Building successful products is a team effort. The larger and the more successful the product becomes, the more specialized the team has to become. There are just too many challenges for one person to handle.
While you can get by with a generalist product manager in the early phases, you’ll quickly reach the local maximum. At some point, you’ll need more specialization to unlock further growth.
A product marketing manager is one of the first specialists you’ll need to onboard. Let’s take a look at the product marketing manager role and how it differs from the standard product manager job description.
Table of contents
- Product manager vs. product marketing manager
- Why product marketing manager and product manager are distinct roles
- PMs, PMMs, and the four fits
- Why working in silos is bad
- Why PM-PMM harmony is crucial
Product manager vs. product marketing manager
The main difference between a product manager (PM) and a product marketing manager (PMM) is their relationship to the product’s value.
Product managers focus on creating value for businesses and users. Product marketing managers focus on communicating and distributing that value to buyers.
You need both. On the one hand, without a robust value proposition, there’s no product. But even the most valuable product is useless if no one knows it exists.
Both the product manager and product marketing manager roles are crucial in creating successful products.
Product manager job description
The primary objective of a product manager is to create value for the business and users. The role is all about achieving product-market fit by connecting business objectives to user needs and pain points.
Product managers work at the intersection of:
- Technology (what can be done?)
- Business (what’s in it for us?)
- Users (what’s in it for the user?)
By combining these areas, product managers ensure that the team builds a feasible, viable, and desirable solution that works for both users and the business.
Product marketing manager job description
Whereas product managers create value, product marketing managers bring that value to the market. They ensure that the value proposition reaches their target customers.
Product marketing managers work at the intersection of
- Product (what value do we offer?)
- Sales (how can we monetize it?)
- Marketing (how can we reach our target market?)
By combining product, sales and marketing, they make sure the product strives on the market and drives the business impact we seek.
Why product marketing manager and product manager are distinct roles
In the early stages, it’s common for the product manager to wear many hats, including that of a product marketing manager.
Yet, when the product gains traction and the team expands, it’s probably high time to hire a dedicated product marketing manager. That’s because a rapidly growing product demands dedicated focus and diverse skill sets.
Building products is a complex process, and the sheer volume of activities is overwhelming.
The product development process involves customer research, business analysis, marketing, sales, stakeholder management, execution, goal setting, team leadership, and business model creation — just to name a few.
It’s impossible to focus on all those areas simultaneously. The more focus we put into a concrete activity, the more we neglect other areas. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
That’s why, at a certain scale, it’s crucial to start specializing. One person can’t handle everything on their own anymore.
Both product management and product marketing are full-time roles — at a minimum.
Diverse skill sets
While there is an overlap in the skill set required for the product manager and product marketing manager roles, they are still different specialities. Handling both areas at the same time is one thing; mastering them is another.
At some point, you well enough won’t do when it comes to value creation and value distribution. You have to absolutely nail those areas to grow and maintain success.
One person can’t be a master of both creating products and distributing products. Both areas require years of dedicated practice and expertise.
At the end of the day, the question isn’t whether or not you should split the product management and product marketing responsibilities among multiple dedicated experts. The real question is, can you afford not to?
PMs, PMMs, and the four fits
We’ve already established why we should treat product management and product marketing management as two distinct specialities. However, they are still heavily intertwined.
To understand it better, let’s look at the four fits framework:
There are four crucial fits in product development. All four must be present for a product to be successful, and the lack of any of them is enough to kill even the best idea.
The four fits are:
- Product-market fit — The product we develop is something our target market needs
- Product-channel fit — The product is optimized to use a specific distribution channel effectively
- Pricing-channel fit — Our revenue and customer acquisition costs are in optimal equilibrium
- Market-pricing fit — The market we target has a high enough willingness to pay to accept our price
Product managers’ primary focus is product-market fit. Product marketing managers focus on pricing-channel fit.
What about the two remaining fits? These are shared — they require a collaboration between the PM and PMM.
Why working in silos is bad
To illustrate this idea, let’s see what happens when product management and product marketing management are separate silos.
Poor product-channel fit
Products are built to fit the rules of a specific channel.
For example, let’s say we want to focus our acquisition on SEO. In this case, we must build the product and its value offering with SEO in mind. We should consider a blog, UGC, or other SEO-friendly features. Otherwise, our acquisition strategy has no right to work.
Similarly, we won’t cultivate word of mouth if the product itself doesn’t encourage any form of virality.
The PMs product direction and PMMs acquisition strategy must align if we are to reach the full potential of any distribution channel.
Poor market-pricing fit
For the pricing strategy to work, a market must be willing to pay the price we ask for. However, we’ll get paid only if the product offers a specific value the market seeks at a specific price point.
Now imagine a situation in which:
- A PMM needs high revenue per customer to cover their customer acquisition costs
- A PM sees the most value in prioritizing features for low-end, mass-market
It just won’t work. Either the PM should focus on a smaller, wealthier niche, or the PMM needs to reconsider their acquisition plan
Why PM-PMM harmony is crucial
You need four fits for a product to succeed, and achieving those fits requires close alignment between PM and PM.
Products are built with a specific channel in mind. Channels generate various costs, which need to be covered by revenue.
For the pricing model to work, a market must be willing to pay the price we ask for. And they’ll do so only if we provide the value they seek at the price point they are willing to accept.
However, if a PM and a PMM work together, they can reach those four fits and, as a result, create a robust, competitive product offering.
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