Product Marketers in demand

July 25, 2008

When economies (and some still are) were built on “stuff”—things that are made—it was clear where the lines between product management and marketing management lived. Back then, in the production economy, Product Managers or Product Marketing Managers understood intimately the things they made, the presumed value to the customer, the economics of making the things and the presumed cost the market would bear.

And, back then, Marketing Managers or Marketing Communications professionals understood intimately the passion Product Managers had for their products—and were able to tap that knowledge. The Marketing Manager understood intimately the internal presumed value of the thing, the value to the customer, and the economics of clearly communicating that value, distributing information and creating sustained relationships—born from dialogue. Dialogue itself was not (and is not) valuable if there was no action tied to it.

The opportunities and challenges of thinking in a “compressed economy”

A “compressed economy”, is not based on the economic cycle. It refers to having reached the economic “knowledge” stage (the stages being pre-commercial, commercial, industrial, and knowledge). In the economic knowledge stage as “compression” occurs, organizations are trying to drive waste and rework—not only out of a production process—but also out of the information process. People doing less with more are compressing their budgets and condensing their organizational lines of focus. These organizations try to get the same thinkers, with perhaps different perspectives or disciplines to think differently—often simultaneously. It is a tall order, one that is sometimes possible, but one that comes with trade-offs.

Gains from Product Marketing and Marketing Management role compression

The gains from compressing these roles are:

• Clarity and totality of the value equation–both organizational and customer perspectives

• Accelerated time to market

• A chance that demand-side/the customer will drive innovation sooner in the process

• Efficiencies gained from eliminating communication cycles not anchored in the true value and promise of the brand

Losses from Product Marketing and Marketing Management role compression

The losses from compressing these roles are:

• Confusion and analysis paralysis from trying to serve too many stakeholders with one reality

• Inability to get arms length long enough to call “bull” if a decision is being rationalized or watered down to serve all masters

• Brain fatigue on the part of those expected to assess and articulate. Their intellectual value may be more highly leveraged when focused and may be neutralized when expected to go broad rather than deep

Is it really necessary to compress the roles?

While it may seem economically essential to forever condense internal roles and reduce labor and knowledge costs, organizations may lose opportunities by failing to focus to leverage knowledge. For some, the emergence of hybrid agencies and consultancies are a solution. Some organizations don’t care what the firm or individuals are called, they simply turn to people they trust to think strategically and act regardless of “label”. These external resources have the benefit your people do not—of being arms length and inside simultaneously.

The best solution for your organization is to honestly assess what talent you have inside and what complements you require externally to leverage that knowledge. Unfortunately, it’s the same advice your parents give when you’re considering marriage…”only you know what’s right“. And, just as in that decision, if you’re going to settle for a trade-off…make sure you trade-off the right things. And, if you can have it all—go for it without delay!