What is a Product Marketing Manager? A Beginner's Guide

Author headshot of CareerFoundry contributor Renganathan Padmanabhan.

“If you build it, they will come” —Ray Kinsella, Field of Dreams, 1989

You might wish this saying applied to building software products too.

For all the time, effort, and resources spent in research, design, and development in making the perfect product for your customers, you may think that customers would be beating down the door to buy your product. 

Unfortunately, in today’s globally competitive market, that could not be further from the truth: a product may only be as effective as its distribution.

So how do you find the proper channels and distribution for your product so customers can discover and adopt it? The answer for this part lies in the critical role in your team: the product marketing manager (PMM) role. 

But what is a product marketing manager role, and how can you become one? This article compiles all the critical aspects of the role, what it takes to be an effective PMM, and, most importantly, how you could upskill to become a PMM today.

  1. What is a product marketing manager?
  2. What does a product marketing manager do?
  3. Product marketing manager FAQs
  4. Product manager vs product marketing manager: A comparison
  5. How to become a product marketing manager
  6. Final thoughts

1. What is a product marketing manager?

Simply put, a product marketing manager researches the market, finds the right customers, and brings them to the product. They are responsible for the way the market perceives and buys the product. 

As a result, they are responsible for the overall positioning and messaging for the product features and benefits in the market it would be operating in, with a detailed understanding of the buyer, user, and audience segments for a given product. 

While you take in the core of the product marketing role, you must also observe that it looks suspiciously close to what you thought a product manager would do. So let’s dive into the details of the activities a typical PMM would own and manage so it becomes easier to tell the difference between a PM role and a PMM role. 

2. What does a product marketing manager do?

As you read earlier, a PMM is responsible for how the market perceives and buys the product. Now, software products, in particular, serve different categories and customer segments. 

For example, the products might be built with consumers or enterprise users in mind, or they might also be made for highly technical customer segments like developers or data analysts. With this wide variety of products being built, a product marketing manager’s role might vary depending on the customer segment and product. 

Keeping these aspects in mind, a typical set of activities that a PMM would be on point for could look like the following:

Market and customer research

As a product marketing manager, you’ll spend considerable time researching and analyzing the market size and appetite for new problems or needs not yet met successfully by the competition. 

Even when the product has not yet been developed, it helps you start early and understand the customer’s psychology and beliefs on how severe their problems are and how they can overcome them. 

As you probe deeper into these pain points and needs, you’ll observe that the market and customer segments in that market describe their needs in a unique language, which would come in handy in the next activity.

Defining product positioning and messaging

The “one size fits all” adage might not apply well to marketing products. As a result, you would have to understand your customer’s needs and appetite and market well enough to choose which corner of the market you would like to capture against your competitors and how to be visible and appeal to the customer segments of that market. 

Positioning would help you determine the exact category in which you might want to find your products. Messaging would help you attract the right customer segments by describing your product benefits, and unique value proposition in their language gleaned from customer research.

Creating sales enablement collateral

Once you‘ve carried out the first two of these,, you’ll then spend considerable time and resources to create content. This content will be in a variety of formats, and its goal is to educate and convince your prospects that your product is the right fit for their needs. 

In addition, creating content that aids your teams in the sales pipeline helps you build out your website and other channels as a 24/7 storefront, showcasing your product’s benefits wherever the prospect interacts with them, during a live demo or as a recorded video walkthrough. 

Launching new products to market

Now that you have an attractive sales pipeline with prospects ready to try out your product features, you must ensure they get a fantastic launch and onboarding experience when the product is ready. 

As a PMM, you’re responsible for preparing every channel with the relevant content formats and a launch plan to deliver these content formats in the right cadence to build enough momentum for the launch. 

Last but not least, you also ensure that you do not just bring customers inside the product but also make them use the product every day and create long-lasting rapport, using a slew of channels like email marketing and social media to nurture and retain them. 

When you read about these four areas, it looks similar to a typical product manager role. If that is the case, you are not alone. Many newer PMs and PMMs, especially in larger product companies, get confused, so here’s a quick refresher on how these roles differ.

3. Product marketing manager FAQs

What’s the average product marketing manager salary?

