What’s the meaning of a Product Marketing Manager ?

When I first heard for the first time that me as product engineer have to collaborate with a guy holding the role of Product Marketing Manager I told to myself, “why the heck do I need this guy? What for?”.

The Product Manager is already sufficient to tell me what’s going on on the market and which products customers want because he is already in close contact with the potential customers, he should be well informed about the industry in which we act. In my case that was parts and accessories for automotive industry. So I didn’t see the need for a Product Marketing Manager.

But during the years I learnt more what the meaning of a Product Marketing Manager is. Indeed for a new StartUp for example it’s ok to let the Product Manager to take care of marketing stuff too, but in the best tech product companies, product marketing plays an essential role in discovery, delivery, and, ultimately, go-to-market, which is why they are important members of the product team, therefore you need a Product Marketing Manager anyway. It is equally essential for Product Managers to understand this.That being said I will continue this post aiming it to Product Managers.

As you’ll soon see, coming up with winning products is never easy. We need a product that our customers love, yet also works for our business. However, a very large component of what is meant by works for our business is that there is a real market there (large enough to sustain a business), we can successfully differentiate from the many competitors out there, we can cost-effectively acquire and engage new customers, and we have the go-to-market channels and capabilities required to get our product into the hands of our customers. Product marketing is our critical partner in this.

Modern product marketing managers represent the market to the product team-the positioning, the messaging, and a winning go-to-market plan. They are deeply engaged with the sales channel and know their capabilities, limitations, and current competitive issues.

The nature of product marketing is a bit different, depending on the type of business you have and how your product gets to market. When you make products for businesses that are sold through either a direct sales force or a channel sales organization, it is a very significant and critical job to declare the positioning – by that we mean the market position the product must occupy, in addition to the messaging – digital content assets, sales tools, and training that enable sales to effectively sell.

If your company has a sales organization, and you don’t have a product marketing partner, then this responsibility likely falls on you as product manager. This can easily become a full-time job. And given the cost of the sales organization, it’s really not an option to ignore them. But, of course, if you’re spending your day helping the sales organization, who is figuring out the product for these people to sell?

If your company sells directly to consumers, it becomes easy for the marketing teams to focus on clicks and brand at the expense of ensuring all the product work adds up to a successfully differentiated market position. This is important to the long-term prospects of any company but also brings more meaning into all the work the product team does. It is very much in your best interest to make sure you have a Product Marketing Manager to work with, and it’s absolutely worth your time to make sure you understand the market – and your product marketing colleague understands the product – well enough for each of you to be successful. There are many important interactions throughout discovery and delivery, so it’s worth making a special effort to develop and maintain a strong working relationship with your product marketing colleague. For example, ensuring the product team is getting good signal from a broad enough representation of the market. It also becomes important in the messaging and deciding on the go-to-market plan based on these early product signals.

Note here that I am talking about the modern definition of the product marketing role. I am not describing the old model wherein product marketing was responsible for defining the product, and product management was primarily responsible for working with engineering to deliver that product. Having a strong product marketing partner does not diminish in any sense the product manager’s responsibility for delivering a successful product. The best product marketing manager and product manager relationships understand their respective roles but realize they are essential to each other’s success.

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