Product marketing vs management: Who launches products

This blog post originally appeared on LaunchScience, a start-up focused on helping companies launch and commercialize new products.

Launching vs Commercializing (and “GTM”)

One useful lens to consider is the difference between the efforts that are required to actually launch a product vs those that are required for commercial success. In some organizations, the former are owned by product management (“PM”) and the latter by product marketing (“PMM”).

A divide might look like this:

Launch activities (PM)

  • Product build
  • Legal approval
  • Documentation
  • Customer enablement

GTM activities (PMM)

  • Positioning
  • Website and materials
  • Sales training
  • Customer communications

Differences in Organizations

One of the most obvious differences between organizations is how they staff (and title) the teams involved with launches. In the previous discussion we assumed there was a “Product Marketer” to team up with PMs, but what if there isn’t anyone with that responsibility?

In our interviews with almost one hundred teams we found a very clear evolution of the launch team based on the size of the organization. Basically at start-ups and small companies, the PMs take on most launch activities, then as the teams grow PMMs take center stage. Once companies reach a certain size there tends to be a dedicated team. 

PMs vs PMMs

Executive Ownership

Another interesting riddle is how to reconcile the divergent points of view of senior executives with regard to the launch process. CXOs have different levels of involvement in the launch process and these differences can result in conflict or misalignment.

If you had to put a single executive on the firing line for launch responsibility it would clearly be the Chief Product Officer. Their job is defined as shipping products to impact organizational results.

The perspective of other executives can be illuminating, however. When we speak to CMOs about their impact on launches, they are focused on the specific, measurable business impact of launches. And often CMOs are put in the position of having limited resources to allocate across those launches – meaning they have to triage and ignore those that aren’t the most impactful. Sales also largely follows this model.

Engineering, on the other hand, often perceives every change as valuable – since from the CTO’s perspective launches are the downstream result of investment, and they are ultimately accountable for investment.

Bringing it all Together

The product launch process is the DNA that ties together the whole organization. Clearly driving accountability and understanding cross-functional roles from the individual contributor through the top executives is a critical component in assuring success.