Monday, November 1, 2010

Polar Opposites? Why Product Marketing and Product Management Must Engage...

I've been watching with much interest the lively conversation on Product Mgmt V. Product Marketing on the 280 Linked in group. And while I do plan on linking in (yes, pun intended) this blog to that discussion, I think the general sentiment raises a big set of questions for Sr mktg and engineering executives.

For if, as the consensus goes, Product Management is "Inbound", from customer need to product delivery and Product Marketing is "Outbound" from product Delivery to customer purchase, whick is a logical starting point, why do so many organization struggle with:

1) Under-performance of one or both functions
2) Fighting between the functions
3) Turnover and lack of visionary leadership in product delivery AND go to market...

Though there are doubtless a LOT of issues here, I think the very first goes back to this consensus definition of the two roles. This conventional wisdom often leads to what I call a regression to the poles in both roles. Let's look at what happens when each of these species when they regress to their poles:

The Regressed Product Manager - or the Engineering Program Manager in disguise.
  • When a product manager gets myopic inbound vision, they quickly become little more than engineering program manager, which while a necessary role, isn't what he/she is paid to do
  • While the next release will be on time, if often won't be right
  • When the product COGs get's too high to support a market price, the features will still get delivered.
  • When the field says they need X, the first answer will always start with the schedule
  • Even in Agile environments, the focus is on releases and dates, install base commits and legacy markets
  • Innovation is never the result
The Regressed Product Marketer - or the Marketing Program Manager in disguise
  • When a product marketer gets myopic outbound, they quickly become little more than Marketing Program manager, which while a often necessary role, isn't what he/she is paid to do
  • While the next collateral piece may be on time, it often won't be unique and powerful
  • When the product's price is established, it will often leave value on the table, after all, sales says we are too expensive!
  • When the field says they need X, the question won't get answered well
  • Even in Sales driven environments, the focus is on price and features, not value!
  • Innovation is never the result
So what I call for is a new, holistic view of these roles. There is NO distinction in today's market between inbound and outbound. And while I am NOT advocating for merging these roles, I am advocating for convergence to the whole.

Whole product managers have a CLEAR understanding of market dynamics, messaging, positioning and channels. Whole product marketers have a CLEAR understanding of the technology, the features, the engineering constaints and trade-offs, etc. Innovation comes when great customer and understanding MEETS and EMBRACES engineering constraints and possibilities. GREAT teams meet in the middle every day, NOT just at MRD review meetings...

Thoughts? I'd love to hear yours...

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