Why the Best Product Managers Know Marketing

brown cone with white sprinkled icing
Photo by Calebe Miranda on

“Amy, product doesn’t look after marketing. Just sign things off from a product perspective.”

I reject this with a passion.

Sure, I can sign off anything on the basis it’s factually correct about my product. But should I not be concerned about whether the content is driving business and customer value?

Is product management different to marketing?

Yes, they are different disciplines. However, they do work hand in hand.

Imagine you own an ice cream shop in Bondi. Your product vision is “to delight customers with the largest selection of ice cream flavours in Sydney”.

You’re competing with a lot of other ice cream shops. Currently your sales are ok, but you know you could be killing it. You bite the bullet and hire a marketing manager to boost sales to the next level over summer.

You figure the marketer knows what they are doing. Heck, you don’t know a thing about marketing so decide you’ll just leave them to it.

At the end of summer you discover something horrifying. Your sales are worse. How can that be?

It turns out your marketer had no brief so they did some research of their own.

Bondi is a pretty trendy suburb and vegan offerings are all the rage at the moment. Your shop stocks two vegan ice cream flavours but honestly, they don’t compare to the vegan ice creamery down the road.

You specialise in a range of Belgian chocolate flavours. Your marketer didn’t know this and decided to push campaigns centred around the vegan flavours. All. Summer. Long.

Later, you can’t stop kicking yourself for being so hands off. If only you expressed your product vision and target customer, things may have been different…

You can’t ignore the marketing strategy.

I’ve always been taught that the Product Manager should be aware of and understand the marketing strategy.

Of course, you aren’t accountable for creating or executing it but you are responsible for feeding your product knowledge into it.

This is why I talk about marketing a lot on my product management blog:

Product Secrets: How To Inspire People To Buy Amazon Kindle

Samsung Galaxy: Finding The Epic In Your Everyday Life

Can I Zip it? New Campaign Taking Australia By Storm

A Product Manager’s Secrets For Your Blog Home Page You Need To Know

What is the Product Manager accountable for?

The Product Manager is accountable for the end to end design & experience of a product. This typically involves:

  • setting the product vision
  • developing and refining the roadmap
  • ensuring people buy into your vision & roadmap
  • execute said roadmap

4 bullet points? That’s easy!

I can assure you, it’s not.

As a Product Manager you need to be across topics as broad as acquisition, lifecycle, attrition, pricing, risk, compliance, technology and more. To add further complication, your responsibilities will also vary company to company.

Is that where the buck stops?

Ultimately, I believe if your title is Product Manager then you need to have a base level of understanding about what marketing channels are switched on and what drives the best result for your product. Does the marketing plan support your product objectives?

Likewise, your marketer will need to understand who the target customer is, what the key product features are and what targets you’ve set. It works both ways. They’ll have experience in promoting products that will help you with your product design as well.

If they don’t understand your product vision, at best, your good results will be a fluke. At worst, well, you read the story about our poor ice cream salesperson.

So I’ll tell you one last time: I’m responsible for the marketing of my product.

1 Comment

  1. Great Article !!

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