Getting into the Differences: Product Marketer vs. Product Manager

Despite what LinkedIn’s algorithm might think, a “product marketing manager” is not usually in the market for “product manager” jobs. The overlap is definitely more than just the title similarity, but it’s still a distinction that you’d think filters would have down by now. And yeah, there are a lot of literals here that we have to avoid when defining either term. 

Okay, first off, abbreviations. PMM is the shorthand for a product marketing manager (or just product marketer). Unfortunately, PM is one of those over-common two-letter acronyms, so I’m going to use PDM.

Organization out of the way, let’s get to it.

Product Marketing Managers vs. Product Managers

Don’t let the “vs” fool you – Google searches are filled with people using that to compare two things. So yeah, sorry, I need this for SEO. Just keep in mind that these two roles have to work together. And if they don’t get along, make them get along. If they aren’t speaking regularly, make them do so. Professionals will stay in communication anyway, but team leaders/directors should keep these comms channels open.

Product managers (PDMs) get to plan for, lead development of, and evaluate how a product is doing. Whether they themselves are software developers or not, they will manage the entire SDLC. That includes:

  1. Deciding and then managing the product pipeline and release schedule of a company, or an individual product roadmap
  2. Decide on features to enter the product based on need, want, and demand
  3. Conduct user research with direct user interviews or stakeholders in their own company
  4. Conduct oppo research – what do (not) have, their strengths and weaknesses

PMM & Product Manager Similarities

Of course, Product marketers (PMMs) obviously promote whatever that company is selling. It can be all the company’s products or a single one (bigger companies hire multiple PMMs, each assigned to a different product). Ideally, they should be aware of the SDLC (emphasis added since marketers are sometimes the last to know about upcoming releases). PMM responsibilities, among other things:

  1. Planning the promotion of products and/or their features by deciding on types of promos/campaigns, creating or overseeing marketing materials (flyers, blogs, white papers, etc. etc. etc.), and disseminating those assets/executing those campaigns
  2. Manage a schedule in conjunction with the product pipeline/roadmap so campaigns align with releases or announcements
  3. Conduct user research with direct user interviews or stakeholders in their own company
  4. Conduct oppo research – what do (not) have, their strengths and weaknesses

Yep, points #3 and #4 are the same. Every org will do things differently, sure. IMHO though, PMMs and PDMs should be doing both whether or not they are the primary assignee. 

It goes hand-in-hand with any idea for a product feature or marketing campaign: What’s the other side got? How do they promote it? What would our users want/need/like to have?

Where PMMs and Product Managers Dovetail

I’m not sure I should be the #1 result in a search engine for this question, but my side-point here is just as important. It doesn’t matter where the PMM should be when it comes to what the PMM does. In other words, a PMM should consider what their priorities would be under either department – Marketing or Product – and pursue both sets of tasks (obviously details will vary)

I’ll explain by getting into the two options, but specifically from the perspective of a single company, for consistency’s sake.

Product Marketing Manager (PMM)Product Manager (PDM)
– Analyzing marketing strategies to identify new opportunities.
– Developing consumer-based marketing and branding strategies.
– Liaising with management, marketing, sales, and production teams.
– Developing and launching new product lines and identifying new customers.
– Establishing targeted customer and industry partnership networks.
– Monitoring key marketing metrics and developing market segmentation models.
– Integrating user-experience feedback in product updates and innovation.
– Performing competitor analysis toward an increased market share.
– Developing consumer-oriented marketing products and branding strategies.
– Incorporating emerging solutions and technological advancements in new products
    – To begin with, take full ownership of a goal or an area in the product. End-to-end.
    – Conduct extensive product research based on user talks, recorded sessions, quantitative data, competitor analysis, and more
    – Articulate the problem we’re trying to solve and communicate to the team. Work closely with product designers to design the solution
    – Work closely with R&D to build the solution and discuss tradeoffs
    – Build a launch plan
    – Monitor the feature once launched and optimize

What’s the Difference?

The PDM and PMM both have to know the problem. The PDM actually gets to solve it by working it into the design of and plans for the company’s service.

Either can have primary responsibility for user feedback. PDMs have to respond to that feedback by tweaking the current product or building something new. PMMs have to keep it in mind for messaging.

By the same token, both have to understand what’s working for sales. PDMs have to take into consideration whether that new feature under development is actually what could close a new deal. PMMs have to emphasize what those prospects are interested and erase/tone down what’s not important to new buyers.

Both have to conduct product and competitor research, but PDMs get to plan for eclipsing opponents’ strengths by building something new. PMMs get to point out opponents’ weaknesses. PDMs double-back on and enhance their product’s strengths; PMMs get to point them out in campaigns and collateral.

What you pick up on here is that the two jobs can easily overlap. One or the other might find themselves doing something in the opposite purview.

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