Based on the number of endless conversations I’ve had with product managers, founders, engineers, marketers, investors and beyond, this much is true: there remains an incredible amount of confusion around the role of “Product Marketer” and I’ve often hear the same questions come up:
- What is a Product Marketer?
- How are they different from Product Managers?
- Why should you hire a Product Marketer?
- The type of Product Marketer one should hire at various growth stages
Based on my experience coupled with discussions with other Product Marketers and startup ecosystem players, I attempt to provide some answers around these questions.
First off, what the heck is a Product Marketing Manager (PMM)?
At a very high level, a Product Marketing Manager is responsible for the market adoption of a software based product or service.
But wait, how do they differ from Product Managers and why are Product Marketers important?
Oftentimes, Product Managers will play the role of both Product Manager & Product Marketing Manager in the early stages of a company, and as the company matures and grows, these roles need to separate as Product Managers are strapped for time and likely won’t have the bandwidth dedicated towards customer research and the ever changing ecosystem dynamics, and positioning and messaging.
At a high level, a Product Manager is mostly focused on gathering the right set of requirements and feature sets for building the product, and working with engineers to ensure the product roadmap is on track to become generally available and adopted by users. A Product Marketer’s role is focused on customer research & validation from alpha to launch, the go-to-market plan, building out the value prop, competitive intel and the marketing programs that are necessary to launch the product.
A Product Marketer’s ability to communicate and translate product requirements into a compelling story is normally
Product Managers and Product Marketing Manager’s generally share the responsibility of strategy and research but as a Product Manager becomes too busy to focus on customer research, a Product Marketer will step in to do a comprehensive and robust iterative customer research & validation process.
When should you hire a Product Marketer?
A Product Marketing Manager is most often hired after Engineers, Product Managers, Sales, and Brand Marketing leads have all been hired first. A Product Marketing Manager is usually hired after or at the same time as a Product Manager. (Note: A Product Marketer is NOT a Digital / Demand Generation Marketer)
The major reasons for hiring a Product Marketer are as follows:
- Complexity of the product: When you have added features to your product, or your product becomes too complex to purchase without additional sales or enablement and is not purchased online.
- Changing sales cycle: You’re moving upstream, or you’ve hired a new sales team and they need material to message customers and position themselves against alternatives & competitors in the market
- Limited Product Manager bandwidth: The Product Manager you’ve hired doesn’t have time to talk to customers, and you’re in need of a robust marketing program
The different types of PMM’s
Different product stages require different Product Marketing Managers which I’ve outlined below in a visual that often map back to their funding stage.
There are three stages of product growth — from the early developments of creating an MVP to launching a new feature set or vertical for an existing and successful product in market.
The majority of Product Marketers will have had exposure to 1–2 of these stages, but not all. This is a critical question to ask during interviews as not all products are created equal, and you want to ensure you’re hiring a Product Marketer who has been successful in the product stage that you’re currently in.
Since Product Marketers sit at the intersection of Sales, Marketing, Product, Engineering, Business Development and every other function in between, they play an incredibly important role at every stage, and startups cannot discount the importance of hiring the right person for this role.
This only scratches the surface of all the questions that have come up around why and when to hire a Product Marketing Manager and what they’re responsible for. As always, I welcome feedback and comments.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this and are interested in more articles like these, please stay in touch! ! And if you’re seriously interested in go-to-market, check out my online class on Product Marketing & Go-To-Market, which has frameworks and templates that you can use for your next launch.
My book “Product Marketing Debunked. The Essential Go-To-Market Guide” is available on Amazon!