Although the product manager role has a tremendous share in the spotlight for being one of the most sought-after and high-paying jobs, the product marketing role is not far behind. BuiltIn reports $117,896 as the average product marketing manager base salary in the U.S..

What are the top product marketing manager skills?

In no particular order, if you possess any or all of the following skills, you can prepare a compelling resume to stand out when applying for a PMM role: 

  • Understanding market and user research methods to research customers and audiences better
  • Preparing and revising buyer, user, and audience personas 
  • Copywriting and content strategy (with SEO awareness)
  • Creating sales battle cards and win/loss statements to understand the competition 
  • Understanding how to win at different marketing channels
  • Improving user onboarding and support channels by collaborating with customer success, sales, product, and customer support teams

A product marketing manager points out ideas on a whiteboard during a team meeting.

4. Product manager vs. product marketing manager: A comparison

The product manager and product marketing manager roles work as a tag team to own and manage specific activities.

For example, once the overall business strategy within a product org has been set with clear objectives, the PM and PMM approach their role differently and work together to accomplish specific goals aligned with the business strategy. 

Let’s understand the nuances between the PM and PMM roles in each product development life cycle phase: Research—Build—Launch.

Research Phase

PMM: Conduct market research to understand customer personas and develop the positioning and messaging approach

PM: Conduct market research to analyze customer pain products and test and ideate on product opportunities

Build Phase

PMM: Create content and sales collateral to build assets to educate, nurture, and engage the customer

PM: Work with the product team to build a prioritized product backlog while communicating with related stakeholders about product progress

Launch Phase

PMM: Prepare marketing channels with the right content, data, and team members equipped to manage the launch and onboarding of customers into the product. 

PM: Launch the product with the proper support channels, synchronize activities with the PMM marketing plan, and address feedback and customer inputs to feed back into the product backlog.

5. How to become a product marketing manager?

The PMM role is unique, requiring many transferable skills from any discipline you might already be proficient at. 

For example, if you have been in a customer-facing position in marketing, customer success, or sales, you could easily migrate one or two core skills when entering a PMM role. You might also find that you have a significant advantage if you have been in a product-focused role as a product analyst or product manager. 

Nevertheless, your previous roles might give you somewhat of a head start, but significant learning (or unlearning) is still required as part of the PMM role. For your guidance, here’s a list of resources to get started immediately on your PMM journey.

Product marketing manager courses and education

The Product Marketing Alliance would be the best place to get started on formal education about product marketing.

They have many certification courses for beginners to PMM leadership training, specifically focusing on core PMM topics, like positioning, messaging, competitive intelligence, and go-to-market preparation.

They also have a vast set of resources for training on a continuous learning path, so you should consider becoming a PMA member to stay tuned.

To add to this mix, you should also consider getting access through your current job to competitive intelligence platforms like Klue and Crayon so you can conduct competitive research activities.

Ask questions to top PMM leaders

PMM communities like Sharebird regularly host AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions with the top PMM leaders in the ecosystem.

The best part of communities like these is that they give you access to ask an established PMM all the burning questions you might have as a beginner, and such questions are recorded long after the live AMA sessions have concluded. 

Talk to your customers and write about it

You might already be using your product as an internal user, but you should get out of the building and talk to customers in the field to know more about how they perceive the product.

Once you start accompanying your fellow sales and customer success teams in meetings and calls, you will begin to understand what makes your product unique from the lens of your customers and then use this knowledge to build revised content on your website. 

6. Final thoughts: Launch and learn

The product marketing manager role might appear to be a developing role with few resources available and no way to fully master the craft unless you have been in the discipline for a while.

After reading this article, you should rest assured that your previous experience as a PM or any other role in a product organization should allow you to transfer core skills and provide an incentive to start working as a PMM. Continuous learning and applying that education in your role would help you make rapid strides as a PMM.

The best way to become an effective PMM is to launch each product, learn more about your customers as diligently as possible, and use your intuition to bring your product to more customers. 

If you liked the resources we discussed here to become a PMM, you might be interested in learning more about product roles in general. CareerFoundry’s free product management short course should help you get started on your awareness about building and launching products. So sign up for this course and start your learning journey today!

If you’d like to read more on the subject of product management instead, check out these articles:

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