The Role of the Product Marketing Manager

The boundaries of responsibilities of product managers and product marketing managers can be confusing, compounded if an organization has multiple business units or product lines that use the titles interchangeable but perform different roles.  A Google search of “product manager job description” and “product marketing manager job description” will prove that point.

This topic came up recently and I though it would be worthwhile sharing our thoughts based on our experience.  Feel free to challenge our assumptions.

Product Manager

A discussion of the role of the Product Marketing Manager cannot start without defining the role of the Product Manager.  The Product Manager can be thought of as a strategic asset.  Her role is complex and consists of some of the following responsibilities:

  • Identify market opportunities
  • Identify customer problems
  • Define product features and capabilities
  • Forecast Return on Investment
  • Recommend distribution strategies
  • Recommend pricing strategies
  • Define product positioning
  • Create sales or market share projections
  • Manage the product life cycle
  • Thought leader/manage relationships with industry analysts
  • Own and manage the product roadmap

It’s a role that crosses all boundaries within the organization and is largely inwardly focused.  In some organizations the Product Manager responsibilities may be further delineated.  Technical Product Managers work more closely with Development on features and architecture; Business Product Managers are more market focused, identifying business opportunities and ROI.

Product Marketing Manager

Where the role of the Product Manager is strategic and largely inwardly focused, the role of the Product Marketing Manager is tactical and outwardly focused.  It is the ideal complement to the Product Manager.  With a strategic vs. tactical separation of responsibilities the boundaries are easier to understand with less gray area.

Clearly the Product Manager and the Product Marketing Manager should be collaborating in order to succeed.

The Product Marketing Manager’s role is also complex and will vary in complexity based on the size of the organization and the diversity of the sales model (e.g. direct, indirect, online).  His responsibilities may include:

  • Product Branding
  • Product Packaging
  • Definition and delivery of sales tools (e.g. demos, presentations)
  • Definition and delivery of marketing collateral (e.g. brochures, data sheets)
  • Definition and delivery of sales training
  • Definition and delivery of channel partner training
  • Developing and executing product launch strategies
  • Supporting the sales process (e.g. provide product sales expertice, input for RFPs)
  • Be the top product evangelist

In other words the Product Marketing Manager gets the product ready to sell, trains the sales team on ways to sell it, and provides field level sales support.  Some organizations may further split the role of the Product Marketing Manager by introducing the role of the Field Marketing Manager.  The Field Marketing Manager would support day-to-day sales activities, where the Product Marketing Manager would provide corporate-level product support.

What if I do both?

A common scenario in smaller companies is for the Product Manager to play both strategic and tactical roles.  While this can be accomplished (I’ve done it), it can be frustrating and aggravating especially when you’re getting pulled in two directions at once.  If too much time is spent on tactical activities, the strategic activities of adding more value into the product will suffer.  As a dual-role fighter you should recognize when this is happening and recommend the addition of the Product Marketing Manager role.

David Daniels

David Daniels


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