What’s the Difference Between Product Marketing and Product Management?

2022-05-11 09:17:15
Sam O’ Brien
Original 160
Summary : A complete and comprehensive breakdown of the product marketing and product management roles. Not sure what the difference is? We’ve got you covered.

Product Marketing or Management - What’s the Difference?

They’re two similar titles for two similar roles, and it’s not by any means easy to define what differentiates the two jobs in the business world.

If you’ve clicked on this article, you’re likely already engaged in a sales project – or you’re hoping to be soon – and you’re wondering not only what the differences between these roles are, but also why these differences matter.

Well, it’s important that project management professionals know where the work of the product manager ends, and where the work of the product marketer begins. Only with an understanding of the relationship these roles share can you understand how they work together to properly achieve their sales goals.

So, let’s jump straight in.

The Mutual Goal

To fully appreciate the different responsibilities that the different roles have, we need to consider the aim that they’re both working toward: the successful sale of a product.

When selling the product there are a few important factors to take into account:

  • Product Function: what was the product made for?
  • Demographic: who should the product be aimed at, based on its function?
  • Product Value: what problem, or problems, specific to the demographic does the product solve?
These questions must be considered by both the product manager and the product marketer, but how each of them responds to these questions is what differentiates the unique roles each position plays.

Image Source: Pixabay

The Product Manager

While many people are involved in the marketing of a product, the product manager is really the master of the whole project, with many different roles. In many ways this role is not dissimilar to any other manager – they need to engage with both the marketing team and the product manufacturers to ensure a unified vision.

It is the product manager that devises the project roadmap, creates user stories from customer feedback and determines the product’s target audiences, as well as how to best position it in the market so that it might reach the highest number of people.

And the importance of user feedback really can’t be stressed enough, especially if you work in software where the continued maintenance of your service is necessary to prevent customer drop-off.

A product manager in the software context would need to take note of complaints from developers involving unexpected crashes and stress placed on their applications from overflow coding.

The long-term viability of the product’s life-cycle relies on the product manager’s knowledge of the market and of competing products from other businesses, too.

Only with a strong know-how of both business, marketing and the technical aspects entailed in building the product can the product manager be the bonding agent between each department.

In today’s digital climate, it’s also extremely important to know how to track and record the progress of a product online. With an increasingly active focus being put on omnichannel customer experience, many new product managers will find themselves needing to ensure that the digital side of their sales plan is airtight.

If you’re a project leader for an IT business and trying to market an app, you need to be aware of more than just the product’s quality, but of the quality of the website that’s hosting the product as well.

Image Source: Aha!

The continued success of an online product depends partly on the ease with which it can be accessed and on the general user experience - and that should be on our minds now more than ever.

Equally, as it’s the product managers job to oversee the whole project, they need to be able to keep track of the various elements of the go-to-market strategy that are in play. In the modern world, this is now frequently done digitally for the sake of convenience.

As an IoT (Internet of Things) ecosystem is now becoming the norm, product managers are expected to integrate unified application software into their marketing plan, to control every piece of their project from one device.

The Product Marketer

If the product manager is the one who bakes the cake, layers on the icing and places it by the window, the product marketer is the one who wafts its tasty aromas toward the noses of the people passing by.

Like the product manager, the marketer has insight into the market that the product is going to land in. But while the manager establishes the value of the product based on its selling point and builds a user experience around it, it is the product marketer’s job to communicate the consumer’s need for the product to the Consumer.

Whether by using YouTube ads, triggered emails or an Amazon affiliate referral program, the purpose of the product marketer is to onboard the customer through a multi-stage engagement process – often with multiple touchpoints – to encourage adoption of the product.

The product manager isn’t the only one who’s attached to a project for the long-run, either. The product marketer has an important role in influencing product adoption and is largely responsible for conversion-rates. Customer retention is another significant issue on the product marketer’s radar.

Image Source: Pixabay

Brand loyalty is hard to come by, and often requires repeated reminders of the product's value through emails and other marketing materials, a steady stream of new offers for your customers, and a healthy understanding of public opinion and popular demand.

Let’s say you’re doing market research to determine the demand for a better value-for-money online shipping service for hardware. In your research, you may find that a vast number of companies find the tax on shipping to be too expensive where they currently operate.

The product marketer would use this research in their product marketing campaigns to drive home the value-for-money policy of their shipping service, pushing conversions that way.

While an understanding of public opinion and demand is acquired primarily through the product manager’s analysis of user feedback, what really counts is how this feedback is implemented by the marketer.

For example, a recent YouTube ad for Rustlers burgers used the tagline: “Rustlers, better than you think”. It’s a simple but effective line, playing into the public perception that a pre-packaged burger cooked straight from the fridge might not taste all that great.

It pulls you in with the self-aware tagline, and follows up with a more straightforward statement of value: “made from 100% British and Irish beef”. This is a great example of a product’s value (established by the product manager) being communicated to the audience (via the product marketer).

For anyone feeling cynical about the idea of a Rustlers burger being tasty, this kind of campaign could plant the seed of curiosity that they might be at least worth a try. And to the people who already like Rustlers burgers, the repetition of targeted YouTube ads is enough to encourage them to go out and buy one, which is a good customer retention strategy.

Image Source: Pixabay

Role Synergy

Okay, so now we have a fairly good idea of what each role is responsible for, but let’s go over a few ways they work in tandem to emphasize their importance a bit further.

We’ve already seen that an understanding of public opinion is essential, as with the Rustlers ad. The user stories that the product manager creates and communicates to the manufacturers of the product helps them solve the issues consumers have, and impacts the brand image that the product marketer crafts for them.

Marketers can also use affiliate marketing program management to sway public opinion in their favor. It’s one thing to recognise and utilize public opinion to sell your product, but it’s another to build your own public opinion from scratch using influencers and affiliate marketing.

Once the product manager has determined who the product is for, the product marketer can decide which of the product's core values should be addressed by the affiliate, as well as the style and tone in which they should be presented.

Why Does It Matter?

Whether a marketing team has set up an affiliate program or not, the end goal is always to have a larger pool of loyal customers converting to your product as a result of positive exposure. This result will only happen when project leaders know how the different marketing roles can be most efficiently distributed.

Ultimately, both jobs are marketing jobs, but the layered creative process necessary for creating a robust and profitable marketing campaign can only come about through this specific role hierarchy.

To Conclude

Launching a successful sales project is a much easier task when you have a comprehensive understanding of the main players in the marketing profession, and how each of them work together to create a valued and sought-over product – from the research and planning stages, up to launch and beyond.

So wherever it is your own project takes you from here onwards, good luck!

Need more help? Check out the Zentao blog. They have more articles on project management tools, software management, building cross-functional teams, and so much more.


Author bio :

Sam O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affise—a Global SaaS Partner Marketing Solution. He is a growth affiliate network expert with a product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology. Sam O'Brien also published articles for domains such as Crunchbase and Debutify. 

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