Product Management Marty Cagan

Product vs. Marketing

In many product organizations there are problems between product and marketing. The problems might range from mild friction to downright dysfunction.

In theory, there shouldn’t be a problem. The product team is trying to create a product that customers will love, and the marketing team is trying to find these customers and convince them to come give it a try. It sounds straightforward enough, but in practice it’s not so easy.

While I often emphasize that product management and product marketing are very different functions and best served by different people with different skill sets, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that marketing isn’t critically important, because it is. Further, it’s not enough to have talented people in both product and marketing. These people must collaborate effectively for the product to succeed. Together, you must come up with a recipe for product and messaging that effectively meet several competing needs.

There are three pieces of the product/marketing puzzle:

– First, you have to decide what you’re going to tell your prospective customers in order to entice them to visit your site. It has to be simple enough to be easily understood yet compelling enough to attract.

– Second, you have to understand your target customers enough to know where to reach them to tell them about your site (and/or make it easy for others to do so).

– Third, once the prospective customers visit, they have to like what they find when they get to your site. The product needs to support the messaging that attracted them. It’s ok if the product actually does more than what’s expected, but it must at least meet the user’s expectations.

All three of these have to be working well for your site or product to succeed.

If you have a great message but the product doesn’t support it, users won’t return. This situation is all too common. This may be due to the product not having a value proposition that is useful, or it may be due to the marketing team not understanding or appreciating the value proposition (if this is the case, don’t blame marketing – you likely need to fix your value proposition), or possibly the marketing team gets tempted by compelling messaging, and/or is measured by delivering prospects rather than satisfied customers.

If you have a great product but your messaging isn’t compelling, users won’t know it because they won’t visit to find out. Even with a great product it can be tough to come up with simple, clear yet compelling messaging. You need enough so that the prospective customer clearly understands what you do and why he should care, but not so much that he gets overwhelmed. One tip is to realize that you don’t need to describe everything you do. You can just highlight the one or two major benefits that resonate the best.

Even if you have a great product and great messaging, you still will fail if nobody knows about it. Effective marketing programs can have a dramatic positive impact on your product’s success when the marketing team understands the different target customers and knows how to reach them with a compelling message.

So all three have to be working well – you need a strong value proposition that is well supported by the product and you need to get the word out to the people that will care. The only way these three things will happen is if product and marketing work effectively together.