I wrote a post about the real value of a product manager last year. The love was not surprising — I have always had a special place in my heart for product managers. These are among the most under-appreciated people in technology. But there is another role that does not seem to get enough appreciation. And I feel equally passionate about these folks. Why?
Behind every successful product and all great launches is a product marketing manager.
I know this because, at the start of my career, I was one myself. Product marketers have a simple but challenging goal — ensure the product is presented in a clear way that highlights its benefit. This requires understanding the product and the market exceptionally well, so you can explain that value to customers and everyone within your company too.
Easy enough, right? Well, let me explain the type of work that must get done — everything from defining personas and completing competitive analysis to creating technical product marketing materials. You need deep empathy for the customer. Yes, you also need to be a product expert. And you have an acute awareness of organizational sensitivity, understanding what teammates need to best represent the product as well.
Product marketing managers live in three worlds — customers, product, and marketing (of course). And you bring them together.
Those worlds are both outward- and inward-facing. You set and communicate the product’s positioning, key value-based messages, and buyer insights to cross-functional teams. You lead product launches and make sure that customers understand the value of the product through website updates, content, and even sales collateral. You deliver demos and present at conferences and on webinars. You track and measure the impact of launches. You also act as a product expert for your teammates in marketing. You are busy.
The responsibility of a product marketing manager is broad and therefore the value to an organization is quite significant:
You know what makes the product unique
You deeply understand where the product sits in the marketplace and the key messages that resonate. So, you are able to rally the marketing and sales teams around the product’s unique value — both how it helps customers and stands out from the competition.
You know the customers’ pain points
You are obsessed with understanding what the customer needs. This is why you spend so much time leading demos, staffing trade show booths, and reading every comment online. Not only do you know who is complaining about what (and why) — but you can practically recite your buyer persona profiles by heart to sales and marketing.
You know the market
You are encyclopedic when it comes to the product landscape. New competitors, changing customers… you can flex with it all. In fact, with the metrics you track, you are often able to anticipate market shifts before they even happen. With each shift, you become more and more skilled at how you market your product.
You know the go-to-market
You really shine here. Everyone knows that launch day would not be successful unless the website was updated, your company’s social media messages were ready to go, and every customer-facing team had the materials they need. This happens with a strong go-to-market strategy — planned and delivered by you.
You know how to drive product adoption
You are the ultimate storyteller. (At least when it comes to your product.) When new functionality releases, you know exactly the right words to use to make that update clear. And when you lead a product demo, your audience cannot stop talking about how your product would solve one of their pain points. Your product stories have a way of exciting the customer — inspiring users to try out the new functionality right away.
You know what the rest of the organization needs
You are attuned to others and understand what your teammates must know about customers, the market, and product to be successful. As the product expert for the marketing team, you can spot opportunities and points of confusion ahead of time. This requires curiosity and awareness of how other teams work and what matters to them most. You know when a highly technical internal training is needed and when a quick email overview will realign the team and help them explain the core benefits to customers more succinctly.
The real value of a product marketing manager is that you connect people with the solutions they need — both your customers and your colleagues.
The role is one of connector. Every company needs someone to make sure that people both inside and outside of the company understand the value of the product. And that is you.
What else do product marketing managers do?
The road to building better product starts here.