This is a guest post from Abhinaw Kumar.
Having spent several years playing both Marketing and Product Management roles, I can confidently suggest that every Product Manager who wants to make a significant impact on the overall success of the business should switch to Product Marketing roles several times in his career.
I would also propose that companies should never differentiate between Product Managers and Product Marketers while hiring and they should encourage transition into one role from another. (Experienced Product Managers (working on SaaS products) will find this post more useful than Product Marketers.)
If you want to excel as a Product Manager, you must be a great marketer, and if you want to shape the company’s growth through Product Marketing, you must be an excellent product thinker.
Having played both roles immensely helps us build a long-term product and business vision. We are better at prioritisation, stakeholder management, effective communication, develop a taste for design, and build a more in-depth understanding about studying buyer personas.
Although the key responsibilities for both roles are different — one focuses on explaining the benefits of the product to the external world, and other builds the right solutions for the customers by making sense of feedback — there are several similarities between Product Marketing and Product Management.
Similarities between Product Marketing and Product Management
- Both have to build the customer’s view of the world.
- Both need to be an expert in the product knowledge and understand how/when customers realise value from the product.
- Both need to be excellent at organisation and prioritisation skills.
- Both need to have persuasive and clear verbal and written communication skills.
- Both roles are cross-functional.
- To excel in their fields, both need to be able to articulate why we built something, what impact it is going to make to customers’ lives, and how do we measure the success.
- Both roles thrive on customer/industry feedback (explicit and implicit).
Experience in technology and product management helps people do well in product marketing. It happened with me too. This blog does the opposite. It uncovers ‘Unknown Unknowns’ and lists down my learnings about the blind spots in Product Management when I look at them as a Product Marketer.
The Unknown Unknowns
Product’s purpose is not only to solve a pain point or a problem but also to deliver the promise that product (vision/messaging) makes to the external world. If your product doesn’t meet the expectations set by the marketing, talk to your marketing to edit or fine-tune the messaging. For example, if your product is not 95% self-serve, such claims in marketing materials might backfire.
There are different reasons to buy a product, recommend a product and feel satisfied with using a product. Product may or may not be the reason for these. But it should be. For example, if your product is more affordable than competitors, then a strong partnership with an established brand can help you acquire customers. Strong relationships of your sales with customers may be the reason for those five star recommendations.
The success of the business may not be an indicator of the success of the product. PMs should keep working with customers, partners, sales, support, and marketing to help them retain and gain the largest market share.
In the real world, there’s no such thing as ‘this product sells itself’. The question that PMs should ask themselves is “what are the criteria against which they should measure the success of the product?”
Successful product and profitable business is a team sport. The converse is also true. If the roadmap doesn’t yield the results that everyone expected, the Product Manager is not the only one to be blamed, but they should be the first one to act on fixing those mistakes.
Positioning the product may be much more important for the success of your organisation than the success of the product. Product may cease to exist if your organisation is not profitable.
Not everything the team builds is for the external world and that’s okay. A lot of groundwork is required to support the future features that can attract press, generate word of mouth, and produce rave reviews. A two millisecond improvement in latency, or slight improvement in the data encryption might not attract the limelight, but these are important and this is the day-to-day grind of Product Management and Engineering roles.
Building the next best feature is not enough
Building the next best feature is not enough. Articulating the benefits of these features is as important as building it bug-free. Communication with customers is key to the success of the rollouts. If the product team has built something useful but customers don’t know about the feature or don’t know how to use it, the feature doesn’t produce any value for the business and is useless.
User manuals and customer communications are crucial. Product Managers should not hold themselves back from sharing creative and effective ways to communicate the value of the feature.
Product Managers can help Product Marketing communicate better, as Product Marketers help product management get the credit for the work they are doing.
Product Managers should be prepared to answer questions such as why a customer should care about a particular product change. Product Marketing may not have the right perspective.
As Product Managers, you may need to help build a story that Product Marketers can share with customers.
User experience, effective copy writing, visual designs that resonate with the brand, website, and other collateral (product briefs, case studies, sales decks, etc) creates the first impression of the product; sometimes these first impressions are the last impressions.
Never underestimate the importance of the time you spend on such activities while working with content writers, product marketers and designers.
High-value customers need persuasive packaging, and if product can’t acquire these customers, the problem of retention and upsell don’t arise at all.
Sometimes user scenarios which take several hours to create can turbocharge customer acquisition, improving brand perception, growing customer engagement or increasing customer satisfaction. Keep looking for them.
Product marketing can take a completely divergent path than the roadmap if Product Marketers don’t invest time and effort in working with them. There are features, partnerships or enhancements that can attract press and might cost very little. Always be open to discuss those possibilities with your Product Marketing team.
About the author, Abhinaw Kumar
Abhinaw has spent 12 years working as a Product Manager, Product Marketer and engineer for consumer and enterprise products. From the last couple of years, he has been leading product marketing at ShieldSquare, A Bot Management Solution. See Abhinaw Kumar on LinkedIn.