Product School

Product Marketing Manager vs Product Manager: The Product Galaxy & Landing the Right Role for You!

Bryan Dsouza

Bryan Dsouza

September 12, 2023 - 10 min read

Updated: January 24, 2024 - 10 min read

Contemplating a career change or actively hunting for a PMM role? You’re in luck. We’re about to delve into Product Marketing Managers vs. Product Managers, and the contrasts and commonalities between these two product roles. Beyond the fundamentals, we'll also share insider tips on how to secure that coveted Product Marketing job. Let’s jump in. 

Editorial note: This post is based on a talk by Bryan Dsouza, ASr PMM at Microsoft, on What It Is Like to Be a Product Marketer and contains additional insights and examples from the Product School team. You can watch the webinar in full above.

Product Marketing Managers vs Product Managers

What would you rather be: a Product Manager (PM) or a Product Marketing Manager (PMM)? To get a better understanding of the differences between the two clarity, let's step into the shoes of real professionals in these roles.

Imagine Sarah, a PM at Google. Her day starts with syncing up with her engineering team, iterating on the product roadmap, and occasionally stepping into user testing sessions. Sarah is immersed in ensuring the product aligns perfectly with user needs and the company's strategic vision. 

On the other hand, we have Raj, a PMM at Spotify. Raj’s mornings are typically consumed by market research, crafting compelling narratives for upcoming product launches, and collaborating with sales teams to equip them with the tools they need to succeed.

While both roles are paramount in a product's lifecycle, the essence of their daily tasks and challenges differ considerably. Your own aspirations, competencies, and interests might resonate more with Sarah or Raj. But how do you ascertain your ideal fit?

Distinguishing role dynamics: Product Managers & Product Marketing Managers

While their domains intersect, their focal areas and responsibilities distinctly vary. Let’s see how:

Blog image 2: Pms vs PMMS

As Product Manager you're entrusted with the product roadmap, ensuring it aligns with the overarching vision. You're the primary communicator, linking the aspirations of the product to the engineers and DevOps teams. Your expertise lies in understanding feature requirements, aligning them with the agile framework, and deciding the sprint priorities. Moreover, your eye is always on key product metrics, particularly those critical for the development lifecycle, such as launch sequences, testing phases, and overall development progress.

Mastering the product lifecycle – PMs

Understanding the rhythm of your product is essential. Some might have a swift six-month cycle, while others, like the traditional Office suite, follow a more extensive three-year cycle. Here, you're diving deep into the Product Development Life Cycle (PDLC), which, while akin to the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), bears its unique traits. Your tasks revolve around meticulous testing, iterative experiments, and honing the overall user experience. 

Crafting the market narrative – PMMs

Product Marketing Managers gaze outward, identifying how the product resonates in the real world. Your compass points towards the customer. Does your product align with their needs? Or are you targeting the right audience in the first place? A significant chunk of your role lies in defining product differentiation. What sets your product apart? You'll also dive into the nuanced world of positioning. Identifying the right 'playground,' be it enterprise, consumer, retail, or financial sectors, is essential. Backing your recommendations with robust market research is key; opinions, after all, must stand on the solid ground of data.

The art of selling - PMs & PMMs

The product world is not just about creation but also about dissemination. While most Associate Product Marketing Managers work with external customers, there's an internal facet: aligning with the sales force of your organization. As a PM, you need to understand the pulse of what drives a salesperson to champion your product. In vast tech conglomerates, ensuring your product stands out in the internal catalog is as crucial as external positioning.

Speaking to the world – PMMs

Messaging is your tool, the bridge between product strategies and the customer's heart. Be it through engaging blogs, resonant social media posts, or leveraging influencers, the manner and medium matter. It's about crafting narratives for the present and weaving visions for the future. Messaging requires adeptness, especially when addressing diverse customer segments.

Preparing the sales vanguard – PMMs

A crucial yet often overlooked aspect is preparing the sales and partner teams for the product launch. Tailored training programs ensure they are equipped with in-depth product knowledge. An interesting tactic? The 'rude FAQ'. This document, brimming with challenging questions, prepares the team for every curveball the market might throw. It's a true test of product vision and resilience.

The confluence of product and customer

The product you hold in your hand or use on your device isn’t just a standalone entity; it’s an outcome, a culmination of tireless efforts across multifaceted teams. 

Blog image 3: Pms vs PMMs

As someone diving into the product universe, you might ask, “Where do I fit in this vast expanse?” Picture this: The Product Manager and the Product Marketing Manager, standing as pivotal forces, act as bridges, connecting these diverse teams. They ensure each cog in the machinery is well-oiled, aligned, and aligned on a singular vision.

While a Product Marketing Manager might specify 'marketing,' the role isn't confined to this one area. Both PMMs and PMs have an unyielding focus on two prime entities: the product and its intended customers. Every other function, though imperative, operates in the backdrop, supporting this central narrative.

Navigating this dynamic demands a fine balance. While championing your product, you’re constantly managing several teams, aligning their often-divergent priorities with the ultimate goals of product relevance and customer satisfaction.

