We recently published an infographic on the differences between product marketing and product management. About 5,000 shares in, it seems like a lot of people are interested in the differences between the two roles!
I’ve spent the majority of my career in product marketing and have built successful relationships with 10+ product management peers. But it wasn’t always easy.
Over time I learned a lot about my own personality type, and a fairly common “product marketing” personality type as I scaled Acquia’s product marketing team from 2 to 9 people. Through countless interactions with product management, I also observed consistent patterns in their behavior. I’m going to use my current product manager, Matt, and myself, to showcase. This isn’t fancy Myers Briggs stuff, just some real-world observations:
Product Marketing Managers and Product Managers are different people
|Trait||Trait||What does this mean?|
|Extroverted||Extroverted||Product managers and marketers are typically extroverted. They thrive on interacting with others. It’s the basis for a great working relationship.|
|Emotional||Reserved||Product marketers tend to be more emotional, and emotive. This is beneficial when speaking and coming up with messaging. It can be a drawback when product strategy changes and rocks the world of messaging/deliverables they’ve created.
Product managers tend to be more reserved with their emotions. This is beneficial because they spend the majority of their time with engineers, and overly emotive behavior is potentially distracting. It can be a drawback when in front of prospects as fair answers can come across as noncommittal.
|Fast-acting||Measured||Product marketers are likely to move quickly with minimal information. Once a new product messaging guide is complete, they’re on their way creating all deliverables in time for launch. They’re also first in line for sales-support, and these two things create a fast/reactive working style. This pleases sales stakeholders, but sometimes comes with quality sacrifices.
Product managers are more measured in their responses, response times, and overall actions. They’re far more discerning on what necessitates their time, and better at setting realistic expectations for when they can respond. This frustrates sales & other stakeholders, but produces a great result.
|Transparent||Opaque||Product marketers are forthcoming with whatever product roadmap details they have. Though cautious to overshare externally, they’re likely to overshare internally, especially with the sales audience. The less the sales team knows about what’s coming, the harder their job is to educate them when it hits.
Product managers are not trying to hide information, but they know that once the sales team knows something is coming, they’re already selling it. They’re cautious not to talk about features that will likely not arrive for some time. When sharing roadmap details, they tend to be as high level, and ambiguous about the timeframe, as possible to ensure customers don’t think it’s a commitment. This protects the company, but it also restricts the sales & marketing organizations ability to paint the vision and land customers who want to see further out into the technical future.
|Structured||Fluid||Product marketers are responsible for creating many external and internal deliverables. To make sure materials are consistent, they’ll start a launch with a messaging guide, and as much as I hate to say it, every other deliverable waterfalls from there. It keeps materials consistent, but it’s also rigid and inflexible. It’s incredibly painful to change value prop late in the game for a launch.
Product managers are naturally more fluid. They aren’t held to a specific process outside of the chosen development method. They’re willing to try new tools
So we have a couple of social butterflies who operate very differently at work.
What does this mean for division of labor?
On the spectrum of strategic to tactical responsibilities, there are two types: Clear-cut ownership, and in the gray area.
Here’s clear-cut PMM ownership:
- Go-To-Market Strategy (Market, target audience, distribution strategy)
- Product Launch Plan
- Messaging & Positioning
- Market analysis/insight
- Sales enablement material development
- Buyer personas
Here’s clear-cut PM ownership:
- Product requirement gathering
- Product definition, prioritization, and roadmap
- User stories
- Product release plan
- Guide Engineers & QA
And then there’s this smorgasbord of “gray area” work:
- Competitive analysis
- Sales training
- Channel support
- Thought leadership
Here’s my advice on how to split it, taking into consideration personality types, strengths and weaknesses:
Owner: Product Management
Support/rollout: Product Marketing Management
Why? The product manager is closest to the costs, and therefore in the position to back into what you absolutely need to charge from a bottoms up perspective (Cost + margin target). Also, pricing should be well-thought-out, measured, bullet-proof, and emotional contributions from product marketing “The market won’t bear it!” are likely to distract from what the business needs from a profitability perspective.
Owner: Product Marketing Management
Support: Product Management
Why? The primary audience for the product marketer is the sales team. They need to be their best friend. As a trusted resource, they need to be able to advise on how to handle the competition. They need to spearhead win/loss analysis as part of the competitive program, and filter that feedback into competitive materials, and to product management. Product managers then use the information to evaluate strategy and prioritize features based on the competitive landscape.
Owner: Product Marketing Management
Support: Product Management
Why? While product management should be in the room to answer technical questions, product marketing should lead sales training. Because they’re more emotional and emotive, they’re generally better public speakers. They also need to be the face of the product to sales, instead of product management. Product management needs to focus on building the product, while marketing focuses on the sale of it.
Why? Partners often need their own pricing/packaging, and product management needs to own requirements gathering through the launch of channel-specific products. Product Marketing needs to partner with Channel Marketing and enable the partners to understand & sell your products. Their emotive/presentation skills are perfect for engaging and exciting partners. Product Management then needs to own the financial plan/goal, while Product & Channel marketing own the joint go-to-market to drive demand.
Saved the best for last! Ownership: Both.
Why? Every product has a more and less technical story, not matter if your target audience is technical or not. Assigning only one voice to thought leadership will only cover one storyline well. In addition, content strategy is huge, and the more content you can produce (that’s high quality), the better for your business. Today, everything is on the table. With tools like Medium, your team can write about their jobs, their interests, and your products; and it’s all valuable to your company & brand.
Understand your PM & PMM’s strengths, and helping them play into them, will make for a happy and harmonious product team. From here, all they have to do is keep the line of communication open and all should be well.
I’d love to hear your feedback or questions.
by Jess Iandiorio