What Is Marketing, To Product Managers?

by nils  - October 29, 2015

Quick take:

  • Marketing, the department, is about executing the programs that deliver leads and establish brands.
  • Product management, the department or function, is responsible for providing Marketing with the value proposition, the positioning, the segments to attack, and benefit/feature stories they and Sales use as the basis for those marketing programs and for individual sales engagements.

You can’t let Marketing develop the value proposition. In fact, you’d better know it before you even start building the solution, because you understand the problem you’ve solving, the segment who has that problem, and why they will buy your solution instead of doing something else with their money (the three components of a value proposition). Marketing can help refine it and articulate it, but it’s not their job to come up with it.

So, if there’s no Marketing department, guess what? You get to do the execution. If there is a Marketing department, guess what? You still have to come up with the value proposition, the segmentation, the competitive differentiation, and the benefits/features.

Thoughts? Is this how you do it?


Get the free guide just for you!



Your host and author, Nils Davis, is a long-time product manager, consultant, trainer, and coach. He is the author of The Secret Product Manager Handbook, many blog posts, a series of video trainings on product management, and the occasional grilled pizza.

  • I see marketing serving 2 functions.
    1. Bridge between Product and Sales and BD for feature requests and feedback
    2. Product Sales and Marketing strategy. So this includes marketing materials and mediums, market segmentation, and pricing strategy.

    Pricing and product placement being the most important since that is a way to communicate your product’s value proposition to the market. Pricing can also be used as an offensive tool in conjunction with good branding. This all should be marketing responsibility.

    • Thanks for your comment! I agree that marketing can provide a lot of value as feedback to the product organization. And they are definitely a contributor in the pricing and segmentation side.

      But I think you’re leaving out the really important main goal of marketing, which is finding people to buy your product. That is, what’s often called “marketing programs.” Whereas it’s critical that Marketing not be expected to create the value proposition, since you’d better have a good (and hopefully validated) value proposition before you start building the product in the first place. Meaning, it’s a product management function.

      • Thanks for your reply.
        I agree about Product org creating the Value Prop and knowing it before hand but it is Marketing’s job to understand the monetary value of that and come up with a plan to capture it from the market.

  • I push hard for pricing to be part of the core product management responsibility… picking the right pricing units (GB, or GB/day, or GB/day/device, or concurrent users…) and the price points ($2/GB/day or $5/GB/day) so that they are tightly aligned with customer value or ROI. As Nils points out, we probably should know this long before we start campaigning – instead at the moment we decide to build the product.

    I often see pricing fall to Marketing (or Finance) late in the development cycle, when it’s too late. And based on quick-n-dirty competitor data rather than target customer value. So I’d disagree with Chinmay that this lives in Marketing…

    • Rich – great point. As you know, pricing is not my strong suit, but I also feel it’s incumbent on the product manager to at least know the value of a solution to the customer. If only roughly. One of the reasons I harp on the business value of product management in my other posts is so I can then determine the value of improving product management effectiveness, so I can then have an idea how much to charge for my imaginary tool to make product managers more effective.

  • I’ve stopped using the term ‘marketing.’ Most people in tech (like Nils) equate marketing with promotional communications–so marketing people manage marketing programs and need product managers to provide core product and domain knowledge. Others (like Chinmay) equate the term ‘marketing’ with strategy, determining price, promotion, distribution, and so on. That’s the marketing I learned in college but haven’t seen in real life. Somebody called this Big M marketing and little M marketing.

    I focus on defining and delivering products. I rely on development to design software solutions and marketing to design go-to-market programs. I expect product managers to be product and market experts, and therefore the only ones who can determine the appropriate feature set and price.

    • Actually, I divide Marketing (as she is practiced in high tech) between product marketing and corporate marketing, but your fundamental point is correct. Marketing “as was” encompassed a lot more in the past, including a lot of what has become the domain of product management. I’d argue this is movement in the right direction – the old rubric of “The Four Ps'” wasn’t high enough resolution for what what’s required with modern products. And there’s definitely a big overlap between what I describe as the domain of product management and what most people would consider the domain of the CEO and the C-level folks – the strategy, the big message, the BHAG. Now, that’s going to be an interesting discussion, how to think about the strategy – which really assumes that we have a solution for a market – and the discovery of the problem that leads to the solution. Just as a product without a market problem is a non-starter, a strategy without a market problem is a non-starter. Unless the strategy begins with “Step 1: Find and validate a market problem in an interesting market, then…”

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    You may be interested in