Collaboration: The heartbeat of product development

Having identified the responsibilities of each role and its distinctions, let’s now explore how these two roles collaborate in the creation, development, and promotion of a product. 

Blog image 4: Pms vs Pmms

Uniting two worlds

A Product Manager focuses on building the right product for the market. They deal with its development, functionality, and utility, ensuring that the product solves real-world problems. On the other hand, a Product Marketing Manager is concerned about positioning the product correctly in the market, communicating its value proposition, and driving demand and adoption.

Together, they formulate the product vision – a clear picture of what the product aims to achieve, the problems it solves, and its place in the market landscape.

Early days challenges

Transitioning into a PMM role can be a daunting experience, especially in the early days. With expectations running high and the need to quickly grasp the essence of the product and its market fit, PMMs are under pressure to contribute meaningfully from the get-go. Yet, the foundation of success in this role is a deep understanding, not just of market trends and analytics but of the product itself, an aspect that can only be attained through a good and close relationship with your PM.

Bridging the technical gap

  • Technology Savvy: While neither role requires coding expertise, a strong grasp of the technological foundation upon which a product is built is indispensable. PMs and PMMs need to understand the tech stack, the architecture, and, more importantly, how the technology meets the end user's needs. When discussing cloud products, for instance, knowing the differences and advantages between platforms like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud becomes essential.

  • Use Case Scenario Development: Beyond technology, understanding the real-world application of a product is paramount. This is where use case scenarios come into play. By laying out potential applications and workflows, PMs and PMMs can guide product development and marketing strategies effectively. For instance, explaining the utility of AI to a behemoth like Walmart involves showcasing practical scenarios where AI can drive efficiency or enhance customer experiences.

Building trust and synergy

The dynamic between PMs and PMMs is rooted in trust, understanding, and collaboration. While they come from different functional backgrounds, their ultimate goal is the same – ensuring the product’s success.

  • Trust - Mutual respect and trust lay the foundation for a successful partnership. Both parties should be open to feedback, with the understanding that both have the product’s best interests at heart.

  • Synergy - Creating a product vision is a synergistic process. It's not just about PMs building the product and PMMs selling it. It’s a combined effort of understanding market needs, creating a solution, and communicating its value.

  • Collaboration - Frequent communication and collaboration between PMs and PMMs lead to a more cohesive product strategy. It ensures that the product being developed aligns with the market needs and that its value proposition is clearly and effectively communicated to the target audience.

Tips to get a PMM job

Let’s break down how to secure a Product Marketing Manager role step by step:

Blog image 5: pms vs Pmms

Step 1: Learn

  • Research job descriptions: Dive deep into the job descriptions of PMM roles. It's more than just the title; it's about understanding the responsibilities and skills required. Some companies, like Apple, have unique hybrid roles that don’t fit the typical mold.

  • Narrow your focus:  Once you’ve identified a handful of companies that look interesting to work for, delve deeper to understand their products, their market position, and their culture.

  • Discover your gaps: While reviewing job qualifications, identify your skill gaps. Address these gaps in your cover letters and interviews by highlighting other areas of strength.

  • Network: Your connections can be full of insights and opportunities. Engage with product professionals on LinkedIn and Slack groups and other platforms, attending seminars, webinars, or even local meetups.

Step 2: Prepare

  • Align your resumés with each job application: Tailor your resumé to each job application. Highlight relevant experiences and skills that align with the job description. Remember, quality over quantity.

  • Add skills & opportunities: Rather than merely listing accomplishments, focus on the skills you used to achieve them. Recruiters are keen to understand how you've achieved past successes, as it provides insights into your problem-solving and strategic abilities.

  • Be unique: While there are plenty of resumé templates and “best practices” out there, it’s essential to remain authentic. When you eventually interview, ensure your resumé's content aligns with your true experiences and skills.

  • Network (again!): Seek out informational interviews. These can provide valuable insights into the role, company culture, and potential interview questions. The better prepared you are, the more confident you'll be.

Step 3: Target

  • Induce culture into writing: Company culture is paramount. Understand the core values and principles of the companies you're applying to. Infuse your applications and communications with these values to show you're not only a fit skill-wise but culturally too.

  • Use buzzwords judiciously: While it’s essential to align your resumé with the job description. Understand the essence behind those terms and incorporate them where relevant.

Step 4: Apply

  • Apply strategically: The sheer volume of applications can be overwhelming for hiring teams. Enhance your chances by seeking referrals within the company. A referral can give your application an edge and get it noticed.

  • Keep your network informed: Once you’ve applied, inform those you've networked with. They may provide additional insights or even put in a good word for you.

Keep in mind that the job search is a journey. As you go through the process, continually refine your approach, learn from any feedback, and stay persistent.

By learning, preparing, targeting, and applying with a thoughtful approach, you're well on your way to landing that coveted PMM role. Embrace the process, stay positive, and remember: Every “no” brings you one step closer to a “yes”.

Learn more with Product School

Boost your potential as a future product marketer with our Product Marketing Management Certification (PMMC). This program is curated by accomplished product marketers to help you become a pioneering and impactful Product Marketer.

Schedule a call now with our Admissions Team and elevate your career to new heights!

Updated: January 24, 2024

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