Three Roles of Product Marketing

by Steve Johnson

Over the years I’ve seen product management teams focused increasingly on the technical aspects of the product, serving more as development managers than product managers, and neglecting business strategy and go-to-market responsibilities. And when product managers define dev tasks and write stories, Product Marketing has been taking up the slack.

I’ve really come to dislike any title with the word “marketing” in it. Is marketing about product strategy (as I learned in college) or is marketing about promotional programs? If you define “marketing” as defining and evaluating potential product offerings, then you’re really describing product strategy. If you define “marketing” as creating product demand, perhaps a better title would be product growth.

Titles are a mess for most companies. What one organization calls product management, another calls product marketing. For smaller companies, a product manager is often responsible for product marketing and sales engineering. In larger companies, we start seeing specialized roles centered around business strategy, product release planning, and go-to-market/sales enablement.

Another way of thinking of roles is to consider their primary objectives. What are these specialized roles attempting to accomplish? Within the traditional definition of marketing or product management, there are three areas of focus: product strategy, product planning, and product growth. 

Product management is about managing the product as a business. At the core of product management is learning—primarily learning about the market and its problems. Learning informs each of the phases of product definition, development, and delivery. Call it product management or marketing, it's always about moving the product "up and to the right."

Are your product managers doing product management?

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