Enter The World of Product Management

One of the best parts of being a Product Manager — besides solving customer problems, of course — is getting to work with every department within the company. On any given day, I talk (or email or Slack or . . .you get the idea) with our Customer Success teams, senior execs, Sales, Engineering, and of course Marketing.

If you consider the total Product Development Lifecycle, there are two main interaction stages between Marketing — generally Product Marketing — and Product Management. For simplicity, I’ll call them Inbound and Outbound.

  • The Inbound function works to get the voice of the customer, uncover market needs in new markets or market segments, and does user validation via surveys, focus groups, social media outreach, etc. prior to building the product. That function sometimes lives in Product Management, sometimes in Product Marketing, and sometimes in more technical fields, in R&D. But in software, this is generally some combination of Product and Product Marketing.
  • The Outbound function is responsible for getting the word out once the product (including MVP or beta) is built. This is where Product Management works closely with Marketing on messaging (what story do we want to tell the market?), Sales enablement (training the Sales team to effectively tell that story in their interactions with prospects), and collecting customer feedback for improvements via surveys, social media, events, etc.

The Pragmatic Marketing Framework does a great job of outlining all the various tasks associated with defining and launching a product. Which tasks fall to which team are ultimately up to each company to decide.



Pragmatic Marketing Framework

Are We Speaking The Same Language?

Some of the challenges that Product Management encounters in working with Marketing can be around mismatch of market characterization. For example, Marketing may think in term of demographics (age, gender), Psychographics (attitudes) and personas. All of these can be useful in understanding who the users are, how and where to reach them, and find large enough market segments to make Marketing outreach cost-effective.

Product Managers must go beyond personas and understanding users’ needs to be effective in building products and features with a high adoption rate.  For example, a “developer” persona doesn’t tell me, as a Product Manager whether they know anything about sending domains and DNS — elements that are critical to getting up and running with sending email and getting into the inbox; and therefore, whether their needs require a step-by-step wizard for setting up DNS or is clear documentation all that’s required.

This challenge, of course, goes the other way as well. Once a product or feature is developed, we Product Managers will very enthusiastically talk about all the nitty gritty details of what it is, what it does, how it works, and why it’s awesome . . . often to the blank stare of our Marketing counterpart asking “what does this mean for <insert persona here>, how does it make their life better, and why are they more likely to buy our product/service as a result?”

Small, Practical Steps Make A Big Difference

Like any growing business, our team at SparkPost is still figuring out how to get the right working balance between Product and Marketing roles as we’ve scaled. But we’ve found even small steps can make this challenge more manageable.

For example, for every feature we work on, Product fills out a quick template in Jira that addresses what problem the new feature solves, for what use case, and what new thing the customer will be able to do as a result. This helps get Product, Engineering, and Marketing on the same page in terms of what’s being built and why.

We also have a structured weekly check-in where we review everything in flight. It’s an opportunity for people from across the company (generally a representative from each team) to ask questions. Finally, we’re working on planning further ahead so that even before we write the code, the Marketing plans are underway.

What else can we be doing? Send us a tweet we would love to hear from you!


Sr. Lead Product Manager