Discovering the Roles Product Managers Work With

Part of Product Management For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The biggest surprise coming into product management is just how many people you have to talk to. Each function that product managers interact with has a different point of view and perspective. Your task is to listen to and then integrate everyone’s ideas to lead the company forward in the most profitable product decision possible. Here are the most common roles you work with:

  • Product marketing. Product managers and product marketing managers can be either the same person or two different people working in the same organization with a different focus for each. While product managers focus on making sure that the right products are delivered to market, product marketing managers focus on ensuring that the messages that customers receive are effective at convincing customers to buy the product. The two roles work hand in hand with marketing on creating specific marketing materials that customers use in making decisions. If you are a product manager, treat your product marketing manager as your closest buddy. You are both needed to make a product successful.
  • Developers or engineers. Since you don’t actually develop the product, your developers or engineers are critical in making sure that the most successful product is created. Engineers have a solution-oriented mindset that they find hard to set aside if you’re mulling over your customer’s problem. Bringing them on board – and keeping them there – with your product vision is the most important place for most product managers to succeed.
  • Executive management. For executives, product managers are the first level of direction setting in many companies. Executives and managers want to feel comfortable with your decisions. They are looking for you to make your case clearly and concisely on the basis of sound business thinking.
  • Marketing. Marketing functions take the raw information about the product and transform it into great stories that convince your customers to buy your products. Marketing people know how to translate each of your product stories into a communication vehicle that keeps customers on the road to buying your product. Product managers and product marketing managers work closely with marketing when the message and the vehicle for the message need to be crafted.
  • Sales. The term sales covers a variety of roles. Some salespeople are focused on helping the customers understand the technology of the product, some help with completing the nuts and bolts of the sale, and the most common are the folks who talk to customers and get them to agree to buy. Each and every one is focused on bringing in the money that is the life blood of the company. Salespeople are a key part of the company orchestration which keeps the company profitable. Develop a close creative working relationship with your salespeople to advance the company’s (and your product’s) goals.
  • Operations, finance, and support. The three functions listed here are the most common names for the roles that support the company actually delivering on the product promises that your company has made. Operations wants to manufacture and deliver products without spending too much time and effort. Finance certainly is keeping an eye on profitability on both revenue and the cost side. And support makes sure that each customer is able to use the product successfully. Each department are partners in your goal of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Keep operations, finance, and support informed and on your side and they will help you achieve your goals.