Is Product Management, Marketing?

Why are Product Management and Marketing being mentioned in the same sentence?

When Product Managers huddle to together and share war stories, one of the things that comes up frequently is:

Nobody knows what my role is


Other functions are trying to do my job! There isn’t a clear separation of roles and responsibilities

P.S. A more common one is we need more developers but let’s not go there  🙃

I like to say that Product Managers do everything and nothing. Most of the accolades usually goes back to your team and you’ll definitely get the slack if shit hits the fan.

We all deserve some accolades

As Ken Norton says,  when it comes to leading cross-functional teams. We’re always bringing the donuts.

I learned the hard way

So when I first became a Product Manager at a PropTech startup, me and my lovely Marketing colleague Amy ended up teaming up to drive engagement of our end-users through Hubspot emails. I felt like I needed to drive user acquisition, she was responsible for marketing activities such as campaign management, social media management and the like.

This was my first experience of the grey area between Product and Marketing, but fortunately we were grown enough to work towards a common goal.

Then I joined Condeco. I worked with the Marketing function to share updates on how we listened to customer research and built features that they wanted. Learning from my previous experience, we were able to speak a common language from the beginning and get the work done. This again was another acquisition tact and delivered high quality new clients which is always a bonus. We wanted to tell that story of “You asked for x, we delivered it, we listen to our customers”.  Worked like a charm 😎

Today at So Energy, I still have times when I play the “unofficial” marketing role, specifically in line with the stage of the product and priorities. 📈 I'm more focused on outcomes and goals now and always seek a shared understanding.

Companies have created spin-off roles

Product Management

This grey area exists and it makes hiring decisions hard and it's easy to see where there can be a duplication of work. But why is this the case? Marketing has certainly been around a lot longer than Product Management.

Thinking back to the evolution of the Product Manager, the role was created when an employee pitched the idea of having responsibility for a product, rather than a business function with brand development responsibilities. Over time it has evolved and works best at the intersection of User Experience, Engineering and the Business needs.

Note: I  don’t believe Product Managers should be focusing on branding in the early stages of the product lifecycle - it’s not really scalable or measurable but that’s another story.

© 2011 Martin Eriksson's Venn Diagram on the intersection of Product Management


Marketing is all about how you get (promote and  your goods and services) to your audience.

Traditional Marketing teaches about the 4 P's of the Marketing Mix.

  • Price
  • Promotion
  • Product
  • Place

Marketing Funnel is also about the principles of taking anonymous visitors from not knowing about you into loyal fans. Taking them from Awareness, Consideration to Conversion. Building loyalty and turning those loyal fans into brand advocates.

👉 Side-note: This is very similar to Dave McClure's AARRR metrics which is a good way to measure service led businesses

I'm most curious about where Product Management teams up with Marketing to build a great product with a strong or niche distribution channel.

Growth Hacker Marketing

I first heard the term Growth Hacking in 2017 from my friend Andre, who was Head of Product at Uniplaces practising Growth Hacking principles which I believe he had access to from his network at Google and Atomico. Andre is also the fastest talker I have ever met in my life!

Last September, I also attended a talk by Sean Ellis in London where he opened up by saying Growth Hacking is a mindset.

Growth hacking is simply data-driven revenue maximization

Growth Hacker Marketing is still a relatively new discipline and in my opinion hasn't really taken off, but I definitely find some of the principles interesting as someone who is data curious myself.

My only consideration is that growth is not a series of "hacks." It's a rigorous methodology consisting of experimenting, collecting data, and leveraging human psychology.

I first started conflating the 2 disciplines after reading Ryan Holiday's "Growth Hacker Marketing"

Consumer products have done this amazingly with great examples being Dropbox, AirBnB and Monzo.

B2B products have also done this such as Yammer, Slack and Salesforce

Is Product Management - Marketing?

No. Product management isn't marketing, but building a great product is the cheapest form of marketing.

When you create a product people love, with such a great experience it’s amazing what happens next. People tell their friends about it and this lowers your cost of acquisition.

  • PM = Defining and executing on the product’s strategic direction (managing the product throughout it's lifecycle)
  • PPM = Communicating the product to the market and optimising top of funnel conversion (managing the market messaging of the product).

With companies that haven't invested resources in both Product and Marketing, Product Managers would be expected to also do the Marketing side of the role too.

If you had both functions you could divide it like this:

  • PPM’s would typically be focused on the launch/GTM activities, running marketing campaigns and defining market messaging in order to optimise lead generation and top of funnel conversion.
  • Whereas a PM would be more focused on defining the value prop, strategy and managing the day-to-day development of the product, ensuring it meets that market launch window.

However, a lot of the times, especially in startups, they  may not have enough resources to have 2 distinct roles.

Close alignment and continual communication between the two are paramount.

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About Yommy Ojo

Product Maker & Cultural Storyteller
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