Product Manager vs Product Marketing Manager

Managing the Interrelated Roles and Responsibilities of Product Managers and Product Marketing Managers

Product Management and Product Marketing Management are complementary roles. In some companies, different people occupy these roles. In others, the same person fills both. Regardless, both of these distinct roles are essential to product success.

At a high level, what’s the difference between the two roles? It’s often said that a Product Manager has a more inbound focus, while a Product Marketing Manager has a more outbound focus. While there is some truth to this, it still doesn’t explain the core purpose of each role, and how they are different. At 280 Group, we like to put it this way:

  • The Product Manager is responsible for putting the right product on the shelf
  • The Product Marketing Manager is responsible for successfully getting the product off the shelf

Both roles and responsibilities need to understand customer needs, the market situation, the competitive landscape, and pricing strategy, for example. The Product Manager uses this understanding to build that right product or service, thus making it available, or “on the shelf,” ready for sale. The Product Marketing Manager uses this common understanding to properly position the product so that customers see that this is the right product for them, and that it is better than the competition. She helps Sales know how to sell it, and ultimately make the marketing and sales process run smoothly to get that product “off the shelf,” and sold into the customer’s hands.

Product Life Cycle in the Lives of the PM & PMM


As shown by the shaded areas of the above diagram, PM is generally frontloaded while PMM is generally backloaded within the PLC (Product Life Cycle). Of course, this diagram depicts generalized weighting which will vary by company and by project. But, importantly, while the PMM typically plays a lesser role at the beginning (Conceive), it is vital for the PM to involve the PMM as early as possible. Not only does Marketing have valuable insight to offer, the PMM must understand and buy-in to the market value of the product in order to meaningfully plan how it will go-to-market.

Both roles interact with most of the constituencies listed across the bottom of the diagram, (plus others), though the nature and weight of these interactions varies by lifecycle phase. For example: Legal may be strongly relied upon early in the planning phase by the PM when the licensing of IP or regulatory issues may be in play. But Legal may subsequently be uninvolved until the ramp-up to launch when the PMM engages them to deal with channel contracts and licensing matters. The fact that these constituencies are shared further reinforces the need for close collaboration between PM and PMM.

What Does a Product Manager Do?

Responsibilities

  • Is the market expert
  • Conducts customer and market research
  • Identifies and defines market/customer needs
  • Defines the Whole Product concept to ensure value and differentiation
  • Develops business cases and market requirements
  • Owns the product/market vision and roadmap
  • Assesses product design suitability
  • Makes feature, schedule, and cost tradeoff decisions
  • Manages the product lifecycle
  • May manage a product portfolio
  • Responsible for overall product success (for company and partners)

Key Attributes

  • Business-oriented
  • Strategic thinker
  • Innovative
  • Strong decision-maker
  • Knows how to exert influence to get things done

What Does a Product Marketing Manager Do?

Responsibilities

  • Is the marketing expert
  • Conducts competitive analysis
  • Identifies and defines the compelling reason to buy
  • Defines the Positioning, Value Proposition, Messaging, and Unique Selling Proposition — Marketing MVP
  • Develops the go-to-market strategy and marketing plan
  • Owns the product launch, sales enablement, and on-going marketing
  • Assesses/establishes product pricing
  • Makes marketing tactic and creative decisions
  • Manages marketing cost and productivity
  • May manage marketing for several products
  • Responsible for branding and demand generation

Key Attributes

  • Market-oriented
  • Strategic thinker
  • Creative/Imaginative
  • Continuous refinement mindset
  • Never wed to a single approach – flexible

Not Separated at Birth

But the PM and PMM roles are not separate in our company,” you might point out. This is the case in many organizations, particularly mid-sized or smaller firms, or those that primarily rely upon their own sales organization to generate revenue. You’ll have to fulfill both roles and prioritize your time carefully, with generally more time on PM responsibilities toward the start of an initiative and relatively more on PMM responsibilities later on. Again, refer to the diagram above.

Perhaps you have a Marketing Communications group (MarCom) that you can lean on to help you with some of the tactical marketing tasks. Or, you may need to seek out external resources if you can for this work. There is a world of marketing agencies, PR firms and freelancers who would be happy to help, for a fee. Consider building such fees into your business case up front.

In either case, you need to get really clear about what PMM responsibilities you can rely on the MarCom group, or external partners, to execute. Generally speaking, you are in the position of handling the strategic elements of the PMM role, but take the time to establish clear roles and responsibilities between you and your partners. Do a DACI chart, make the timeline explicit, highlight dependencies in both directions, and establish the key milestones and deliverables.

The Ideal Partnership

If the PM and PMM roles are separated, you now have more help (yeah!), but you’ll still need to set up clear roles and responsibilities together and define clearly how decisions are made with a DACI matrix. This will help both of you help each other with the distinct nature of each of your roles, while avoiding gaps (“I thought you were doing that!”), and overlaps (‘Wait, you did what? I already did that…”). Together you’ll be able to build an amazing product, and effectively sell it to the world.

Wrap Up

The PM is focused on understanding and meeting market needs in a valuable way. The PMM is focused on creating demand for the solution offered. The roles are like pancakes and syrup. Without one there is no breakfast. Without the other, no one wants the breakfast. (Hey, this is making me hungry.)

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 help companies and individuals do GREAT Product Management and Product Marketing using our Optimal Product Process™.

One Reply to “Product Manager vs Product Marketing Manager”

  • This article is spot on. Thanks Bill for providing the perfect explanation that I can share with others who need to understand the value of each role.

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