29 August, 2012

Inbound Product Manager and Outbound Product Marketing

Conventional thinking about Product Management divides in the following way:

Inbound Product Management
  • Understanding the market needs
  • Planning the creation of the product (ie product roadmapping)
  • Working with Development to craft the product fit for consumption 
Outbound Product Marketing
  • Defining a go-to-market strategy
  • Communicating with the sales teams / channels to assist in the sales process

A nice sound bite (from Tyner Blain):
Inbound product management is more about listening, and outbound product management is more about talking.

A richer story...
However on further reflection, I think there is more nuance between Product Management and Product Marketing.


The text in red indicates convention listening inbound and communicating outbound Product Marketing. Few would disagree this.


Inbound Product Marketing
Product Marketing does have an inbound function:
  • Product Management asks its 'brothers' in Product Marketing for information about the competitors' features and business benefits.
  • Product Marketing should also know how competitors are positioning themselves: what sectors and how.
  • Product Marketing should have an understanding about how much these sectors are worth and whether the company has the assets to tackle these sectors effectively.
Similarly, Product Management may be required to technically 'unpick' a competitors product to understand how their product works.

Various techniques exist to 'unlock' this information - perhaps a subject of another blog post.


Outbound Product Management
At the end of the release cycle, Product Management should effectively demonstrate precisely how to the business benefits (as stated by Product Marketing) are realised using the product.

Strangely, this task is frequently not well executed (and, in looking back in product releases, I'm guilty as anyone else in not doing this!). There are several reasons for this:
  • Product Managers don't actually know the product well enough to demo.
    • The Technical Lead who does know the product isn't business savvy enough to demo it
    • OR (more likely) Technical Lead is critically involved in the release process that he / she can't be pulled out to provide the demo, at the time when it is needed.
  • Product Managers assume that product marketing / sales engineers / sales guys know the product to figure it out to demo the new feature.
    • WRONG - it is best to assume that the sales guys aren't product geniuses who every spare minute is spent in investigating product nuances.
    • Besides it is MUCH better to provide a standard demo script to everyone, so that everyone starts from the same understanding and not build their own demo (some of which are amazing brilliant)
  • No time
    • Weak excuse!
    • Many times, sales engineering / sales team are the first time that the product is wheeled out to face a skeptic audience. Getting feedback from those that really understand customer problems (and are responsible for overcoming them) is very, very important. Don't waste this opportuntity.

Additional references
In researching what others thought about this issue, I discovered some great articles:
(A) Five considerations in creating a product management function for hi-tech and online businesses
  • When inbound prodUct management should be a priority and when should outbound product marketing be a priority
  • Project Management: a specialist function or one carried out by Product Management: the pros and cons
  • Product managers with lots of technical competencies and PM with less technical competencies: when is the former really needed

(B) More on what we look for: Inbound Product Management
  • What Microsoft looks for wrt Inbound Product Management
  • Plus some great examples of career paths of people that become  Inbound Product Managers 

(C) Foundation Series: Inbound and Outbound Product Management
  • Previously mentioned
  • Nice, easy to understand summary of Inbound Product Management and Outbound Product Marketing

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