difference between product management and prodcut marketing

The difference between Product Management and Product Marketing

If you are a software professional or just starting out in the industry, you have most likely come across designations like Product manager, Product Marketing manager, Product Owner, Business Analyst etc. Given the fluidity of the titles and job descriptions, most people wonder what the difference between product management and product marketing is. In fact, one of the most widely known programs for Product Management is called Pragmatic Marketing!
Having been a product manager for several years, I have come to understand how closely aligned these two roles are (or should be) to create a successful product. Let me begin with defining a successful product –  a product that has been created to solve a specific problem or need and is known to/used by the customers who have that problem.

What is Product Management?

A product manager is attuned to their market’s needs and problems. Product managers spend a lot of the time understanding their customers – what they do, what challenges they face and how they circumvent that problem. They also keep a tab on their competition’s roadmap plans, analyst research to constantly evaluate the market trends and its implications to their product road map. All this research leads them to define a need/problem that requires a solution (often, in the shape of a software product or feature). They work closely with the internal teams to build a solution that solves the identified problem and evangelize their solution to the stakeholders (including customers) to improve market adoption.

What is Product Marketing?

A product marketing manager knows the pulse of the market. They are responsible for evaluating what their product does, how it solves market’s problems and how it does it better than the competition. While they are mostly responsible for educating the market about the company’s offerings, they are also acutely aware of what the market responds to – in other words, what the market needs. They regularly pass on any feedback or learning from their interactions with the market to the internal teams to help align the product road map with the prevalent market needs and problems.
So, you can see that the two role descriptions sound quite similar. Does it mean that organizations should either have a product manager or a product marketing manager? The answer is – well, it depends.
It depends on the size of the company, your product offering and even, your market. It’s apparent that both Product management and Product marketing are heavily dependent on listening to the market and evangelizing the solution to the market, in order to stay in business.

So what’s the difference and who does what?

In smaller companies or tech startups, it’s typical to find a single person performing the role of both a product manager and product marketing manager. They talk to prospective customers, understand the market needs, work closely with the development team (or develop the product themselves!), and demonstrate the product to a test audience. This may lead to further refinement of the product, and finally, they launch the product in the market through Internet advertising, word-of-mouth, door-to-door, etc.

As an organization grows, however, this model is soon found to be unsustainable. By having a single person responsible for all these functions, things can slow down or simply fall through the cracks. That’s why, larger companies typically split these responsibilities to multiple people or teams.

Product Marketing

Typically takes on a more outward facing role in these companies. They are responsible for evangelizing the product line, identify customers segments, creating product data sheets, customer/sales training material, and also, closely follow the market and competition to determine the product pricing. In doing so, they become a valuable resource for the company to evaluate the market needs or “requirements”. In this paradigm, product managers and product marketing managers work closely and often, in a symbiotic relationship. Product marketing becomes an important avenue for the product managers to understand the market pulse and what the competition is up to.  While the marketing team may not be the only source of information for the product managers, they are definitely one of the most important. In many cases – they serve as the proxies to the customers themselves.

Product managers

Are, in turn, responsible for analyzing the market’s needs and building the right solution for a problem deemed worth solving. They work closely with the internal teams to build such a solution and often, are the decision makers about the design/approach of the solution. Product managers are aware of both the bigger picture (the business problem) and the solution details (product design). Once a solution is built, Product management and Product marketing teams work together to define a cohesive messaging of the solution offering. Without synergy in these two functions, you would either be building products that never get used by the intended audience, or you would be selling solutions that never existed! Either scenario spells trouble for a company – especially in a competitive space like technology.

In conclusion, you may have either a single person wear both these hats, or have multiple designations for the product marketing and product management functions. However, only with active collaboration and synchronization between these two functions, can a company plan to build a ‘successful’ product. Here at OneDesk we allow you to structure your own teams in our software and build the organization just the way you need it. Learn more on our software and how to keep track of everything on our website.


Photo Credit: “Foosball” / Tomas Fano / CC BY


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