Choosing a Career – Between Product Management and Product Marketing

Product Marketing and Product Management

Background Story

Choosing a career can either be accidental or deliberate, for some of us, it was a struggle right from the university where you plan to study a course and you are given another course entirely unrelated to what you intend to study. How do you explain someone who planned to study Psychology but ended up in a Geography department?

So graduating with something you didn’t plan to do puts you in a confused state, because you are struggling to map out careers in Geography, thinking if you should focus on meteorology, urban planning, town planning or transport management, maybe few months after graduation you will then discover that real life is different from school life. Now you are in the corporate world, and you have software developers, product designers, product managers, product marketing managers, graphics designers, UI/UX, and digital marketing professionals around you. It is at that moment you will probably discover that higher education might just be to learn about life and find your path.

You are now in the ocean of over one hundred (100) trending digital and technology-related professions, and you don’t know where to turn. This was me some years ago after school, doing direct marketing for insurance companies and stumbling on product content writer vacancy by one of the leading eCommerce companies, to joining the organization, and began what i call a fascinating career in  digital media and marketing, let’s leave this gist for another time. How do you navigate the streams of globally trending professions without making mistakes? I wish these were the topics of conversation, but maybe we would go that direction some other time today, I am focusing on two similar career paths for younger professionals that have interests in product management and product marketing.

The Emerging Product-led Professions

These two career paths are not something you just stumble on in this new age of information, professionals are well abreast of the emerging careers in technology and marketing than they were ten years ago, so for you to come to the point of going either the product management or product marketing route you must have been armed with some level of information, so what I want to do here is to help you make that decision with the simple information I will provide here based on over ten experience, guess what? My ten years of experience are not entirely in either product management or product marketing but in the technology and marketing industry.

To choose between these two career paths, you need to understand the functions of both roles and much more how it aligns with your career goals. I was having a discussion with a former colleague of mine who asked me which of these two courses should he take, I told him to take the one that aligns with his career objectives at least in the next three years, I went further to ask, what is his career goal? and he responded, “To make money,” he said that on a lighter note, he later added “to make money and impact” if your own career goal is also to make money, I don’t think you should have any issue picking between these two paths, just follow where you feel more money will flow.

If you are in for something more enduring and futuristic, you are at the juncture or point of making a critical career decision; then you need to take caution before you decide.

Following a Career Path

The first thing you need to do is to clearly define your career goals, where you see yourself in 3 years, in 5 years, and in 10 years, do you want to be the CMO of a global brand in 10 years like my former colleague told me, or you want to be the product manager for that next disruptive product coming out of Africa in the next 3-5 years? Once you are able to clearly define what you want from your career, you can write them down and decide which direction is life flowing, benchmark this also based on what you currently do or the organization you work, do you currently work in a tech startup, a product-led company or a marketing department of a mainstream company with a traditional business model, this to a considerable extent will determine your transitioning into either product management or product marketing. If you are intrigued by solving real-life problems, you might be a good match for product management

The next thing is to evaluate each career and how they align with your career goals; what exactly does a product manager or product marketing manager do. Knowing the requirement of the jobs will give you an insight into which one is the best fit for you.

For instance, the job of a Product Manager is to build the product by identifying pressing customer needs and create specifications for developers to come up with technology solution that addresses the needs. A product manager works closely with business leaders to ensure it fulfills the business’s wider objectives, does the initial research, user interviews, and collects user feedback and data. A Product Manager’s responsibilities include: defining the product strategy and roadmap and running beta and pilot programs with early-stage products and samples. Product managers express what would make the product successful, forming a creative team to bring the product to life. They ensure the product is efficiently made, meets its user’s needs, and analyses feedback from users to guarantee the best future for the product’s development.

On the other hand a Product Marketing manager’s role is to communicate the value of the product to the target audience. The responsibilities and expectations vary from business to business, but they generally fall into two categories: Customer Acquisition and Retention. Product Marketers are also responsible for defining the product value proposition before the launch, that can include creating product information content and videos focusing on solving specific problems using the product, case studies showing how existing users have achieved success with your product and writing help docs.

The third thing you need to do after understanding the job functions and possible alignment with your career objectives is to consider your skill sets. Do you have more marketing skills, but your interest is in product management? Then you might consider taking courses and certifications that will help you transition into product management; however, certifications alone will not automatically make you a product manager, you still need practical experience. Start applying for entry-level product management roles with your certificates. On the other hand, if your interest is in product marketing and you don’t have any marketing-related skills, start by reading articles on product marketing, watch videos on YouTube and take free courses on Coursera or Udemy. Just ensure before you start investing in learning, you have a foundational knowledge that will make your investment worthwhile.

Product management and product marketing have become sought-after professions globally, especially in this era of technology transformation sweeping across the globe. Find what works for you, don’t settle down for a career because of frustration, do what you love, and live a fulfilled life. Cheers!