What Should a Product Marketing Manager Do?

Finally a Definitive Definition of Roles and Responsibilities for a Product Marketing Manager

In a previous post, I discussed What Should a Product Manager Do? In this one I will discuss:
What Should a Product Marketing Manager Do?

Title Definition: Product Manager vs. Product Marketing Manager

The titles are confusing.  But here is some clarification.

The field of Product Management evolved from Procter and Gamble to Hewlett-Packard to a variety of semiconductor companies, to high tech companies and beyond starting in the 1930s as people migrated from company to company, industry to industry.

Where did Product Manager vs. Product Marketing Manager Come from?

At Procter and Gamble (P&G), the Brand Manager ruled and not only had budget authority, but also had the marketing and distribution functions reporting to him/her as well.  Hence, that is why, at the time, the Product Manager was often referred to as the “little CEO” of the product.

That was the position’s original intent by Neil McElroy in 1931 which he outlined in a famous memo.  McElory, by the way, had an amazing career going on to become president of P&G, an advisor to Stanford and HP’s founder’s mentor the father of Silicon Valley Fred Terman and then on to become the Secretary of Defense.

In fact, all subsequent P&G presidents came from Brand Management, which is very similar to many CEOs today coming from the ranks of Product Management.  That is probably why many have migrated to product manager and/or product marketing manager from engineering, marketing, support and sales.  It is the best career path to senior management and/or startup.

But over time, as the position evolved at Hewlett-Packard with McElory working with the six HP founders, the budgetary authority inherent in Product Management disappeared.

I suspect that was because HP kept all divisions to less that 500 people and drove decision making as far down the organizational chain of command as possible to be as close to the customer as possible as David Packard describes in his book the “HP Way”.  (Coincidentally, I was hired into HP by the fellow that edited that book — Dave Kirby and I handled a little of Mr. Packard’s PR for the Board of Directors)  Hence the product manager was never far from the Division General Manager who retained budget authority.

Also, at HP, the title was Product Marketing Manager even though that person had responsibilities for what I call Product Management today (see previous post) and the role of Product Marketing Management described in this blog.

In fact, when I joined the HP Networking Division as a Product Marketing Manager, I was given two products.  One at the beginning of its product life cycle (Product Management) and one just before introduction (Product Marketing Manager).  The idea was to learn how “to do” an entire product throughout the whole product life cycle stages.

I reported to the marketing department.  At semiconductor companies the product manager/product marketing manager tended to report to engineering.  Hence the concept of a “technical” product manager emerged.

Product Marketing Manager Responsibilities

But for the purposes of our discussions, a Product Marketing Manager owns all the “outbound” or customer-facing marketing activities as defined by our friends over at Pragmatic Marketing: product launches, sales training, collateral development as well as the on-going marketing plan. Some may also support sales with doing various product demos, but that function has typically drifted to pre-sales support and/or field marketing over the years.

Additional areas where Product Marketing Managers provide their expertise is with the sales, advertising, PR, operations, distribution, service and support plans by supporting those departments during the planning and implementation.

I argue the product marketing manager should be experienced and senior.  He/she should drive the strategy upon which the other organizations develop and implement their plans.

Many Product Marketing Managers come to the role from marketing and sales–and rightfully so.

Now that you know generally the role of the Product Marketing Manager:

  • Get your free product marketing management job description click here

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About David Fradin

David Fradin has trained thousands of managers throughout the world. He infuses his workshops with insights and experiences gained as a expert product leader, product manager and product marketing manager at companies like Apple and HP. He was classically trained as an HP Product Manager and was then recruited by Apple to bring the first hard disk drive on a PC to market. As a result of his leadership and management skills, Apple promoted him first to Apple /// Group Product Manager and later Business Unit Manager at the same organizational level at that time as Steve Jobs. His forthcoming book “Building Insanely Great Products” and these workshops covers the founding values, vision, product life cycle and management employed by Apple at its founding and which it returned to in 1997 when Steve Jobs returned to Apple. What students will learn in these workshops is exactly what has made Apple the most valuable company in the world.

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