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As a product marketer, how do you know if you're personally a better fit to be a product manager?

9 Answers
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Square Product ManagerJanuary 12

It comes down to which aspects of the role excite you the most. Depending on the company you are working at, Product Marketing and Product Management can have a lot of overlap. I’ll first discuss some of the similarities and differences in the roles before summarizing how you should think about making the choice.

Early in my career I found this Medium article instructive in deciding which path to pursue. Product Marketing really has two sets of functions, “outbound” activities and “inbound” activities. Put simply, “outbound” Product Marketing focuses on activities like developing marketing collateral, sales enablement, go-to-market strategy, targeting specific customer segments - all with the goal of driving product adoption. These activities are core to any Product Marketing role at virtually all organizations.

“Inbound” Product Marketing deals with the question of what to build and what goes on the product roadmap and this often overlaps with the role of Product Management. The article I linked to above, has a helpful spectrum which illustrates the different stages of product development. In smaller organizations, the role of the Product Manager is hired first and includes a lot of the traditional “inbound” Product Marketing functions, including figuring out what market segments to go after, what order to go after them, what customer/user types to prioritize, etc. In larger organizations, the role of the Product Marketer starts to fulfil many of those same functions.

So, summarizing and answering your question:

  • First, identify what areas of Product Marketing you are interested in. If it’s the “outbound” activities (like developing marketing collateral, sales enablement, etc) you are clearly going to be more satisfied as a Product Marketer. If, however, you prefer the “inbound” activities you might still find a great Product Marketing role, but Product Management might be a better fit.
  • Second, look at the size of the company. In smaller companies a Product Manager is likely to be doing the majority of the “inbound” activities. It’s unlikely you would have the opportunity to set product strategy. So, if you want to work more on developing the product strategy and roadmap you either need to move to Product Management at a smaller organization or look at PMM roles at larger companies (>500 employees).
  • Finally, it’s important to think about your long-term goal. The Product Marketers career-path leads to the CMO role, while Product Managers will probably become CPOs or CTOs. Long term, which role do you see yourself in?
1512 Views
Becky Trevino
Becky Trevino
Snow Software Executive Vice President ProductsMarch 1

I recently had a member of my team leave Product Marketing to become a Product Manager. We spent a few months talking through and planning this transition. During this process, what I learned is that the decision to be a PM or PMM comes down to where you enjoy spending your time.

PM and PMM are both focused on solving customer problems. They just go about it in different ways.

The PM works to build a product that solves the problem whereas the PMM focuses on building the go-to-market strategy required for that customer to know that a product exists in market that can solve their problem.

Both roles are important but different people thrive in the role. 


A good product manager needs to feel comfortable not only understanding a customer but also will need to hold their own when working with engineering and design. While part of a dedicated team, neither design nor engineering report into PM. A good PM works closely with her extended team and this means a lot of time in Jira understanding user stories and understanding the product backlog. If working at the user versus buyer persona feels best to you and you enjoy the idea of partnering closer to design and engineering, then Product Management may be a good next step for you.

1076 Views
Chad Kimner
Chad Kimner
Meta Product Marketing Director, AR/VRApril 19

Starting in CPG brand management I had the good fortune to wear both of these hats (and many more!) early in my career. This ignited a love for both disciplines and started me down a path where I'd jump back and forth between them for about a decade (thanks to all my incredible managers who never forced me to choose a lane!). There are similarities in the roles - which sometimes creates confusion and tension - in the ways they focus on the end user, influence through storytelling, sweat positioning and facilitate within complex xfn environments, so it's natural for talented individuals to be curious about both jobs. 

If you really want to know which you like best, you'll have to try both. But there are proably signals available to you that don't requires such a high-cost commitment. In XFN conversations are you drawn towards technical discussion and thinking through solutions with your eng team and can you build great relationships with them? Are you obsessed with dogfooding and constantly thinking through UX optimization? Maybe you'll love PM. 

The caution I'd offer is that I've seen some of my best PMMs make this jump because they believe that Product is closer to the center of gravity or PMs are "mini-CEOs" who get to make a lot of decisions. And I've been in cultures where this kind of model is glorified, if never successfully implemented. Great PMs, in my experience excel at creating decision opportunities, not making them. They excel at bringing teams together under a shared vision, not necessarily creating that vision. 

882 Views
Joshua Lory
Joshua Lory
VMware Senior Director, Blockchain Go To MarketMarch 28

A few questions to ask yourself:

Do you want to be the mini-CEO of the product?

Do you have enough experience to appreciate how engineering operates to build a product? 

Are you comfortable making major tradeoffs between direct customer requests and company strategic priorities?

Are you savvy enough to navigate tough decisions when requirements or quality are cut to meet deadlines?

Are you excited about documenting product strategy, epics, users stories and low level requirements?

If you answered yes to a majority of these, by all means seek out a role in PM. 

413 Views
Lauren Craigie
Lauren Craigie
Cortex Head of Product MarketingApril 27

Interests: What kind of questions do you want to answer?

This is just my personal take, and probably oversimplified, but if you're driven by optimization questions like "Who is getting the most value out of this?" "How do we better articulate what this thing does?" "How do we increase close rates at the enterprise?" then you're more likely to want to stay in PMM.

If you're driven by value creation questions like, "What would make this product really exciting and engaging?" "How do we stay ahead of the competition?" "How do we build world class experiences?" AND you're incredibly comfortable with engineering cycles, you might be a better fit for PM. 

