What is Product Marketing and What Do I Own?

tl;dr: Great product marketing creates marketing strategies that drive business growth.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Product marketing can be a difficult function to feel successful in because the roles and responsibilities can vary so much between companies (and even between groups at the same company).

Your role in product marketing can vary greatly depending on whether you are at a small or large company, whether you are focused on B2C or B2B, or how your product management and outbound marketing functions have been defined. More on that in a future post.

At the heart of it, product marketing is focused on getting a product to market. This can be a new product coming to market for the first time, an existing product launching to a new audience, or an existing product launching with a new strategy.

This is in contrast to product management, which is focused on getting the right product built for customers, and outbound marketing, which is focused on delivering the advertising to reach customers.

Okay, that sounds great, but what does that really mean?

Ultimately, great product marketing creates marketing strategies and marketing plans that drive business growth.

When companies don’t have a group responsible for driving core product marketing responsibilities, they feel the gap.

You might have an outbound digital marketing plan, but what’s the key positioning of your differentiated value that you are communicating? Without positioning, your messages are disparate and less likely to be retained.

What are the target audience personas that you are pursuing and how do you know if your product or marketing is resonating with them? If you need to grow, what adjacent segments should you pursue? Without an audience growth strategy, you’re spraying and praying.

You might have a list of marketing tactics, but what’s the overarching marketing strategy supported by strong customer insights?

Sometimes these responsibilities are rolled into other marketing or product management functions, but often times, they are not.

And what ends up being missing is the focus on developing marketing strategy that drives business growth.

In order to develop strategy, you need a strong understanding of your customers and your competitive landscape so you can create strong positioning and plans that will win customers. Those are all the core responsibilities of strong product marketing teams, regardless of your tactical responsibilities either before or after strategy is created.

One of the questions I often hear from product marketing managers is “what do I own?”

It’s a fair question: intrinsically motivated people are often driven by autonomy (myself included).

I have a few responses:

  1. Make sure you are measuring the impact of your work. If you’ve led a launch, this can be through launch activity performance. If you’ve created the marketing strategy, this can be through the overall business or marketing metrics you are measuring (revenue, new customers, awareness, consideration, etc). This should help you understand the impact you have been making on the business and will give you confidence in your role.
  2. Remember that you can co-own KPIs. You don’t have to be the sole owner of a given launch or project just as a product manager isn’t the sole owner for any new product. Every scenario can be an “and” instead of an “or” and remember that you will often accomplish more by working together than just on your own.
  3. Keep going. If you didn’t spend so much time ruminating over the lack of role definition (it happens everywhere and even with product managers, designers and engineers), what else could you do? What other opportunities are you seeing that other people are not?

Ultimately, we are all working together to achieve great business outcomes, and the most successful people in product marketing are usually those who identify and take action on growth opportunities, even if it may be outside their official lane (however loosely defined).

So let that be your guide to what you own.

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I teach a Product Marketing Bootcamp class for new and aspiring marketers to learn the essentials of end-to-end strategic product marketing so they can launch with confidence.

Learn more about the class or sign up here to get occasional updates, practical tips, and access to live Q&As about how to succeed in marketing.