The Product Manager vs. the Product Marketing Manager

Although the two roles differ (leading the product vs. leading the go-to-market), the intersection of the two positions is critical to delivering a successful product.
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Building great products is exhilarating. It takes a group of committed, focused, and passionate team members who play their positions to the best of their abilities. When a group with a common set of goals and complementary skills comes together-amazing things can happen.

However, without clearly defined roles on the field and in the product team, responsibilities become unclear and progress stalls. This is especially true with roles like product management and product marketing -- where each role is critical for delivering the right product at the right time for the right set of target customers.

The differences between the product manager and the product marketing manager can vary across companies and industries. However, there are some general guidelines that can help define the two roles and their distinct responsibilities.

The product manager is the person responsible for defining, in detail, the 'why,' 'what' and 'when' of the product that the engineering team will build.

The product marketing manager is responsible for clearly communicating the 'why,' 'what' and 'when' to the marketplace. The roles are often considered 'inbound' versus 'outbound' but I do not think that is right. The product manager must understand customers and the market and the product marketer must understand the product. At the end of the day, both must work together if they are going to build a lovable product.

Here are a few of the ways the roles complement one another and bring a combined strength to the product team:

The product manager is responsible for setting a product vision and strategy. Her job is to clearly articulate the business value to the product team so they understand the intent behind the new product or product release. She owns the strategy behind the product roadmap and must work with engineering to build what matters.

The product marketing manager is responsible for defining the market position within the context of the overall product strategy. This means the product marketing manager should be conducting competitor analysis, market research, and be tight with the sales team to inform the strategic positioning of the product to customers, partners, and market influencers.

The product manager defines the features and requirements necessary to deliver a complete product to market and leads the product team to success. They are responsible for articulating the 'what' and working with engineering to determine the 'when.'

The product marketing manager is responsible for articulating all of the outbound tasks necessary to clearly explain the benefits of those features and translate them into customer-facing messaging. He is tasked with giving product demonstrations at trade shows and webinars, delivering presentations to customers and prospects, as well as creating marketing collateral. He owns defining the product for market understanding.

The product manager is typically seen as the CEO of the product. For the product manager, this means she is responsible for making product decisions and often is the lead resource for the rest of the organization when deep product expertise is required. This includes supporting the organizations that work directly with customers -- namely sales and support.

The product marketing manager typically spends less time working with teams within the company and supporting customers. However, he is responsible for bringing the product to market and driving adoption of it -- including arming sales with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful; developing customer-facing presentations; updating the Web site; as well as outlining the marketing programs required for demand generation.

Although the two roles differ (leading the product vs. leading the go-to-market), the intersection of the two positions is critical to delivering a successful product.

Without a strong product owner, the product team is unclear about the features and requirements they need to deliver. Without an amazing product marketing manager, sales and the market is unclear about the value the product delivers and why it's important to the business.

The best product and marketing managers work side-by-side to deliver a product experience that exceeds customer and market expectations.

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