The Phenomenal Product Manager: Product Marketing versus Product Management

The article is a synopsis of The Phenomenal Product Manager: Chapter One, written by Brian Lawley.

Let’s begin by clarifying the terms we are using and the roles and responsibilities for each.

We’ll be using the term Product Manager to refer to both Product Managers and Product Marketers. All of the skills in this book can be applied to both positions, but it is important to understand how we view them, as some skills will be more important depending on how the roles are defined.

The easiest way to think about the difference between these two is to think of them as inbound and outbound. Inbound (Product Management) spends most of their time with engineering teams and customers, making critical decisions and ensuring that everything gets done to bring customer-focused products to market. Outbound (Product Marketing) makes sure that once these products are ready, they get launched and marketed effectively to the target customer base.

Here’s a summary of the typical duties under each role:

Product Management

  • Market Analysis, Business Cases and Profit and Loss Investigation
  • Customer and Market Research
  • Writing Marketing Requirements Documents (MRDs)
  • Working with Engineering to finalize functional specifications
  • Competitive analysis for use internally at the company
  • Analysis of technology trends
  • Running alpha/beta programs and capturing early customer feedback
  • Making feature, schedule and cost tradeoffs as the product nears completion

Product Marketing

  • Writing product launch plans
  • Product Messaging, including Positioning, Features and Benefits and Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
  • Developing sales tools: white papers, presentations, collateral, competitive analyses for external use with customers
  • Working with PR to manage launch tours and product review programs
  • Setting product pricing
  • Working with beta sites to generate customer success stories
  • Running product launches
  • Working with sales, channel marketing, corporate marketing, marketing communications, technical support, finance, operations, and other departments to ensure the product is effectively introduced to the market and continues to be successful

Some companies make a clear distinction of the roles and responsibilities in each of these areas. They may have dedicated Product Managers, whose entire role is to work with engineers to make sure that the products being built meet customer needs and requirements. They may also have dedicated Product Marketing Managers who become involved as the product nears completion, managing the launch, messaging, training of the sales force, and ongoing support to ensure continued success.

In other companies one individual wears both hats and performs all of the tasks above – called a Product Manager or a Product Marketing Manager. Many times the title given has little to do with that they are actually doing.

One item to note: it’s a rare breed of person who can effectively manage and enjoy doing all aspects of both these positions. When you are choosing what role you want for your job, make sure that you pick one that fits your strengths.

There are many people who are incredibly good at, and happy doing, Product Management who would fail miserably at Product Marketing, and vice versa. If this is the case for you then doing what you are good at will lead you to much success. If you do decide to take a job that has a hybrid model (where one person owns everything) make sure that you get the training you need to beef up your areas of weakness.

I have known many people who went the Product Management or the Product Marketing route and have done great in their careers. Just make sure that you are suited for and interested in the role you agree to take on—otherwise you may find yourself delivering sub-optimal performance and having a miserable time.

Read The Phenomenal Product Manager Book


Product Management is one of the most dynamic and exciting careers around. Yet many Product Managers find themselves frustrated because of the unique challenges it presents. The Phenomenal Product Manager helps you overcome these challenges.

There are many books on the mechanics and core principles of Product Management, such as how to gather and write requirements, build roadmaps and perform other tasks. The Phenomenal Product Manager tells you the rest of the story—the strategies, tactics and techniques that will turn you into a great Product Manager.

Based on the author’s 25 years of Product Management experience, as well as perspectives from the world’s leading Product Management experts, The Phenomenal Product Manager is a must read for every Product Manager who wants to be more successful and get more enjoyment from their job.

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