Don’t let confusion between product management and product marketing responsibilities risk your product’s success. Devote time early on to clarify these within your team and with your marketing partners.

As the product leader, the knock is on your door when sell-through doesn’t meet expectations.  And then the painful inquiry starts – was this a strategic error?  Poor execution?  One fatal cause often overlooked is functional alignment – well-intentioned people in product management and marketing were focused on the wrong things.

 

Before we dive in, is your product operating model optimized?  Check out this article by my colleague to make sure you aren’t leaving money on the table.

 

Put in the work now to save time later.  Get started by downloading our Product Management and Marketing Functional Rapid Diagnostic Tool which will help:

 

  1. Understand the critical roles and responsibilities for each function.
  2. Assess your organization’s performance on each.
  3. Guide a conversation within your organization about your capability and capacity to close any gaps

     

Functional Misalignment Is a Common Root Cause of Poor Product Sell-Through

 

In our experience, this is the most common pitfall standing in the way of success – product marketing and management responsibilities are blurred or undefined.  It is a gap that must be addressed early.  If not, team members spend precious time sorting and resorting roles and responsibilities when you can least afford to do so prior to launch.

 

Or worse yet, there’s a hidden liability in a core strength – the driven A-Players leading these teams are misdirecting their talents.

 

Often these leaders share two competencies:

 

  1. Customer-Focus – Neither individual is successful without a clear understanding of the needs, motivations and barriers of their respective audience.  Both are exceptional analysts who can synthesize and distill information to yield clear and compelling insights.
  2. Cross-Functional Leadership – Both are driven to meet high expectations and can comfortably lead across the organization to drive results.

     

Because both play a role in the product’s success, there is a strong temptation for one leader to take charge on all fronts because they have the capabilities to do so.  Establish clear guard rails so these groups spend their energy on the right activities.

 

So where to start?  Below are the primary goals of each group that should be established and understood:

 

  • Product Management solves market problems which includes building the go-to-market strategy and leading product planning.
  • Product Marketing drives market adoption which includes building content and campaigns and enabling sales with tools and resources.

     

     

Deeply Understand Two Distinct Groups – Users and Buyers

 

Personas, when done well, are exceptionally powerful tools to align the organization in strategy, planning and execution.

 

Product management is best positioned to develop user personas and product marketing is best positioned to develop buyer personas:

 

  • User personas reflect the characteristics, needs and goals of the people using your product and how your solution solves their problems. Product managers must allocate ample time and rigor on them.  Get them out of the office – this work can’t be done behind a desk.  Exceptional product managers know their users so well that the product fits like a glove.  Failure here will slow user adoption and risk renewals.
  • Buyer personas reflect the goals, priorities, means and motivations of the people making or influencing the decision to purchase. Like their counterparts, product marketers must do the homework to understand and prioritize the rational and emotional drivers of the buying team.  If not, marketing and sales will not be focused on the right messages and activities to drive, nurture and convert demand.  As a result, market adoption will suffer, leaving room for your competitors to take share.

     

In the hurried pace of building and launching the product, both may not get the attention they deserve.  Ensure both leaders place a maniacal focus on understanding their audience.

 

Don’t Confuse the Value Proposition and Product Positioning

 

One of the hardest tasks of a product manager is define not only what to build but also what not to build.  Leaders who do this well can land on a clear value proposition, defined as the benefit end users receive (and believe they will receive).  Since the product manager builds the features based on user insight, they can best define a value proposition that will resonate.

 

Not surprisingly, the value proposition is a tempting sandbox for the product marketer to play in.  But the organization is best served when the product marketing leader focuses on positioning to articulate why the product is better than the competition, substitutes or status quo.  Most importantly, the marketer will understand the buying committee and buying process through their research and will develop content and campaigns based on that intelligence to drive desired actions and outcomes.

 

Sample Division of Responsibilities

 

 

Set the Groundwork for a Strong Partnership

 

Once the roles are clarified, what does each function owe the other?  Most important is open and regular communication to achieve the functional interlock necessary to accelerate growth.  Specifically:

 

Product Marketing Owes Product Management

 

  • Clearly articulated marketing programs and plans.
  • Creation of sales enablement content.
  • Actionable feedback from customers.
  • Actionable feedback from win/loss reviews.

     

Product Management Owes Product Marketing

 

  • Quality products launched on-time and on-spec.
  • Regular cadence of PMO updates surrounding launch.
  • Booking goals and expectations.
  • Knowledge transfer prior to launch.

     

Put in the work now to save time later.  Get started by downloading our Product Management and Marketing Functional Rapid Diagnostic Tool which will help:

 

  1. Understand the critical roles and responsibilities for each function.
  2. Assess your organization’s performance on each.
  3. Guide a conversation within your organization about your capability and capacity to close any gaps

     

 

Additional Content

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Waters

Provides clients strategic insight and support to uncover new revenue opportunities to help them make their number.

Brian is a marketing and customer experience leader who has grown revenue, profit and satisfaction as a practitioner and consultant.

 

Prior to joining SBI, he built the new B2B marketing function at Hilton that generated over $30 million in revenue in one year.

 

Earlier in his career he held multiple roles at The Walt Disney Company including leading experience planning for a portfolio of attraction, resort, retail and dining concepts to yield higher per-guest spending and satisfaction. In addition, Brian led brand and revenue marketing programs that increased attendance and hotel room-nights.

 

Areas of particular expertise and focus include marketing strategy, campaign planning, lead generation and management, branding, content planning, segmentation, digital planning, product marketing, account based marketing and organizational design.

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