Product manager vs product marketing manager explained
Updated 4 September 2023
Product managers are crucial for modern-day businesses as they ensure a product succeeds through strategic decision-making based on market research. A product marketing manager is also important, and they work on marketing the product in the most engaging way possible to consumers. Although their responsibilities may sound similar, there are some key differences between them that may help you decide which is more suitable for you. In this article, we discuss a product manager vs product marketing manager, including differing job responsibilities, skill sets, education and background that are important to the success of each role.
Related: Product manager vs product owner
What is a product manager vs a product marketing manager?
Read on to find out about product manager vs product marketing manager and the definition of each:
What is a product manager?
A product manager is responsible for overseeing a product from inception to the end of its lifecycle. As a product manager, you're responsible for making strategic product decisions based on consumer needs. You also ensure that everyone involved, including stakeholders and relevant team members, understands the overall vision for the product. You provide other departments with the support that helps them to fulfil major projects or tasks that facilitate product development. Other common product manager responsibilities include:
establishing key consumer obstacles and identifying solutions to overcome them
creating an action plan for the product's development
testing, troubleshooting and finding solutions to faults within the product
reporting on the current state of the product to key stakeholders, including identifying successes and faults and advising on developments that ensure the product continues to meet the needs of the user
What is a product marketing manager?
A product marketing manager works with a company's marketing and sales team to ensure that both departments understand the best way to sell a product. You examine the company's current marketing and sales materials to see if the existing collateral effectively communicates the major benefits of the product in a way that makes users want to purchase it. You have up-to-date knowledge of marketing trends and what users respond to within your market space so that you can create the most effective campaigns possible. Other key responsibilities of a product marketing manager include:
setting objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) for campaigns, ensuring that they align with business goals
conducting competitor research to understand both competitor products and how rivals are marketing their comparable products
delivering engaging copy for cross-channel digital marketing campaigns, including email, content and social media campaigns
implementing, testing and reviewing campaigns using analytics platforms to understand and optimise performance
Differences between product manager vs product marketing manager
The key differences between a product manager and a product marketing manager are as follows:
While it's important that both product managers and product marketing managers understand consumer needs and market trends, their job responsibilities are inherently different. A product manager focuses on strategy and decision-making, whereas a product marketing manager focuses on marketing, sales and communications. Sometimes a product manager works with the marketing department to deliver product communications. In this instance, both positions can overlap or merge into one, allowing one individual to fulfil both roles.
Training and education
Established product managers and product marketing managers typically have different training and education backgrounds. A product marketing manager, for instance, is likely to have a marketing-related degree and an interest in product marketing. Similarly, their professional experience is usually in marketing. Some graduates choose to have a broad marketing role when they first start their career to develop a wider range of marketing skills before specialising in product marketing.
Conversely, because a product manager regularly makes strategic business product decisions, degrees in business and business management are common. There's no prerequisite for you to have a degree, but it's highly encouraged and often required by certain employers for those in this role to carry out relevant qualifications.
Employers often encourage or expect product managers to achieve relevant product management and or/project management qualifications depending on their specific job responsibilities. This is because these certifications act as a kind of quality assurance of your knowledge in the field. Theoretical knowledge also allows you to make better strategic decisions regarding the product's meaning, thus increasing its chances of success.
Product marketing is a specialism within the broader field of marketing and whilst a degree in marketing or digital marketing is highly advantageous for you, certifications that focus on product marketing and product marketing management are equally invaluable. This is because product marketing certifications offer deeper insight into product management with a focus on product marketing.
Product managers and product marketing managers have a natural crossover of skill sets, especially soft skills. For instance, strong communication and collaboration skills can help you in both roles. How you use these skills to fulfil your role can vary. There are also hard skills that are more beneficial for a product manager to have compared to a product marketing manager. For example, a product manager utilises user science more than a product marketing manager, who is more concerned with research and user outreach.
Product manager skill set
Skills most relevant to a product manager include:
Strategic thinking: Product managers often take the lead on strategic decisions, which allows the team to focus on delivering the best product they can. If there is a sudden change in the direction of the product like adding a new feature or modifying an existing feature, you make this decision using consumer knowledge to quantify your decision and communicate this to the team.
Technically-minded: This is especially true for product managers working in the tech space. While you won't necessarily be executing code for the product you're working on, you can use your technical knowledge to decide what features are best to implement in a product. Similarly, it's important that you have a good understanding of analytics to be able to assess the performance of a product.
User science: Products succeed when they solve users' problems. A firm understanding of user science enables you to navigate user problems and build better products that are more appealing to your audience. There is generally a deep focus on user science in product management qualifications.
Product marketing manager skill set
Skills most relevant to a product marketing manager are:
Creativity and problem-solving: Product marketing managers regularly use creativity to solve problems in communications. You may, for instance, review a piece of copy and work with the associated copywriter to ensure that it meets the brief.
Research and analytics: There's a big emphasis on consumer outreach in product marketing and it's helpful for you to know how to leverage user engagement to best identify their needs. It's vital that you learn industry-standard analytics platforms so that you can easily review the success of online campaigns.
Marketing skills: It's important that you possess a fundamental understanding of marketing. Familiarity with digital and traditional marketing channels is helpful so that you can use a combination of both to execute campaigns. It's also helpful to be comfortable with content management systems and paid ad platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads.
Copywriting: A firm grasp of copywriting is essential for product marketing managers. This is because you're delivering written communications across a range of online and offline channels. Not only is it crucial that you can make their written communications enticing, but finding ways to demonstrate clearly the benefits of a product is also significant.
The benefits of having two distinct positions
Some businesses choose to merge the roles of product manager and product marketing manager into one position, but having two separate jobs for these roles can result in the following benefits:
Manageable workloads: Both roles have wide-ranging responsibilities and having separate roles makes it less likely that one person carrying out both functions feels overwhelmed. Splitting up the responsibilities fairly leads to higher standards of work because it's easier to manage priorities and keep projects on track and make them successful.
Collaboration opportunities: Having a person in each role fosters natural collaboration, not just with each other, but also across departments. This encourages quicker, better problem-solving.
Better marketing campaigns: An individual serving as both the product manager and product marketing manager is unable to focus all their time on marketing the product. Because of this, the quality of marketing campaigns could suffer. Hiring a product marketing manager ensures that your campaigns perform better as they're of a higher quality while still appealing to consumers.
Improved decision-making: A product manager who can focus all their time on overseeing a product's creation and ongoing development is able to make better-informed decisions on a product. This is because more of their time is mainly focused on engaging deeply with users and those developing the product.
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