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If You're in Product Management, You're in Marketing

March 11, 2013 | By Jeff Lash

Maybe you're not part of the marketing structure on the org chart. Maybe you're not in the marketing department. But you are most certainly in a marketing role.

I've heard something disturbing in recent conversations with product managers and product management leaders. As soon as the word "marketing" comes out of my mouth, there's an almost-instant reaction: "Oh, I think you're talking to the wrong person." "I don't deal with that." "I'm not in marketing."

Well, I've got news for you – if you're in product management, you're in marketing.

Maybe you're not part of the marketing structure on the org chart. Maybe you're not in the marketing department. But you are most certainly in a marketing role.

Go back to your Marketing 101 class in college. Remember the 4 P’s – Product, Place, Price, Promotion? It's right there – Product. Heck, it's usually the first one!

Maybe product managers react this way because they don't want to associate themselves with a function they see as late-stage and tactical – designing brochures, planning trade show exhibits, sending email blasts. That's valid to an extent; there are situations in which marketers are more tactical and less strategic than they should be. But a lot of these conversations have been with product managers whose companies’ marketing organizations are set up the right way and do a lot of the right things. And many of the topics we're discussing are issues product managers absolutely should care about – go-to-market strategy, thought leadership programs, launch planning and expectations for demand generation.

Product managers are responsible for the overall success of the product. They need to care about everything that influences the overall success of the product, including marketing activities. Product managers may not be responsible for leading or delivering on each individual element, but they should participate in, or at least have input into, most of the marketing activities and deliverables. After all, the success of their products – and their paychecks – depend on it.

Product management is a unique, distinct role unlike any other marketing role. Still, a product manager should be aligned as closely with her or his product marketing counterpart as with the engineering/product development lead, if not more closely. When a product manager hears "marketing," instead of "I think you're talking to the wrong person" the response should be, "That's something that's very relevant to me – tell me more."

On a related note: At SiriusDecisions, we talk a lot about aligning product, marketing, and sales. In fact, it's the theme of our upcoming SiriusDecisions Summit 2013 (May 8-10 in San Diego). We will have a number of sessions on how marketing and product management can effectively work together, including a session I'll be presenting on aligning product management and demand creation. If this topic is of interest, consider joining us in San Diego in May.

Jeff Lash

Jeff Lash is Vice President and Group Director of Go-to-Market at SiriusDecisions, where he leads the Product Management and Portfolio Marketing Research and Advisory Services. A recognized thought leader in product management, he has over 15 years of experience in product management, product development, product marketing, and user experience design. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @jefflash.

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