After all, both are responsible for product launches of customer-facing products, whether it’s a physical entity or virtual software. Both need to coordinate different groups within a company to ensure that the product release is successful.
So, what separates the two roles from one another?
The simplest way to describe the difference is: Product managers are responsible for leading the creation of a product, and product marketing managers are responsible for leading the go-to-market (GTM) for that product.
Let’s dive deeper into the responsibilities of the two roles.
1. Product Manager
A product manager is responsible for performing the following duties:
- Sets the product vision and the product roadmap, including new products and new features
- Identifies which customer pain points to target, through both user interviews and metrics
- Articulates business value of the product
- Documents required functionality of the product, and may write out user stories or test cases
- Ships the product alongside software engineers, designers, QA, analysts, and others in the product development team
- Manages stakeholders of the product and aligns them to the product strategy
- Advocates for the end-user and shapes the customer experience within the product
The product manager is focused on identifying what customer problems to tackle, and is typically embedded as part of an EPD (engineering / product / design) organization.
Most importantly, becoming a product manager takes a specific set of skills, experiences, and certifications.
2. Product Marketing Manager
A product marketing manager is responsible for performing the following duties:
- Identifies a coherent marketing strategy for the product
- Conducts competitor analysis & market research
- Shapes communication & product positioning
- Identifies the product features to spotlight and empowers the sales team with clear value propositions
- Explains benefits of product features via customer-facing messaging
- Leads product demos & presentations
- Sets up marketing campaigns for demand generation
- Selects the appropriate pricing strategy for the product
- Provides guidance throughout the lifecycle of the product, ranging from minimum viable products to fully mature products
The product marketing manager is focused on empowering go-to-market teams such as sales, support, customer success, and account management.
The Roles In Practice
In an ideal world, the product management team is clearly separated from the product marketing team, so that both teams can focus and specialize. This most frequently happens in larger organizations.
However, in many smaller companies, a single person will be responsible for both roles, often acting as a product manager who must also take on a marketing role once the product is ready for release to customers. In addition, some companies will have product managers and no product marketers, and this structure appears most frequently when the PMs work on websites (the products) that aren’t directly sold to customers.
Why might a single person tackle both roles, especially in smaller organizations? That's because both roles need to have the following skill sets:
- Customer obsession
- Mastery of both qualitative feedback and quantitative metrics
- Strong communication skills
- Drive to execute at a quick pace to unlock maximum impact
- Deep influence to align stakeholders to the strategy
In resource-constrained environments, the same person can flex to tackle both areas of responsibility.
At the end of the day, both roles are critical in a company that releases customer-facing software, so product managers must work closely with product marketing managers to ensure that the end product fits the right customer segment and customer needs.
- Monster has an example job description for product managers.
- Workable has an example job description for product marketing managers.
- Drift has a great infographic on the differences between a product manager and a product marketing manager, which we've displayed below.
Interesting in learning more about product managers and product marketing managers? Chat with other product leaders around the world in our PMHQ Community!
Clement Kao is Co-Founder of Product Manager HQ. He was previously a Principal Product Manager at Blend, an enterprise technology company that is inventing a simpler and more transparent consumer lending experience while ensuring broader access for all types of borrowers.