Product Management vs. Product Marketing vs. Product Growth 101
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Product Management vs. Product Marketing vs. Product Growth 101
Two weeks ago, the news shocked many Product Managers: Airbnb got rid of a classic product management function.
Some interpreted the headlines as "eliminating the PM role."
That's not accurate.
But I think it's essential for us to examine the implications.
As Brian Chesky explained:
Airbnb decided to combine Product Management with Product Marketing, as “you can’t develop products unless you know how to talk about the products”
In today’s issue, we will explore:
Product Management vs. Product Marketing
🔒 Combining Product Management with Product Marketing
🔒 Product Growth Roles
🔒 Recommended resources and templates
Let's dive in.
1. Product Management vs. Product Marketing
In many organizations, marketers are just ads and social media experts. They craft landing pages, prepare newsletters, and write blog posts based on input from Product Managers.
You get the picture.
What's crucial to recognize is that these are not Product Marketers.
Let’s explore what Product Marketing is and how it relates to other product roles.
1.1 What is Product Marketing?
The role of a Product Marketer (or Product Marketing Manager, PMM for short) varies across companies. However, in the best product companies:
“While the product manager focuses on the product side of the equation, the product marketer focuses o the market side, including the go-to-market strategy” - Martina Lauchengco, Loved
Another helpful definition can be found in Crossing the Chasm:
”(…) defining marketing is not particularly difficult: It simply means taking actions to create, grow, maintain, and defend markets” - Geoffrey A. Moore, Crossing the Chasm
Both definitions highlight the market as the primary concern for Product Marketers.
1.2 How do we define the market?
The definition isn’t necessarily obvious. For instance, some might assert that The Product Compass is in the newsletter market.
And yet, that’s not the case.
As Tony Ulwick points out in his work, people buy products to get a “job” done. He often illustrates this with a quote:
“People don’t want a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole” - quote popularized by Theodore Levitt
Tony defines the market as:
“The group of people (users) and the core functional job or jobs they are trying to get done” - Tony Ulwick, Jobs-to-be-Done
Dan Olsen defines the market similarly:
“A market consists of all existing and potential customers that share a particular customer need or a share of needs.” - Dan Olsen, The Lean Product Playbook
A market is characterized by particular customer needs (problems, desires, etc.), not solutions addressing them. Product Marketers must focus on these needs above all else.
A good example of why this matters is that local airlines and high-speed trains often compete, even though they provide entirely different solutions. Michael Porter labeled this form of competition as a “Threat of substitute products” in his Porter’s Five Forces.
To learn more about the competition between airlines and high-speed trains, consider reading this scientific paper.
1.3 Solving problems, not creating hype
An intriguing definition of marketing is found in This is Marketing:
“Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem. Marketing helps others become who they seek to become”. - Seth Godin, This is Marketing
Seth emphasizes the importance of solving real customer problems. According to him, good marketing isn’t about hype, manipulating, or reaching out to customers without their permission.
I love those insights.
1.4 What do Product Marketers do exactly?
The main areas of responsibility for a Product Marketer are:
Discovering target customers.
Discovering customers’ jobs/needs (methods like interviews or surveys).
Analyzing the market and the industry:
Sizing market opportunities by considering Total Addressable Market (TAM), Serviceable Available Market (SAM), and Serviceable Obtainable Market (TOM).
Analyzing market characteristics, like the average Annual Growth Rate, Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), average Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), and average Churn Rate.
Analyzing the industry (e.g., Porter’s Five Forces).
Performing competitive analysis.
Shaping how others think about the product:
Formulating the Positioning Strategy, which defines target customers, the product’s place in the market, its core benefits, and supporting evidence.
Adjusting Product Messaging. In short, it’s about explaining why the product is awesome (copywriting, storytelling) based on Positioning Strategy.
Enable others to tell the same story:
Training and guiding Sales
Training and guiding Resellers
Training and guiding other Partners
Creating the Go-to-market (GTM) strategy. It should include, among others:
Business Model, including pricing
1.5 Product Manager vs. Product Marketing Manager
In some companies, a simplified split between a Product Manager (PM) and a Product Marketing Manager (PMM or Product Marketer) might look like this:
Looking at the picture above, you might notice overlaps and dependencies:
The PM defines the Product Vision and Strategy. However, you can't create a Strategy without market and industry analysis, which is theoretically the PMM's main job.
The Business Model, including pricing, can't be assigned to one role only. In many companies, it's a shared responsibility involving other stakeholders.
Both the PM and PMM need to discover and understand who their customers are (personas) and their needs/jobs.
In theory, PMM defines the Go-to-market (GTM). But:
GTM must align with the Product Strategy defined by PM. This applies, in particular, to target customers, their jobs/needs, and Value Proposition.
GTM must refer to a Business Model, including pricing, sales channels, partners, cost structure, and revenue streams. And this is a shared responsibility.
As a result:
Many PMs focus on communicating with stakeholders and the product team, engaging customers solely for interviews. They struggle to communicate about their products to others, especially outside the organization. They may lose sight of the broader picture and prioritize execution - roadmaps, objectives, status reporting, and releases.
Many PMMs find it hard to fully own the Go-to-Market (GTM). They have to rely on inputs from Product Managers.