Habitats of the Product Marketing Manager

Those with the job title of ‘Product Marketing Manager’ live in a variety of organizational habitats. There are four that I see as recurring themes, each with its own challenges and opportunities. If you were to get a product marketing manager from one of each of these habitats to sit down and discuss their roles, they’d be amazed at how different they really are (even when their job descriptions are remarkably similar).

The Product Manager Product Marketing Manager

I actually lived this one but seems to be rare. It’s where the person with the job title of product marketing manager functions as a product manager. In this habitat the PMM is compelled to work closely with development and scramble to fulfill go-to-market (GTM) duties as they near a crisis stage. Confusion on their role is abundant. Development, Sales, Marcom and the management team see the PMM in entirely different ways.

The no Product Manager Product Marketing Manager

In this habitat there are no product managers and Development builds whatever they like. Product marketing managers wait gingerly for Development to throw products over the wall with instructions to take it to market. PMMs reverse engineer positioning from product features (afterall, why would anyone build a feature that no one needed? Seriously!), work with Marcom to get the ‘checklist’ of go-to-market deliverables completed, and declaring victory throws the deliverables over the wall to Sales.

The Sales Support Product Marketing Manager

This is the organization that sees product marketing managers as captive suppliers to the sales team. There are little to no strategic activities performed by the PMM. It’s a life of doing whatever Sales wants like building PowerPoint slides, writing one-off pieces of collateral, giving presentations and demos. Basically these PMMs function as sales engineers without being called sales engineers. They get lectured for not being strategic, but when they say ‘no’ to the sales team for tactical requests they are punished.

The Market-Driven Product Marketing Manager

In this habitat the product marketing manager coexists with product managers, where the roles of both are clearly defined. Product managers often are of the ‘technical product manager’ (TPM) variety with a heavier emphasis on working/coordinating with Development, being the experts on their products and using criteria. Product marketing managers are experts on their buyers and buying criteria, with a heavier emphasis on working with Marcom and Sales. In this habitat the PM owns the product strategy and the PMM owns the go-to-market strategy. Harmony (queue rainbows and unicorns).

Which habitat do you live in?

David Daniels

David Daniels


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