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How Is Product Management Different from Product Marketing?

By Leilani Yau

Building ProductsProduct managers and product marketers: what’s the difference? Each of these roles are critical for delivering the right product at the right time to the right set of customers. There can be blurred lines between the two practices, and they are also defined differently depending on the company and industry. We turned to three product experts, experienced in defining and launching technology and consumer products, to give their perspectives.

Ever wonder what product managers do all day? See what Wens Gerdyman, product consultant, says:

First, let’s define “product.” For many clients, it’s a website, an app, an e-commerce platform or a content management system. Other products aren’t as visible because they don’t have a customer-facing interface — this includes backend modules, algorithms, API platforms, database platforms and operating systems.

In the former case, a product management role is to help define and implement the website, e-commerce site, marketing landing pages, etc., with the support of a development team. Sometimes they are custom made; many times they are built on existing off-the-shelf products such as WordPress, HubSpot, Drupal, Shopify or Magento.

Wens Gerdyman, Product Consultant
Wens Gerdyman, Product Consultant

A product can also be something that’s “shipped” to be used by their customers, whether consumers or businesses. In this situation, product managers can be “inbound” by gathering market and competitive intelligence to guide the strategy and product development roadmap, or “outbound,” in the sense that once the product is already built, they are responsible for launch, customer acquisition and retention.

In general, a product manager oversees many aspects of building a product:

  • Conducting user research
  • Overseeing product/application designers who create the user experience and information architecture of an app or website
  • Managing visual designers who create the aesthetic elements of a product in order to communicate the brand’s message and a product’s positioning to the audience
  • Managing onshore and offshore developers
Ken Chen, Experienced Product Marketer and Manager
Ken Chen, Owner, EM Marketing

What’s the difference between product management and product marketing, and what skills are needed for each? See what Ken Chen, experienced in both, has to say:

Product management is the practice of developing a product — in the Bay Area, it’s typically a technology product with a technical team: developers, designers, QA, operations. Product managers are usually responsible for launching new products or upgrades or features to the market.

The good ones are outward-facing which means they have the valuable skill set of understanding their target customer needs, wants, desires, preferences, habits and practices. They tend to be the folks that drive the initial product strategy and translate the needs into requirements or user stories that a development team can then start to build into a product.

Product marketing is the practice of putting a product into the marketplace. The good ones are skilled with brand marketing skills and are typically tasked with developing:

  • the identity of a product (name, logo, tagline, brand attributes)
  • the messaging (value proposition, benefits, features, reasons to believe), and
  • the strategies/tactics to gain awareness, trial, usage, and retention in the marketplace.

There are people who have done and can do both, but it’s becoming more rare in Silicon Valley. Personally, I think it’s best when the same person who developed the product also markets the product. I’ve had the good fortune of doing this in my career. Unfortunately, it usually is a product manager who builds the product and then throws it over the fence to a product marketer to market!

Lynette Liu, Product Marketing
Lynette Liu, Product Marketer

Where does this all fit within the 4 P’s of marketing? Here’s what Lynette Liu, experienced product marketer, has to say:

Product management:

  • Cradle to grave product ownership — the “Product” part of the 4 P’s of Marketing
  • Sets product roadmap, using inputs from competitive analysis, market research, marketing, customers, customer care, sales, partners (e.g. retailers, distributors, resellers, strategic partners)
  • Sets priorities for product development team and works with them on daily basis to make tradeoffs on time-to-market vs. feature set
  • Sometimes called inbound marketing

Product marketing:

  • Responsible for go-to-market for new products or new versions of products — the “Pricing,” “Promotion” and “Placement” parts of the 4 P’s of Marketing
  • Primarily focused on current year results
  • Plans and executes campaigns through internal (e.g. web, email, SEM, direct sales, social) and external channels (e.g. influencers, retailers, distributors, resellers, strategic partners)
  • Sometimes called outbound marketing

That said, the line between the two functions is not set in stone and vary according to the product/industry and where the product is in its lifecycle.

Editor’s Note: If you are looking for help with product management or product marketing, you can look to these three experts to get you started. Contact us at EM Marketing.

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About Leilani Yau

Leilani Yau is a digital marketing consultant, specializing in content marketing and social media for small businesses and non-profits, and helps clients L.O.V.E. (Listen, Offer, Value, Engage) their target audiences online.

One thought on “How Is Product Management Different from Product Marketing?”

  1. I agree with Ken that the best product managers have to be outward facing. “Inbound” does not mean they are internally oriented. To the contrary, they have to be the house experts on the customers’ needs and wants. Personally, I think it’s best when product managers AND product marketing managers report to the same boss, whether it’s the Group Product Manager, the VP of Product, or the VP of Marketing, depending on the company’s core value proposition. Unfortunately, this is not how most large companies structure the product hierarchy.

    It is rare in large companies to find roles that allow product managers to do both inbound and outbound roles. The opportunity to do so exists in start-ups or smaller, entrepreneurial organizations, where you get to wear multiple hats.

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