Product Marketing and Product Management Roles

Simple Minds

I wrote a brief post here, about the different roles in the area of product management and product marketing, so it was interesting to read what Saeed Khan had to say on the subject in the following two posts (the first one in particular):

These posts give really great insight in to what the different roles are. In particular I think he gives a really nice, succinct description of the product marketing role:

Product Marketing is responsible for developing positioning, messaging, competitive differentiation, and enabling the Sales and Marketing teams to ensure they are aligned and work efficiently to generate and close opportunities. Product Marketing is strategic marketing at the product or product line level.

I agree with a lot of what he says. My one caveat is where Saeed talks about some of the poor definitions of the distinction that are used. In particular, a definition I’ve trotted out myself a few times is:

Product Management focuses on putting product “on the shelf,” and Product Marketing focuses on getting product “off the shelf”.

I use a slight variation on this, specifically:

Product Management focuses on putting the right product “on the shelf,” and Product Marketing focuses on getting product “off the shelf”.

The criticism Saeed makes of this and other definitions is that they are overly simplistic and don’t help people understand the subtleties of the different positions. But I beg to differ – I think it’s exactly this simplicity that makes this definition more useful. Less correct, yes, but more useful. Like any model or descriptive aid, this phrase is wrong in parts. For example, if a product manager wasn’t worrying herself about how the product is going to get off the shelf, then she’s not doing her job properly. Additionally if the product marketing manager isn’t thinking about how the product experience could be improved to help usage and sales, then he’s missing possible opportunities for improving the marketing/sales funnel.

But – to people outside the product management/marketing function, I think it really helps people to get a grip on what product marketing managers do. I’m not sure that’s explained as simply with Saeed’s approach.

The other point to make as well, is that it really depends on the people you employ. No individual perfectly fits in to one hole or the other. We have product managers who are quite product marketing-ey, and some that aren’t (and the same, reverse point for PMMs). It’s not a criticism of one type or the other, it’s just that people are generally better suited working to their strengths, and the jobs people actually end up doing rarely fit in to narrow definitions.

Still, great post – and nice to know that what we do at Red Gate kind of fits in with how others see the split!

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