Product marketing is an emerging discipline that sits at the cross-section of product, marketing, sales, and customer success. Most SaaS and enterprise software companies have adopted it.
This article explores the current definition of the role and its associated responsibilities. Over the past decade, the definition of the role has become more clear and consistent across companies. In the future, it is likely that other industries beyond software will rapidly adopt it as a core function.
Casey Winters, Chief Product Officer at Eventbrite, recently defined the role of product marketing like this:
"Product marketing, when done correctly, is usually in charge of three things: First, deciding a soon-to-be-released product’s positioning and messaging. Second, launching the product and making sure users/customers/salespeople understand its value. Third, driving demand and usage of the product."
Lindsay Kolowich Cox from HubSpot gave a similar definition:
"Product marketing is the process of bringing a product to market. This includes deciding the product's positioning and messaging, launching the product, and ensuring salespeople and customers understand it. Product marketing aims to drive the demand and usage of the product."
To accomplish the four core objectives listed above, a product marketer must coordinate closely with the teams that build (product), advertise (marketing), sell (sales), and support (customer success) the product. Effective product marketers become trusted experts that influence each of these team’s efforts—ensuring that the product is built, advertised, sold, and implemented in a way that delivers value to customers.
This diagram from Product Marketing Alliance illustrates how product marketers act as the glue/grease that unites and harmonizes the efforts of the product, marketing, sales, and customer success teams:
Many great articles delve into the day-to-day responsibilities of product marketers. As you search and read them, you’ll notice some variability. The inconsistencies demonstrate how the role of a product marketer can vary a bit from one organization to the next.
Here are some of the widely accepted roles and responsibilities of product marketers:
Determining positioning and messaging.
The role of a product marketer is all about storytelling. Product marketers develop effective positioning and messaging for their product(s) to convince everyone inside and outside of their company that their product can deliver tangible value for its users. For more about this, check out The Ultimate Guide to Positioning by The Pragmatic Institute.
Managing product launches.
A product marketer should coordinate new product and feature launches with the product team (i.e., ensure the new features are ready on time). Help the marketing team tee up campaigns that announce and advertise the new features. As well as enable the sales team to pitch the new features effectively. For more about this, check out the article How to Launch a Product by Hubspot.
Developing collateral for the sales team.
A crucial part of a product marketer’s job is helping the sales team sell the product effectively and win deals. They do this by providing training and developing impactful sales collateral. For more about this, check out this article about 7 Impactful Ways Product Marketers Can Enable Sales Teams.
Supporting marketing campaigns.
A product marketer should support their marketing team in designing and executing marketing campaigns about the product. They should influence the types of campaigns to run, the audiences to target, and the content to use. For more about this, check out this helpful article that shares 12 Product Marketing Campaign Examples.
Developing and updating website content.
A product marketer should oversee any content about the product that is published on the company website. As the product evolves and new features are launched, the product marketer should ensure that the website is always up-to-date with accurate and compelling information about the product.
Capturing customer feedback.
This role is all about listening to current and potential users of the product. A product marketer should be the expert on the needs and wants of their product’s users. This can be accomplished through quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews. For more about this, check out this Customer & Market Research Hub from the Product Marketing Alliance.
Scoping and prioritizing new product capabilities.
A product marketer should support their product team by providing insight into the unmet needs of their users so that the product team can build the right new features. For more about this, check out this article that explores How Product Marketing and Product Management Should Collaborate.
Conducting win-loss analysis.
A product marketer should be the expert on why customers are buying (and not buying) their product. This analysis is called win-loss analysis. This feedback and analysis are fundamental in enabling the product marketer to accomplish all of the roles listed above. For more about this, check out this Win-Loss Analysis Learning Center from Clozd.
Based on the name “product marketing,” it’s no surprise that there is ambiguity about where product marketers should report within an organization: the product team or the marketing team. In practice, it is a bit more common for product marketing to sit within the marketing organization.
Jake Sorofman, CMO at Pendo, gave this argument in favor of marketing:
“Product marketing’s purpose in the universe is to build the right product by translating customer needs into products they can't live without. A product marketer’s role is to translate these products into value propositions that move customers to action. On the basis of this definition, I can't imagine why they would report anywhere but marketing. The alternative is an unnecessarily awkward disconnect between message and media.”
Brian Crofts, CPO at Pendo, gave this argument in favor of product:
“There is simply more overlap between product management and product marketing. In fact, the first word in the title is PRODUCT . . . if a product marketer wants to be successful, they must be close to the product, understand the WHY, develop deep customer empathy, and be familiar with the competition. This is best achieved when a product marketer resides within Product. It’s what we eat for breakfast. Sales enablement and powerful messaging simply become a byproduct.”
Ultimately, each organization must decide whether to incorporate the product marketing function into the marketing org/product org or establish it as an independent organization with its own representation at the executive level (i.e., an independent VP of Product Marketing).
When asked to reflect on the evolving role and expanding influence of product marketing, Steven Duque (VP of Marketing at Catalant) said:
"The biggest shift I’ve seen over my time working in product marketing, marketing, sales, and product is the amount of trust invested in product marketing as an advisory function for the executive teams at companies. In some cases, I’ve seen product marketing trusted as the part of the business most responsible for identifying the best market opportunities and the go-to-market strategy for the company. I’ve also seen it trusted to essentially define what the entire company’s strategy is."
Likewise, Allison MacLeod (CMO of Flywire) said:
"When I think of product marketing, oftentimes, I think of it as the mini-CEO of that product. Product marketers ensure they’re running the launch effectively, organizing the deliverables from product, leading enablement with sales, tracking marketing’s efficacy, and understanding where the team is experiencing challenges. Product marketers really answer the question, “How are we building the best product for our customers and solving for what they and the market need?”
It’s safe to assume that product marketing will continue its rapid growth in popularity and relevance. More industries, beyond software, will continue to catch on to the value of the role in uniting and harmonizing the efforts of their product, sales, marketing, and customer success teams. Then, as product marketers succeed in establishing themselves as trusted advisors and strategic partners to all of these teams, they will emerge as strong candidates for executive-level positions.