the size of company, the turnover of new product, and/or the complexity of the product range/market.
Let’s take an aggregate for a software SME with between 50 and 300 employees and a large product roadmap. If one person were to perform the duties of both a PM and a PMM, in addition to the responsibilities listed above, you would need to add in:
- Setting and communicating product vision and strategy
- Developing and managing the roadmap
- Managing product backlog
- Detailing required functionality of the product through user stories or jobs-to-be-done
- Working closely with developers/engineers, designers, and QA to build products
- Managing all product stakeholders
- Running dog-fooding and beta sessions with customers
Assuming you don’t employ automatons that don’t need to sleep, it’s likely that the product would suffer as a result of workload.
Product Marketing Manager vs. Product Manager
Actually, it shouldn’t be phrased as PMM vs. PM. They’re not in competition with each other. It’s crucial that both functions work well together as a team, and understand their individual responsibilities. That’s not to say that there should never be any line blurring. In fact it’s important for the team dynamic that each has a clear understanding of what their counterpart is doing, and how they’re doing it.
There might be certain duties that are typically for the PMM to perform, that the PM is simply better at, or more comfortable with (public speaking, for example); or vice versa. In which case, it should be perfectly acceptable for the PM/PMM partnership to define their ‘team’ duties and work them out accordingly. As long as there is clear definition, and all duties are performed, the product won’t suffer.
The Product Manager has ultimate responsibility for the product. The Product Marketing Manager is responsible for communicating the product’s value. Each have distinct but complementary duties to help them deliver these key responsibilities. They represent one of the most important teams within the business, and need to be able to work well together and form a strong partnership. They also have one major thing in common – the customer!