Product Management Isn't Product Marketing

Product Management and Product Marketing are different, yet somewhat overlapping functions. Some companies roll up both disciplines into the same role and others separate them. Either could be fine depending on the circumstances. However, some companies, or individuals within organizations, fail to disambiguate the two. But Product Management does not equate to Product Marketing.

The role of Product Management is to create the right product that will be product successful in the marketplace. This includes prioritizing requirements and executing development with Engineering.

The role of Product Marketing is to define a strategy to optimize business results given the product capabilities and market dynamics. This includes competitive intelligence gathering, product line definition, and pricing decisions based on elasticity.

At Opower, the head of Product Marketing and I came up with a diagram describing the division (and overlap) between the two disciplines, which I believe is generally applicable for any product-driven company.

*Note, this diagram excludes many additional Product Management responsibilities that more obviously fall outside the scope of Product Marketing.

Having both been part of successful partnerships between Product Management and Product Marketing previously, we never argued about the placement of a single item in the Venn diagram. Moreover, this model stood up (without being modified) under a number of stress tests: quarterly and annual planning events, real and perceived competitive threats, and significant internal reorganizations and process updates.

These functions require heavy collaboration for the shared responsibilities, plus significant consultation even for their individual responsibilities. But does that mean the two functions should necessarily be combined into the same role? Not exactly. There are pros and cons of doing so, but I generally prefer to keep the functions independent for a few practical reasons:

  1. It's hard enough to hire and develop good Product Managers as it is. Adding in the Product Marketing skill set makes it near impossible.
  2. Each person helps to keep the other honest in the business relationship. Product Management needs to ensure development plans meet actual market needs, and Product Marketing is forced to be realistic about the bounds of the product's technical capabilities.
  3. If the company becomes successful, time management will quickly become an issue, and corners will be cut (somewhere). It's better to cut a few corners in each discipline rather than slash one at the expense of the other, which is what invariably happens when one person is responsible for both.

It may still make the most sense to combine the functional responsibilities into a single role. For example, I wouldn't recommend hiring a separate Product Manager and Product Marketer for a 10-person company. Hire more developers, instead. But, for established companies considering hiring their 2nd or 3rd Product Manager/Marketer, consider instead splitting the roles and putting in place clear expectations for each (as well as a successful process ensuring the two groups work together) to form the strategic "nerve center" of a product-driven company.