Has anybody else noticed that a plethora of new and exciting marketing job titles have exploded onto the job boards in recent years? For communications roles, this phenomenon has included Digital Marketing Manager, Social Media Manager, Online Marketing Manager, eCommerce Manager etc. etc. etc.
The old faithful of ‘Product Manager’ however, does not seem to have been affected by the same creativity or narrowing of responsibility. That is, other than Product Marketing Manager! But this crucial role and marketing management favourite seems to have more grey areas than ever now with the growing sophistication of business models and indeed the technical complexities of channels to market. For the uninitiated it would be easy to think that product management or product marketing - as functions - have not changed at all within the same timeframes.
So what do these job titles really mean? And what does the future hold for their relationship with other areas of marketing management?
The most obvious place to start is the contents of the job spec and herein lies a problem; very often job roles are not carefully thought through or well-articulated in writing when it comes to briefing recruitment or HR professionals and it's therefore left to the received wisdom of the people directly involved to draw their own conclusions. In addition, areas of accountability and responsibility often overlap with other operational parts of the business without any form of agreed internal mandate.
Much of the role specification and the fit of the job to be done as a either a Product Manager or a Product Marketing Manager depends on a number of related factors like the size of the organisation, the level of technical complexity within the product and indeed where the company sits within its own market space i.e. market leader, challenger etc. That said, it doesn’t necessarily follow that a technology business would focus on getting a good PM in as a priority if it already had good general marketing management skills within the business – like I said, down to resource and size of organisation.
Once upon a time, The Chartered Institute of Marketing taught its members and students alike that there were 4Ps; promotion, place, price and product. The advent of digital brought with it a huge challenge for the CIM not so long ago. In its quest to modernise and adapt to the changing commercial landscape, 4Ps became 5Ps and then these became 7Ps and we have now arrived at 9Ps when we look at specifying objectives to effectively manage the product side of our marketing strategy (in addition to the original 4);
- Physical Factors
An holistic approach
In addition let’s not forget our sales colleagues. Where does the sales strategy come into this? Sales after all is about customers and most Product Managers would agree that customer insight and indeed involvement with their customers is very much part of the brief.
So in these enlightened times of ours, how does a Product Manager differ from a Product Marketing Manager or indeed a Marketing Manager? It would seem that Product Managers are increasingly being seen as technical experts and no more. Likewise, Product Marketing Managers are being seen as either specifically responsible for marketing communications and/ or specific market segments – with little direct ownership of the product or service.
It also seems to me that too many companies rest on their leadership position and are aloof of any insight that determines their holistic strategy including product, resources, communications and route to market. They also often fail to recognise that management of the product portfolio is only one element of their proposition (the overall marketing mix) and that it must combine successfully – seamlessly even - with the other elements to hopefully provide added value that ultimately delivers profits for the business.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s 9Ps of the product strategy is an attempt to modernise our thinking and approach to marketing products in the digital and non-digital spaces and also the more tactile areas of a true marketer’s skill set. To separate these within strict parameters within an organisation, where there are often formal demarcation lines and interdepartmental boundaries, can be extremely counterproductive for the organisation and frustrating for the professional trying to implement their craft. The advent of Agile SCRUM approaches to product development can shine a light on how to manage products in a modern commercial environment. However, they also have the capacity to bring total chaos if not implemented professionally.
....back to the job roles and their specifications. Good peer to peer and man management can only go so far whether you are a Product Manager or a Product Marketing Manager – the devil as they say is in the detail. Either of these central roles can be good for any organisation and the skills that both roles would require involves a broad range of marketing management, and perhaps technical, nous. It would therefore seem imperative to me that businesses take an holistic view of their marketing strategy that goes way above and beyond what a lot of (non-marketing) managers deem an appropriate job title, with a poorly put together job specification, before loosely applying it to their next big hire.
At the end of the day, the commercial journey starts and finishes with products. The debate no doubt will continue and the businesses that get this right will do well, and the rest will underperform or fall by the wayside.
Barry McLeod FCIM
Barry has worked in senior product marketing and sales and marketing roes for several global technology and software solutions companies in the UK. He has extensive management experience within the IT, market research, engineering and manufacturing sectors and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.