What’s the difference between a Marketing, Product Marketing, Product, and Project Manager? Part 1

Last year, Mark Suster wrote a blog post on the differences between a CTO, VP of Engineering, Chief Architect and Program Manager. It is a phenomenal post I have found (several times) holds true under real-life experience. It inspired me to write a similar piece about the “other side of the (commercial development) table,” namely, what are the differences between a Marketing Manager, Product Marketing Manager, Product Manager and Project Manager.

This three-part series will: 1) Outline the key responsibilities of each of these roles; 2) Analyze the different attributes to succeed in each; and 3) Outline models to fill each of these roles based on the size and stage of your company.

Part 1 – What exactly do these roles do?

To understand the difference between these four roles, it is important to first outline the primary responsibilities of each:

Marketing Manager

The core responsibilities of the Marketing Manager are to—

  1. Distill “who you are and what you do” to a clear message
  2. Find and execute the best ways to communicate this to your target customers
  3. Get them to your doorstep (or website or conference booth or…)

Marketing Managers will manage your brand collateral, public relations channels, conferences and speaking engagements and many other things. This job is a lot harder than it sounds; the best marketers simply make it look easy.

Of course, making your products stand out requires an understanding of the market and competition, which brings us to the…

Product Marketing Manager

The core responsibilities of the Product Marketing Manager are to—

  1. Understand (and predict) industry trends
  2. Know what your competitors are doing with their products
  3. Determine what you need to do with your products to be Number 1

Product Marketing Managers will: manage your product and sales collateral, write your white papers and blogs, train your sales team and partners in the most salient points, and evangelize your strengths. The best Product Marketing Managers seem to have a built-in “Magic 8-Ball” that tells them what will happen next.

Of course, Product Marketing Managers are intrinsically tied to what should go into your product, and how to communicate why it is better once its built, leading us to the…

Product Manager

The core responsibilities of the Product Manager are to—

  1. Define what should be in your product to be a success
  2. Own successful realization of this
  3. Ensure all support required is ready and in place for launch

Product Managers will define your product vision and requirements, serve as the “voice of the customer” during design and development, and lead prepare every downstream team—from Marketing to Customer Service—to support a successful launch. The best Product Managers continuously ask, “Will this make our customers love and need us?”

Note: Either your Product Manager or Product Manager can lead your overall strategic roadmap planning – it depends on who has the most experience and how you are planning to staff these roles (see Part III, to be posted later).

Project Manager

The core responsibilities of the Project Manager are to—

  1. Build the plan of activities to complete product implementation
  2. Proactively manage the plan to success
  3. Detecting and resolving risks, issues and

Regardless of your life cycle model, Project Managers will build your plan and schedule, manage you project register and dashboards, and manage your plan from beginning to end.

The best Project Managers are half taskmaster / half diplomat. Their most essential trait is unflappable common sense.

Up Next: Part 2 – What is the difference between these roles?

While two of these roles contain the word “marketing,” two “product,” and all four “manager,” each has different critical attributes required for success. Part 2 will explore this in detail…

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