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Product Marketing vs. Product Management Guide

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Blog header graphic: product marketing vs. product management


A lot of hard work goes into launching profitable products. Many teams and stakeholders are involved — including product marketing and product management. This kind of sounds like different ways of saying the same thing, like Gershwin's tomato and tomahto. But they actually are more like apples and oranges...they are separate disciplines with distinct responsibilities.

So where exactly does one role stop and the other start? This can vary between companies, but there are some key areas of focus that make each role unique.

What is product marketing?

Product marketing brings the product to the marketplace. It builds on the established product strategy by developing marketing programs to build awareness, convert sales, and grow revenue.

Product marketers define how to position the product in the market. This sets the direction for creating a compelling story that communicates the value of the product and coordinating the launch to global regions across sales channels.

What is product management?

Product management delivers products within a budget and timeframe to meet demand in the market. Product managers develop a deep understanding of market problems and business plans and set the strategy for the solution.

This team works with suppliers and manufacturers to create initial concepts and acquire cost-effective materials, and they ensure the business can make a profit when selling the products. 

Product managers guide the product from conception through the product’s end of life.

Product management is a lot less about building things right or in the right way and a lot more about building the right things for the right people.

- Chris Schroeder, Head of Product at Widen


Why is product management important?

Product management is the discipline of identifying customer needs and guiding how the product(s) fulfill those needs. Without it, there’s no clear direction or prioritization for the various teams required to deliver successful products.

Product management coordinates the disciplines of user experience (UX), tech development, and business operations. Product managers bridge these worlds to ensure products are created with customers in mind and that business teams are able to clearly communicate that value externally. A product manager must also understand what’s happening in the market and be able to react accordingly. 

While the size of a product management team will depend on the company's size and product portfolio, no matter how large or small the team, they play an essential role in launching new products and experiences to the market. Without product management’s role in defining product success, determining product strategy, and guiding product representation externally, successful product launches would be less of a strategic execution and more of a game of chance.  

Product management roles

Product managers are key to any product’s success because they define the vision, strategy, and roadmap for a product. While there are specific skill sets needed for specialized product management roles, all product managers must have domain expertise, business acumen, operational ability, and leadership qualities. Let’s look at the characteristics of more specialized product management roles as well. 

    • Product owner. This role works directly with a team of developers, designers, and testers, acting as the voice of the customer during the development process. They tend to focus more on tactics rather than strategy.

    • Technical product manager. These product managers possess the technical know-how to guide the creation of product areas such as back-end services and APIs. They often work hand in hand with engineering and development teams to ensure features and functionality work as desired to meet the customer’s needs.

    • Growth product manager. People in this role often have experience or education in digital marketing as they’re the ones who work closely with the marketing team to ensure the product is performing as expected in the market. This role focuses on metrics, usually looking at all products as a whole, not just a single product like most other product management roles.

What's the difference between product marketing and product management?

Both roles research market needs, develop plans, collaborate with multiple departments, and deliver on the product vision. Both even use some of the same tools, such as personas, stories, and journey maps. So what’s the difference between the roles?

Product marketing manager

A product marketing manager understands the market and uses that information to bring the product to life and sell it. This product positioning sets the foundation for all marketing communications. Here are some of their key responsibilities:

    • Market intelligence. Shape the company’s understanding and approach to the market. This includes gathering intelligence on trends, the competition, and the customer; and using this information to develop and execute marketing programs.

    • Positioning. Apply knowledge of the market, the value of the product, and the target customer to develop messaging that clarifies why this product best fits the customer's needs.

    • Narrative. Develop product stories that demonstrate the value and benefits of the product in marketing and sales communications.

    • Launch plans. Plan and orchestrate product launches. Work closely with product, marketing, PR, sales, and customer-facing teams to maximize the impact of the launch.

    • Marketing and sales enablement. Provide training and collateral to help accelerate deal velocity, increase win rates, and support retention.

Product manager

A product manager captures the voice of the customer and uses that voice to develop a useful, usable product. They are responsible for the product from conception through the end of its lifecycle, including:

    • Vision. Define and evangelize the vision for the product’s direction and how it supports the business’s goals.

    • Market needs. Discover opportunities and validate market problems. Create personas to represent the customer’s needs.

    • Requirements. Gather input and determine product requirements and specifications. Provide the "who" and the "why" and collaborate with engineering teams on the "what" and "how."

    • Define success. Identify the measures for product success and use them to inform decisions.


Product marketers and product managers working together

Although the responsibilities of product marketers and product managers are distinct, their work requires close collaboration. Successful organizations are built on successful relationships, and the partnership between product management and product marketing is no exception.

With the need for continual collaboration, product marketers and managers often rely on tools like a product information management (PIM) system to ensure they’re working with the same information. If you’re curious about how a PIM solution can help manage your product content, get in touch with us for a free demo today.


Note: This article was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated to remain current.

Topics: PIM

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