What do Product Marketers do all day?

It’s a good question, with no standard answers. I won’t try to make a universal definition of what all Product Marketers do, but here’s a good analogy to start:

Product Managers are often referred to as “the CEO of the Product”. Some people disagree with this, but it is nonetheless, a common expression (originally coined by Ben Horowitz in Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager).

Ben Horowitz (Image Credit thelilyhoneylife.com)

If you want to extend the analogy further, you can think of Product Marketing Managers as the CMO of the Product”.

I prefer the term “mini-CMO of the Product” because it implies that while you have “CMO-ish duties”… you are not, in fact, the CMO.

The role of Product Marketing does vary between business models, industries, and products. However most agree that Product Marketing is perhaps the most cross-functional role within an organization. They sit at the nexus between product, marketing, sales, design, customer success, strategy, legal, finance. Sometimes engineering, too.

General Responsibilities

Day-to-day PMM responsibilities generally fell into the following buckets:

  1. Customer Expert: Analyzing feedback from customers, developing a deep understanding of competitive landscape, speaking at events, a PMM should be seen as the product evangelist and customer advocate.
  2. Pre-sale Enabler: Focus on enabling the sales team to close more deals. This could include creating pitch decks, supporting RFP responses, drafting proposals, developing sales collateral, etc.
  3. Post-sale Educator: Deep product expertise is essential here. Focus on empowering customers to get maximum benefit from the product. This can require a lot of collaboration with the Customer Success, Customer Marketing, and Renewals team. This can manifest in the form of customer webinars, trainings, case studies, “feature spotlight” emails, etc.

Bringing a Product to Market

One common thread is that PMMs often spend a lot of time collaborating with different groups to bring new products to market. Some aspects of this process are led by the PMM, but others are driven by Product or Sales teams (more on that later). Specifically, PMMs build out the strategy and tactics of go-to-market plans. Let’s talk about this!

Note that my view is through the lens of technology-focused B2B and B2C companies. There is a lot that goes into launching new products.

Here are 5 Phases to consider:

The 5 phases of a product launch

Generally speaking, the Product Team leads Phase 2, Product Strategy, (makes sense, right?) and the Product Marketing Team leads Phase 3, GTM.

Here are the primary *owners of each phase:

PMMs tend to take primary responsibility over the GTM, Execute, and Launch stages.

*This is a generalization. Primary owners varies widely based on the company and the strengths of the people on the team. More on this later.

Elements of a Product Launch

Each Phase of launch prep has many components:

(And, yes. The color scheme below is inspired by Airbnb’s new color palette.)

Division of Launch Responsibilities

The division of product launch responsibilities can change from org to org, and there is constant overlap and collaboration. I’ve worked with fabulous PMs that like to manage the beta-testing and report back to the PMMs. Sometimes PMs prefer to handle internal communications (to employees), while the PMM manages external communications (customers, media, prospects, etc).

Frankly, there is a lot to be done, and it takes a village of product-minded people to make a successful launch happen.

Qualities of a Superb PMM

Product Marketers tend to be strong marketing athletes with a penchant for creativity and empathy in their blood. Really good PMMs (Product Marketing Managers) grow to understand how to manage projects with ease, tell engaging stories, listen deeply, and communicate clearly.

Most importantly, great PMMs are experts on the buyer. They can clearly define user and buyer personas, deeply understand what makes the buyer tick, and how they prefer to be communicated with. Product Marketing is often (but not always) an early area of focus for budding marketing teams, when the product is first entering a market.

Listen (Image Credit Inc.)

Go Forth And Do Great Product Marketing

Product Launches are a large part of the PMM role, but even when new products aren’t being launched, there is much to be done. Some of it is covered in the beginning of this piece. Another consideration is this: if you are proactively being a good “CMO of the product”, then you regularly revisit each phase of the launch process, post-launch. It’s important to go back to the original strategy, take what you’ve learned, and update the plan as necessary.

Voltaire (or was it Spiderman’s Uncle?) once said:

With great power comes great responsibility.

Do we think that applies here? I think YES, within this scope. ;)

Let me end with this — Product Marketing is a pretty badass place to be, in the best and worst sense of the word. It’s high pressure, creatively demanding, and there aren’t always right or wrong answers. But, you have the incredible potential to shape the future of a product — from the public perception, to the story sales tells, to the revenue it generates. You get to work with some of the best and brightest people across the organization.

I hope all the PMMs out there see their role as one of opportunity, collaboration, and creativity.

Thanks to the following folks for their feedback on this piece and generally fabulous professional inspiration: