Adding Digital Marketing to your Product Manager’s toolbox

I have been a long time Product Manager for established firms. I eventually became co-founder (more on PM role still) of two small software companies. Over these years as a Product Management professional, I’ve figured out that one of the core competencies of Product Manager is to drive the design and execution of product strategy, which consists of target audiences, value proposition and user acquisition among other things. These are in fact also the most important components of any digital marketing plan. On the other hand, gearing up with basic digital marketing skills will help strengthen your skills in defining great product strategy with the right target audience, knowing how to validate value propositions and customer acquisition channels. With digital marketing skills, a Product Manager will be able to better articulate product features and their values and to collaborate effectively with digital marketers to convey powerful marketing messages to your target audiences; last but not least to help drive users growth through cross-team effort.

Knowing How to Sell a Product Before Building it

I must say that I still enjoy a lot building products, but along my career path I realized it’s more important for a Product Manager to figure out how I would sell the products before even building them. Like management gurus always say it’s more important to do the right thing than to do the thing right. Same principle applies when building products. The fundamental question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are solving the right problem and building the right product for the right customers. No wonder Amazon mandates their product managers to ‘work backwards’ for any new product initiatives by writing an internal press release announcing the finished product. The target audience for the press release is the new product’s customers. Internal press release should be centered around the customer problem, which how the new product will address. Obviously gearing up the digital marketing skills will help you as a Product Manager to get this job done well.

Growth Hacking for Product is a Team Sport

Now assuming you have got the right product idea and managed to built it. Is it the end of the story for you as a Product Manager? Absolutely NOT. You do want to introduce to every potential user the product you and your team are proud of, don’t you? So getting the product built is really just half of the journey. The other half of the journey is growing the user base for longer term product success, which is also known as Growth Hacking. One of the most well known Growth Hackers in Silicon Valley, Sean Ellis, says in his book Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success:

“Growth teams should bring together staff who have a deep understanding of the strategy and business goals, those with the expertise to conduct data analysis, and those with the engineering chops to implement changes in the design, functionality, or marketing of the product ……”

“A good Product Manager is the CEO of the product.”

As the CEO of the product, Product Manager plays an important role in assisting in the growth hacking mission of breaking down the silos among digital marketing, user research and engineering. Mastering digital marketing skills will definitely make a Product Manager’s life easier and help reduce frictions by setting common goals for the team as far as product strategy execution is concerned.

There might be many other reasons that a Product Manager should learn and master digital marketing. Above are just two of the many reasons I realized throughout my personal career. In fact as life long learner, I’ve signed up and started the Digital Marketing Nanodegree Program of Udacity to beef up my digital marketing skills. You can find other students’ perspectives on this nanodegree by search for the hashtag #IminDMND in major social networks such as Facebook, Medium and LinkedIn.