7 Ways Product Marketers Can Collaborate with Product Managers to Move More Product

Two Critical Roles

According to a recent 280 Group poll, only 32% of organizations currently have a defined Product Marketing Manager role. This position has gained traction in enterprise organizations over the past few years, and for good reason: Product Marketing is essential for getting the word out about a product and driving sales. The Product Manager puts products on the shelf, and Product Marketing Managers help them fly off the shelves – and into the hands of customers.

While there’s quite a bit of overlap, these two roles have distinct responsibilities and must collaborate effectively to ensure Product success. Let’s take a look at both roles, their shared responsibilities, and why early collaboration is essential.

Product Marketing Manager vs. Product Manager

Product Marketing Managers are tasked with driving demand for a company’s products and services. They typically conduct extensive research about competitors’ products and market conditions to inform their messaging and Go-to-Market strategy. They develop content and implement marketing programs and activities to generate leads or enable the sales team, and they may be involved in defining the pricing strategy, as well. Product Marketing Managers understand how products are sold across channels, and can recommend what channels are optimal for maximizing demand.

Product Marketing Managers are marketing experts who not only drive messaging and often pricing, but ensure consistency through all collateral and campaigns. They are highly skilled at articulating the unique value proposition, features, and benefits that will help a product stand out from competitors’ products.

Product Managers, on the other hand, focus on activities such as developing a product vision and roadmap, defining customer needs, making a business case for the product, and release planning. However, the two roles – and their respective activities – are interdependent, and there’s quite a bit of overlap. Activities such as persona development, segmentation, competitive analysis, forecasting, success measurement, and even positioning and messaging require input and feedback from both Product Managers and Product Marketing Managers.

If you’re a Product Manager, it’s a great advantage to have Product Marketers engaged early so they learn what you’re learning. That way, when you’re ready to hand over the reins, they’ve already got the information they need to run with it. For the Product Marketer, being involved early means you can take part in the strategic decisions that will impact your content and campaigns, and ultimately, the product’s market performance.

Neglecting to collaborate throughout the product lifecycle is a big mistake. In Product Management, we often talk about the product-market fit. We have to make sure we clearly understand the problem and can provide a solution. But if we don’t communicate about it or get the word out, it doesn’t matter how well we understand the problem and how great the solution is – it’s a market failure.

7 Areas of Overlap

#1: Segmentation and Persona

No company goes to market without defining market segments. The question is whether to segment based on how you’re going to market, or whether to segment based on user needs. The approach may be quite different, so it’s important that Product Marketers and Product Managers collaborate early to decide on the best approach.

Similarly, Product Managers talk about user personas all the time, but sometimes fail to consider who the buyer is. The buyer may not be the user, but a purchasing group or decision maker. There may also be influencers and champions that you should target. Collaboration between Product Marketers and Product Managers will ensure the right personas are defined, and the right messages are delivered to the right people.

#2: Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) and Journey Mapping

The JTBD model is a good way of dissecting customer needs and motivations. Journey Mapping is an elaborate version of the sales funnel, detailing everything that influences a buying decision. Collaboration here is also essential – the earlier you know your customers’ needs and motivations, the better you can message and sell the product once it’s on the market.

#3: Messaging and Positioning

The Product Manager should own basic product positioning, and the key messages and proof points that go with it. While positioning is at the segment level, messaging is at the persona level, so understanding the proper messages for the buyers and influencers is key. All of the collateral that Product Marketing develops – sales tools, campaigns, programs, packaging and more – will rely heavily on messaging and positioning. To that end, Product Marketers and Product Managers must work together to distill and refine it.

#4: Market Research

In the early stages of the Product lifecycle, high-context research takes place. This may involve customer panels, usability testing, focus groups and interviews. Later on, surveys, data analysis, and social media may be used to inform the research. While Product Managers may conduct the high-context research, Product Marketing Managers are typically involved in the lower-context research. However, research responsibilities overlap considerably and negotiation should take place to determine who’s in charge of what.

#5: Ongoing Competitive Analysis

Product Marketing Managers monitor the competitive landscape, and this information is helpful to the Product team in deciding what features and capabilities to develop in order to gain competitive advantage. Keep in mind that you may not just be competing with established competitors – perhaps there’s a disruptor who’s stealing market share, or a larger market player who’s adding capabilities. Product Marketers know that the market is dynamic, and they keep up with trends and developments – information that Product Managers need to ensure a product-market fit.

#6: Pricing

In some companies, pricing is a black box. Sometimes the executives call the shots, and sometimes a special organization determines pricing. However, it’s important that both Product Marketing Managers and Product Managers are involved in the decision-making around pricing models and strategies.

#7: Qualifying the Product for Launch

Both roles are essential in this phase of the product lifecycle. Product Managers will determine whether the product works the way customers need it to work in order to extract value. Product Marketing Managers are interested in whether the messaging and pricing communicate and support the value delivered, and whether the company is ready to sell, deliver, manage, and support the product.

While these seven activities fall to both Product Managers and Product Marketing Managers, it’s critical to clearly delineate who’s in charge of what early on, to eliminate duplicate work and be as effective as possible.

But remember, flexibility is key. Product Marketing is an ongoing experiment. You design a program, run the program, and find out what happens. As such, marketing tactics and messaging will change over time, as well the channels you use to promote your product. Metrics and experimentation are in the nature of Product Marketing, and the information they provide is instrumental in shaping the product roadmap.

Move More Product

Learn the foundational skills you need to work on the strategic side early in the product lifecycle and help build a marketable solution that satisfies customer needs. Sign up for 280 Group’s Optimal Product Management & Product Marketing Course to master “go-to-market” strategy. You’ll learn how to secure your role as a collaborative partner with Product Managers – speaking the same language and carrying significant influence.

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About the Author

Bill Haines - B2B Marketing Rules
Bill Haines is a Principal Consultant and Trainer at 280 Group.
Bill is a product management and marketing advisor, five-time corporate VP Product/Marketing, consultant on over 90 projects, and author of: The 21 Rules of B2B Marketing. His corporate experience included leadership roles at two, $1B+ information companies, a continuing medical education provider, a boutique software firm, and an internet start-up with $29M in funding that was subsequently acquired by its industry’s leading company. In addition, Bill previously served as Partner of an award-winning marketing communications agency.

280 Group is the world’s leading Product Management training and consulting firm. We empower Product Professionals with the knowledge and tools to create products that matter.

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