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Guest Post: Product Marketers, Where Do You Belong?

NOTE: The following is a guest post by Jennifer Doctor. If you want to submit your own guest post, click here for more information.

Do you work in product marketing? Have you ever tried to explain what you do, to someone who isn’t familiar with product development and management? Ever want to pull your hair out after the conversation?  It probably goes like this:

“What do you do?”

“I’m in product marketing.”

“Oh, so you develop those flashy ads we see all over?”

“No. Product marketing, not advertising or marketing communications.”

“Oh. So what do you do?”

“I make sure that the messaging of my product is something the market will understand, and then work to communicate that to people who want to buy my product.”

“Oh. So you create the sales leads?”

“No. I create the product positioning, work on the launch strategy and help the rest of the marketing teams do their job better.”

“I get it. You’re in marketing.”

“No. I am on the product team.”


It is established that product marketing is a vital and necessary role within any product organization. (I’d go as far as to defend that means that it is necessary in EVERY organization since every company is selling some sort of product.) Yet, too often, product marketing is forced to explain its own value. And, this starts with needing to justify its role and what it is that you do.

Start with understanding what you do

Taken at its core, the basic level, product marketers work to get the “products off the shelf.” … The role works with product managers who are about getting the product on the shelf.

And, product marketing is a partner to marketing services, who drive the lead generation and marketing communication who design the various artifacts that support the product. Yes, these are very basic definitions, but they do separate the responsibilities. There are defined lines that are distinct.

Here is where the challenge comes though. It makes sense, in the majority of organizations, to have the marketing services and marketing communication in the same organization. They are dependent upon each other. And product marketing? Both of these teams depend on the product marketing team effort to do their jobs.

So, some put the product marketing team within the marketing organization. Bad idea.

When you put the product marketing team with the marketing team, the role is challenged to deliver on its true value. Instead, the role becomes one of a tactical delivery vehicle responsible for data sheets, webinars and sales training.

It’s about adding the right value

In an ideal world, the role of product marketing should be aligned in the same team as the role of product management. The two are inseparable since they are both about the product first. Both of the product roles require an outward view to the market at large. Both roles need to work together on the product roadmap.

There are differences too. Product management listens to the market. Product marketing talks to the market. Product management is about getting products ready to be available to the market. Product marketing needs to understand how to position the product so that the buyer is interested. Both teams add significant value to the product. Both teams are necessary to the success of the product. True, together, the work they perform flows to the partnership formed with their marketing brethren. But, separation from product management means splitting the product’s market voice.

Looking in from the outside, where product marketing sits as a role within the organization matters. It matters a lot! If you are seeking to add product value, then align the role to where it has a fighting chance. If you are depending upon the role to deliver a market voice about the product, then align it with the product.


Tweet this: Product Marketers, where do you belong? http://wp.me/pXBON-2zH New post by @jidoctor #prodmktg #prodmgmt #leadership

Jennifer Doctor, a strong advocate of ProductCamps, is an independent product marketing and management consultant, working with companies to help them understand their markets, buyers and how to better enable sales teams to deliver results. She maintains her own blog – The OutsideIn View – and can be reached at Jennifer dot doctor at gmail dot com.

  1. Tim Johnson


    Good post and I agree on most. I’ve worked in several organizations where PMM is in different groups. Where it works best is where everyone’s goals (read that bonuses) are aligned well with the other teams as well as with the functions themselves.

    I was interviewing last year with one KNOWN company and I asked about the metrics for the role. Amazingly, PMM was measured on two things: 1) number of sales collaterals produced and 2) how well the sales team liked them. I passed on the position.

    For someone whose PMM group is in Marketing and it’s not working well (they’ve become the Department of Magic Documents), there’s a few things they can do. First, work to get your goals and metrics better in line with what the role should be doing. Second, be SEEN to be thinking beyond a collateral deadline by building a PMM roadmap that includes persona development, et al. Publish it far and wide to show what you are doing. Give some real metrics around your efforts. In other words, be your own PMM where you are the product.


  2. Giles Farrow

    Great post. I liked the way you describe the confusion around product marketing.

    But I disagree. I think putting product marketing in a marketing organization is a good idea.
    – it brings real product knowledge into the marketing organization, which otherwise be too fluffy
    – it helps bridge the chasm between marketing and engineering, by having product managers and product marketing managers be the touch points between the two organizations
    – marketing needs to understand customers just as much as engineering does, they need to hear qualitative feedback on how the messages are being received, what the perceptions

  3. Amrita Mathur

    Good post because it serves as a great reminder. For tech companies that don’t have a districting between product marketing and marketing communications, I still believe it should sit within or be fully aligned with product management. But often we find that marketing gets bundled with sales. While these two departments are intertwined, I don’t believe marketing adds value to the product and effectively be the voice for the product. What do you suggest we do to educate management in such scenarios?

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