Who Should Own Product Positioning?

Who should own product positioning? Product or marketing? Product positioning is a key element of product management. Positioning documents will define your product category, the problems it solves and the personas it serves. 

Whenever I work with a new team, I always begin with roles and responsibilities. Who owns what?

Lately I’ve been thinking and talking about a new binary model for role definition: Product leaders (that is, product managers and product marketing managers) own problems; development and marketing teams own solutions.

So how does this model impact product positioning? A product’s position is what it does and for whom. It defines a unique place in the buyer’s mind. It defines the product in the context of the problem. A positioning document contains the who and what. And why this product is better than alternatives.

Marketing then leverages this foundational document to create solutions: campaigns, sales tools, web pages and so on. It turns positioning into messaging. Positioning is what we'll say; the messaging is how we'll say it. In general, marketing owns messaging while the product leader owns positioning.

Simply put, if you don't know the positioning, you're not ready to begin your promotion. If you understand the personas and their problems, you should own positioning.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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