The Differences Between Product Management, Product Marketing, and Project Management
More and more products are being created and launched everyday. For instance, there are approximately 2.8 million apps on Google Play, each of them designed to meet a need or solve a problem.
But, how many of these products truly meet the needs of their market?
This is where Product Management comes in to play, where a Product Manager is called to lead the vision, strategy, design, and execution of a digital product:
- Vision: a Product Manager must be able to define, articulate, and evangelise their vision for the product.
- Strategy: a Product Manager must have a strategy that is open to refinement until they find the right product-market fit.
- Design: focus on the customer and delivering a digital product that is functional, useful, and delightful.
- Execution: a Product Manager must be able to work with and lead a team, effectively utilise tools, and make data-driven decisions.
The product management lifecycle
For product management to be successful, it must be approached logically and systematically. The product management lifecycle gives Product Managers a framework that works from identification to action:
Stage 1: Identify
Understand the problem you want to solve down to its core. Define your customer’s needs, wants, and motivations, as well as possible scenarios. Make sure the problem you want to solve is the right one, and that the solution is aligned with company goals and objectives.
Stage 2: Plan
What is your plan of action? Why is this the right product to create right now? Why is this the problem you want to solve? How do you define success? What resources will be needed to create this product?
Stage 3: Design
Create wireframes, mockups, and other visuals for the product you’re developing. During this stage, the functionality, usability, customer experience, visual design, and branding are also developed. Testing the design with customers also happen during the design phase.
Stage 4: Development
This is where engineering of the product or feature comes in. The Product Manager oversees the engineering process and works with the designers and engineers, and develops according to customer feedback.
Stage 5: Launch
During the Launch phase, the Product Manager oversees the product marketing, where they deduce how a product or feature will be introduced to the world, how the first customers will be acquired, and how their user base will grow.
Stage 6: Assess
Part of product management is assessing the results. Analysis of key metrics, assessment of insights and customer feedback will help the Product Manager make data-driven and actionable next steps.
Stage 7: Act
Depending on the assessment, the Product Manager may either move on to the next product or feature because the product is working, make improvements according to data collected, or kill the product or feature. Whatever happens during this stage, the next stage reverts back to the ‘Identify’ stage.
Benefits of product management
Aside from giving Product Managers direction, product management also has the following advantages:
- Reduces the risks of failed products: More information about users means the Product Manager will be able to make sound decisions backed by data. No one is flying blind, and each move takes into account everything from market trends to socio-political factors.
- Aligns company objectives with market needs: Having a Product Manager means that every improvement is responding to the market while also addressing and aligning with the company’s overall goals.
- Future-proofs organisations: A Product Manager oversees a product’s process, whose job it is to constantly think of products and solutions to problems meaning there is someone always working on the next thing for the company.
With product management and the role of a Product Manager defined, let’s take a closer look at Product Marketing:
What is product marketing?
According to Drift’s Dave Gerhardt, product marketing is “the process of bringing a product to market and overseeing its overall success.”
To understand product marketing, it’s important to first understand the role of the Product Marketer. A Product Marketer’s responsibilities intersect between product creation and development, marketing, as well as sales. The Product Marketer has crucial tasks to execute during pre-launch:
- Customer development: The Product Marketer helps to understand the potential customer and identify or define the target market.
- Positioning: Once the target market has been defined, the Product Marketer assesses who the product is for, what it does, and how it’s different from existing products or solutions. The answers to these questions form the messaging of the product. It is also the Product Marketer’s job to ensure a company is consistent with its messaging.
- Strategising the launch: How will the product be launched to the masses, and what metrics should be measured during this launch? The benchmark of success for the launch is also determined during this stage.
- Creating marketing content: Creating marketing collateral, ensuring that branding and messaging are cohesive across all types of media and marketing is part of the Product Marketer’s responsibilities.
Product marketing doesn’t end once the product has been launched. Part of the Product Marketer’s job after is to:
- Help enable sales
- Drive demand for a product
- Assist the target market with adoption
- Continuously work to ensure the product’s overall success
Now that we understand the basics of product management and where product marketing comes in, what about project management? What is it and where does it come into the product’s process? How is it different from product management?
What is project management?
To help differentiate between product management and project management, it’s best first to define the difference between a product and a project:
- Product: a tool or service offered to the market to satisfy a demand, need, or solution to a problem. A product goes through a lifecycle of conception, development, launch, improvements, and eventual retirement.
- Project: a project is created to develop a temporary unique service or tool. What needs to be delivered and the timelines for a project is well-defined. A project doesn’t go through the same lifecycle of improvement that a product is required to go through to meet the changing needs of the market.
As such, products are created as part of a project, and one product can have multiple projects during its lifecycle. This makes products and projects complementary to each other.
Time is of the essence when it comes to a project, and a key expectation from a project manager is “to maximise the quality while minimising the risks,” according to Kate Swanberg of Koombea.
It is the Project Manager’s job to keep a project on time and within budget, managing the people working to create, develop, and market a product or a feature before launch.
In terms of management roles, a Project Manager often moves to the next project after a product has been launched whereas a Product Manager may be assigned to oversee or manage a product throughout its entire lifecycle.
In these days where there are new products being conceptualised, developed, and launched every day, it’s no surprise that Product and Project management roles are expanding, and becoming even more important.
Understanding how they are different, the distinct things they bring to the table, and the responsibilities of Product Managers, Product Marketers, and Project Managers ensure that a company’s endeavours have the right people for the job, and due focus is given on the product, the market, and of course, the customers.
If you’d like to uncover how you can lead the vision, strategy, and execution of a digital product, you can upskill with our Product Management course.