380 Views
Victoria Chernova
Victoria Chernova
Gong Director, Product MarketingJune 9

This question hits home for me. In a previous role, I explored the opportunity to move to the PM org, so I did a bunch of research.

First, at a high level, I love the book "Designing Your Life." If you're into self-reflection and personal growth books, this one's for you. It'll help you zero in on the type of work that gives you energy vs drains your energy.

Then, I would do some candid interviews with PMs to understand what a day in the life is like, because sometimes from the PMM perspective we're only seeing half of the story.

My own personal takeaway was that a PM's process is methodical—which I gravitated towards. And whereas both PMM and PM must be analytical, PMs are much more focused on existing end users vs PMMs are focused on market, competitive, and buyer insights. Their expertise diverges most when it comes to technical and creative work. PM goes deep into technical requirements, whereas PMM goes deeper into messaging and creative work.

This is also reflected in the stakeholders they work with everyday. PM works closest with engineers, product designers, and user researchers; PMM works closest with the field/enablement, marketing, and creative teams. So another way to gauge your interest is thinking about which teams you'd enjoy working with every day.

428 Views
Sonia Moaiery
Sonia Moaiery
Skilljar Director of Product MarketingOctober 18

I’ll outline where I see PM and PMM overlap and diverge, and what signals to look out for to assess the better fit for you. I had a chance to test out a PM role in the past and was a CPG Brand Manager which is similar to a PM. 

PM/PMM Overlap. They both:

  • Have the end goal of solving a customer/end user problem. This requires a deep understanding of who the customer is, their needs and the value they seek.
  • Work cross-functionally to get x-func teams bought into a vision, solutions to a customers' problem and plans for how to get customers adopting and using new products and features.
  • Require strong skills in distilling insights, storytelling and influencing a complex set of cross functional stakeholders. Both are often influencing people who don’t directly report to them.
  • Make trade offs between the following things: 1) building for prospects vs. existing customers 2) building new innovative features vs. optimizing existing features 3) when to announce vs. when to make available etc.

PM/PMM Differences:

  • PMMs have the challenging job of translating the solution and value the PM/Eng teams are building into a compelling narrative for prospects and existing customers and what channels to activate that narrative in. PMs should certainly input into how we tell the story, but that is not their primary role. It's good for a PM to be aware of the 'marketing plan' for a new product or feature, but they're not deeply involved in the mechanics of the marketing plan the way the PMM isn't deeply involved in the technical mechanics of the product.
  • The main cross functional stakeholders they serve. PM works primarily with Engineering, Product Design and UX research, designing and building a solution and to deliver a coherent product roadmap. They’re often working with Engineering in tools like Jira and design in tools like Figma, to determine how to actually solve the customer's problem via the product. Their deliverables include product requirements, technical plans, JIRA product stories/tickets and roadmap rationales.
  • PMM works primarily with Marketing, Sales and Enablement to build a go to market strategy. They’re often working with Marketing in tools like Asana/Figma to track customer-facing creative projects, collateral and new landing pages, or in Google Slides coordinating training for sales, launch plans and marketing collateral. Deliverables include launch/adoption strategies, pitch decks, buyer insights / personas and market analyses.
  • PMMs tend to be more involved in the nuts and bolts of pricing and packaging, and may even own it entirely at some companies. Although if you’re at a PLG company, “growth PMs” may be more commercially-minded and responsible for driving acquisition where pricing and packaging are a big component. 
  • PMMs are expected to have more of a pulse and eye on what’s happening in the market landscape, industry, competitors and buyer insights. They should be seen as the customer expert especially as relates to how to reach and engage them. PMs will benefit from a PMM who does this, but if they don't have a PMM counterpart, they'll often have to do it themselves and it can fall to the wayside.
  • PMs more often have to make hard trade off decisions around optimizing and maintaining existing feature/product challenges/bugs/shortcomings or building new innovative features. They are often translating the overall company strategy to their specific domain or area to determine where to invest. PMMs certainly input here but it is not their primary role.
  • PMs have to figure out where to start. They might have a lofty vision and roadmap but that has to be broken down into smaller pieces and parts to get to the bigger end goal. You have to be skilled at working with engineering to think about sequencing, prioritization and iterating.
2028 Views
Ajit Ghuman
Ajit Ghuman
Twilio Director of Product Management - Pricing & Packaging, CXPApril 28

Short answer. When you are more deep than broad. When you like things more than people. 

Long answer. 

There are no rules to this. Skills evolve and change over time. You may want to pursue an option longer term even if the fit is weak today. That being said, PMs tend to be more detail-oriented than PMMs. They have to be, writing a 6 page PRD that accounts for all edge cases is something that takes a lot of depth and intellectual rigor. PMMs have a different challenge, they need to look at the forest from the trees, and map out strategy. PMMs need to change their focus constantly, PMs need to focus on the thing they are building. 

That being said, these roles converge at the leadership level. Strong PM leaders look a lot like strong PMM leaders, and vice versa. 

502 Views
Tracy Montour
Tracy Montour
HiredScore Head of Product MarketingJuly 29

Would you rather answer the question "how" or "why"? In my opinion, product managers are more apt to answer the "how" and product marketers are more apt to answer the question "why". That being said, great PMs and PMMs are able to do both. It comes down to it being a personal choice. The fact that you're asking this question means you're curious and empathetic. Keep it up!

299 Views
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