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Can the Product Manager lead Product Marketing?

Product Marketing | Promoted Posts | Competitive Intelligence | Articles

An effective product function is the lifeblood of modern companies.

As the number of competitors grows thanks to increasingly lower bars to entry, a product that was in blue ocean when it was ideated, can be deep in red ocean by the time it comes to market.

This is why the product function is critical as it not only makes sure that the most essential elements of a product are created first but also establishes what those elements are as it should represent the user’s voice in an organisation.

Within most product teams there are two dominant roles - product managers and product marketing. One is focussed on creating the best products for users and the other is about understanding the user and focussing on the best way to market the product to them.

On the face of it, these seem like relatively similar roles, after all, they both focus on the same thing - what customers want. So does this mean that one person could be both the product manager and lead product marketing?

This is a difficult question to answer simply because these job functions can be vastly different between companies. In one company a product manager may simply be the person who builds a roadmap and organises the development, in another, this function could fall predominantly on a delivery manager with the product manager taking a more holistic role with their primary purpose being to understand the customers. Product marketing, despite there being less variety across companies, can still have disparity, for instance, some may impact how the product is created whilst others may just need a thorough understanding.

However, with most product managers they generally tend to fall in the centre of the Venn diagram between UX, business, and development. So for the purposes of answering the question if we establish that as the product manager role, it is technically possible for a product manager to also be an effective product marketing manager within the same company.

The reason for this is that the key to success for both comes less from the technical elements of the roles (although these are still an important factor) but instead from coming at product problems from the perspective of the customer. For a product manager they want to create a product that solves the problems that their users have, for a product marketing manager they want to communicate to potential users how the product can solve their problems.

It means that they are essentially asking the same questions of their customers, except the product manager generally creates products to satisfy user needs and the product marketing manager shows potential new users how the product can satisfy their needs.

As the foundations of the roles are essentially the same - the thorough understanding of users - the answer is that technically a product manager and product marketing manager could be the same person. However, whilst this may be possible in an early stage startup, the reality is that once a company starts to grow to have one person doing two vital roles is not sensible. You may have somebody who can do either fantastically well, but the amount of work needed to do either one well enough in a growing company means that having one person doing both will mean neither function will operate adequately.

One of the benefits of having a team for both product marketing and product managers is that it fosters an environment of collaboration, with two people focussing on user needs both performing separate but essential work to make the product and the company successful. Everybody who works in product knows that regardless of how analytical you are, there is always the risk of confirmation bias, something which can have a hugely detrimental effect on the product, the risk of this decreases significantly when you have two people studying the same data.

So in conclusion, when you look at how both roles operate, it is possible to have a product manager lead product marketing, but for either role to be as effective as they can be, you’d ideally want one person in each.

Written by:

Richard King

Richard King

Founder, Product Marketing Alliance

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Can the Product Manager lead Product Marketing?