A successful product needs strong product development and strong go-to-market. For most B2B and Enterprise products, that means successful collaboration between product managers and product marketing managers. This collaboration begins with a clear definition of roles:
As Marty Kagan puts it,
The product manager is responsible for defining – in detail – the product to be built, and validate that product with real customers and users. The product marketing person is responsible for telling the world about that product, managing the product launch, providing tools for the sales channel to market and sell the product, and for leading key programs such as online marketing and influencer marketing programs.
i.e. product managers own the product development lifecycle, and product marketing managers own the go-to-market lifecycle.
Product development lifecycle consists of:
1) Concept phase, where initial hypothesis is validated
2) Growth phase, where the product grows out of its minimal avatar
3) Maturity phase, where product finds its place, and the change slows down
4) End-of-life phase, where the product is headed for sunset
Go-to-market lifecycle consists of:
- Pre-launch phase, where the value proposition is discovered
- Launch phase, where the product is introduced to the world
- Continued market engagment phase, where the product battles it out in the market
- End-of-life phase, where the product is gracefully put to rest
In a typical product’s life, product development and go-to-market phases go hand in hand. And hence, so do product managers and product marketing managers. One sequence is:
1 + a: Concept & pre-Launch
Product manager leads this stage bringing the concept to life through experimentation, prototyping, or developing an MVP. Product marketing manager plays a critical supporting role by helping gather market inputs, conduct customer research, or interpreting field feedback
Product marketing manager leads this critical part of go-to-market with input from the product manager. They prepare the messaging, prep the marketing team, engage analysts, and conducts sales training where needed. Support training is led by the Product manager.
2 or 3 + c: Growth or maturity phase hand-in-glove with continued market engagement
A product that keeps on evolving (e.g. most SaaS products) stays in the growth phase much longer than a product which is mostly defined upfront (e.g. single function APIs). In the growth phase, the product is the product manager’s baby – every ounce of market feedback goes into the product’s evolution. In the maturity phase, the product is a revenue generator, and can live with reduced attention from the product manager. Product marketing manager remains important for both phases.
4 + d: Product retires
Opinion differs on who should lead in this phase – both product and product marketing managers play a critical role in making sure that the product retires gracefully – customers are communicated to properly, their data is taken care of, and internal communication and training is managed effectively.
This is just one model. Different companies follow a variation, with varying degrees of success. There are other roles, for example Product Operations, which play a role too. I’d love to hear more if you seen something different.