I’m often asked to differentiate product marketing from marketing (or marketing communications, if you prefer).  This effort gets confusing for most because of the term “marketing.”

lorem_ipsumI’ve long been uncomfortable with the term “marketing.” For many of us, marketing is a philosophy. Marketing is looking at the business from the buyer’s point of view. It’s looking at the whole product, not just the software. Marketing includes packaging and pricing, and even how we answer the phone. But for others, “marketing” is a department, often associated primarily with advertising and branding.

Consider this: in marketing we use “greeking” to help people evaluate a design without getting distracted by (or obsessed with) the text. Product marketing owns the text; marketing owns the design.

For technology companies, product marketing managers are tasked with taking the product from the development team to the sales team and ultimately to the market. They are typically responsible for buyer profiles, positioning, and product information. Their focus is on product. In contrast, marketing (or marketing communications) is responsible for the execution of go-to-market programs. Their focus is on markets. They ensure programs are aligned with corporate branding standards, resonate with buyers, and empower the sales team.

It helps to think of marketing as a development organization. Product marketing managers bring requirements to marketing; marketing develops go-to-market solutions to address those requirements. Marketing is expert in designing programs that succeed and knows when to use those programs to address specific go-to-market problems.

As product manager is to development, product marketing manager is to marketing.

As a product manager brings requirements (or problems to solve) to development, product marketing managers bring go-to-market problems to solve.

A product marketing manager says, “The CIO needs to understand our infrastructure and architectural decisions to see how we align with their strategic technology direction.” Marketing replies, “We need a web page with a link to a white paper.”

Few organizations expect product managers to write production code. Likewise, product marketing managers should not develop programs, design brochures, or create web pages.

Product marketing identifies sales enablement PROBLEMS; Marketing designs SOLUTIONS.

How do you define product marketing? Add your comments below.

Related: See “Positioning, Messaging, and Ownership

roles & organization

Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. Agree with you. Great stuff

  2. Marketing = research. Promotion = communication. Product = creating.

  3. Really good summary.

    I just hate when “marketing” thinks they know “product marketing”. They don’t (in general) yet they can’t help themselves from mucking around in the dark

    • Agreed. Yet I’m sure marketing folks feel that product marketing people know too much about features and not enough about benefits. Clarity of roles & responsibilities helps.


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