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Product Manager vs. Product Marketing Manager: roles distinction and synergies

Written by Roberta Cinus

Being keen on startups businesses and having worked in a digital agency developing their own Saas, I recently found myself involved in Product Management topics. Finding them really interesting I investigated further ending up writing this blog post about what are the differences and synergies you can have between the roles of the Product Manager and the Product Marketing Manager.

Understanding the role of the Product Manager

Being a Product Manager implies a wide range of responsibilities around the goal of strategically guiding a product roadmap while leading a cross-functional team.

The role is typically found at companies that are building products or technology for customer or internal use and the main responsibility is improving the company’s product and ultimately leading to its success. The real duties vary depending on the organisation or the project, but a common trait is the main focus on the product and its customers. To build better-designed and higher-performing products Product Managers need to have a intimate understanding of customers and the ability to create tailored solutions for them determining a product’s overall reason for being, ie. the product’s WHY. Along with the ability to manage also the WHAT and WHEN.

So what a Product Manager does exactly?

  • Listen to the Voice of the Market through Research: the evolution of a product roadmap is informed by a deep understanding of the company’s market, user personas, and competitors. The Product Manager is constantly gathering and analysing data and business intelligence from these sources, as well as from internal sources like sales and customer service teams.
  • Build Plans and Roadmaps based on Feedback and Data Analysis: a product needs to be continually tested and the Product Manager will juggle between data analysis and direct feedback from the users: what works, what doesn’t, and what it would be to good add. This feedback will be shared with relevant teams to iterate and improve the product.
  • Set a long-term Vision and Strategy for the product: every product delivers unique values and needs a high-level strategic plan to reach goals through a roadmap. The Product Manager is in charge of defining Vision and Strategy and of articulating the product business value with the purpose to communicate the intent behind the new product or product release to other teams and stakeholders. He/She will ensure all decisions with regard to development, marketing, sales, and customer care reflect and support the strategy.
  • Define Roadmap, Timelines, and Release Plans: the Product Manager is in charge of the activities required to bring the product to market. He/She defines the release process prioritising features ideas captured during the feedback gathering and coordinating the real development of the product.

Visual representation of Martin Eriksson’s definition of Product Management by Atlassian

According to this wide range of tasks, we can say Product Management is found in the intersection of Business, User Experience, and Technology (which is its popular description by Martin Eriksson).

  • Business – for its focus on achieving business goals through a cross-team coordination
  • User Experience – for its focus on making the customer happy
  • Technology – for the deep connection of product ideas and new features with engineering and technical teams

It’s not my job but I think it’s a very exciting and eclectic role, what do you think?

And what is a Product Marketing Manager instead?

Being a Product Marketing Manager implies different responsibilities around the goal of presenting a product in ways that will strengthen the brand and boost sales.

As stated in the video below by ToutApp, Product Marketing sits in the intersection of Marketing, Sales, and Product and focuses on customers’ needs. The role is involved in developing and implementing the most profitable and effective strategies and plans to position and promote a product or a product line. A Product Manager leads the go-to-market and drives the adoption of the product keeping a great focus on understanding the customer, the competitors and the market as a whole.

He/She owns the definition of the product for market understanding and needs to study product features, their benefits for the users clearly translating them into customer-facing messaging able to communicate products’ value to the market. At the same time, this messaging is also the starting point for training the sales force supporting the ways they inform prospect about the product features.

The Product Marketing Manager is familiar with various product marketing techniques, such as ads, email campaigns, webinar, presentations, and pricing strategies being at the same time a creative and quantitative thinker. He/She is also able to work with different teams such as design, product, sales aiming to coordinate different processes and channels.

Again, an inspiring and eclectic role? Yes, I love my job!

Synergies for success

Although the two roles differ in many ways you could have already seen where they have similarities and how their intersection is actually critical to delivering a successful product.

In a healthy organisation, Product Manager and Product Marketing Manager work in different departments but run their tasks as a team. They are able to work closely together defining and delivering an amazing product with a remarkable go-to-market strategy, both guided by the need to meet the same person: the Customer. They work side-by-side to deliver a product experience that exceeds customer and market expectations and they are fully aware of how their complementary responsibilities help take a product from the earliest strategy sessions all the way to successful market adoption.

Moreover, they can learn from each other and I found they have a few important skills in common. They are both:

  • Storytellers: they both do market research and data analysis and should be able to tell the customers’ story to internal stakeholders. It’s crucial they share a compelling story of the customers perspective with the rest of the company
  • Emphatic leaders and coworkers: they get along with everyone: management, developers, sales, customers and always know how to speak their language
  • Marketeers inside: they want to integrate the language of their customers into the messaging of their product. Also, the good knowledge they have of the competitive landscape makes them able to successfully support the marketing positioning of the product.

Are you involved in any of these roles? What’s your point of view? Let me know in the comments below



About the author

Roberta Cinus

Content Architect and Maker / Marketing Strategist and Doer / UX, Design and Photography Enthusiast / Sea and sports lover

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