Introducing – Connecting The Dots

My this site has content accumulated for almost 17 years now and has more than 500 posts. That means, on average 2.5 posts per month. At times there have been periods of lull and at times my writing has been on a high. What has kept me going on till now? Passion? My love for writing dates back to as early as when I learned alphabets. Perseverance? I am a creature of habit to the extent of being boring at times but somehow that’s the life I like – of habits and discipline. Or something else? More on it in my next post soon. But if there is one thing that I have understood about writing in the last 3 decades, it is the power of consistency.

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What is branding?

No, I am not going to write yet another post on a topic for which more than 10,000 books &  8,000,000,000+ google search results exist. Even though millions of resources exist but there are only a few that catch your attention and this post is about that :).

I recently shared a personal anecdote on how brand influences action. What I bought was just another drugstore brand but why I bought it, had some correlation between brand and buyer behavior. The why of my buying behavior resonated with fellow professionals in some of the marketing and startup groups that I am a part of. While I received much positive feedback about the post but it also ignited a discussion on what is branding? Not surprisingly, everyone had an opinion, but not a consistent one. These groups have a mix of professionals from marketing, product, design, and entrepreneurship background and all these roles require an understanding of branding, albeit of a different scale. So, it was interesting to listen to different perspectives, especially from designers and marketers. 

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PM, PMM, UX – Are the roles merging?

Product Management, Product Marketing, and UX Design – are these roles merging?

My answer – Yes and No.

I get this question asked often these days especially when we discuss the go-to-market plan in my product marketing sessions. The cohorts consist of aspiring product managers and as a logical sequence of the course they go through value proposition, UX design, followed by GTM plan. 

This question is quite genuine considering the way things are nowadays, more so in case of digital products. There are overlaps at times leading to joint decisions. While product management as a profession has been existing since decades but speaking of India, I think this career has gained prominent limelight in the last decade especially in digital and tech organizations. 

The new age PM is not only expected to know about products but also about design and marketing. Similarly, the new age UX is expected to know about the market dynamics and the new age product marketer is expected to know about the value proposition. Today a marketing person can’t say, I don’t understand the product specifications as its too technical. A product marketing person is very much expected to understand everything about the product and own up the growth.

Somewhere it’s all about the user! Everyone is expected to know the user and think about the user, which is great. 

However, understanding design is different from doing design.

Understanding marketing is different from doing marketing.

While as a role, it’s expected that a PM has a thorough understanding of all three but in reality neither of these functions are replaceable. Despite the fact that all these roles are centered around users, a PM, PMM, and UX bring different expertise to the table when it comes to actual execution and growth.

Secondly, it’s also about the stage and scale. For long I have worked in a startup, where I was owning up both the product and marketing along with managing the design team. Initially, it was all good, as it was one team who was owning up the user experience, product, and the growth numbers. But as we grew, this model had scalability challenges and finally, I had senior resources to lead the UX & PM functions as part of my team while I concentrated on GTM & growth. All of them brought in fresh perspectives and expertise into the overall product plan leading to faster launches and sustainable growth.

A PM doing the job of PMM or UX is not sustainable in the long run.

So, are the roles merging? I won’t say these are merging, rather they are aligning to each other more now and this alignment is for good.

The know-how of all three functions are getting interlinked, the knowledge expectations from all three roles are getting merged but when it comes to execution and ownership, these roles have their own identities and independent KRAs to cater to.

And whatever be the role, finally it was / is/ will be about the user and the growth.

So, how is the structure in your organization? Are you a startup or large scale operation? Do you have independent resources to manage these functions or are some of the functions merged in your setup? If merged, is it PM & PMM or PM & UX? Would love to know your opinion on the same. 

Digital Marketing is NOT Product Marketing

Digital Marketing is NOT Product Marketing.

Even for digital-only products, this remains true.

Time and again, I have been observing this hiring trend where a digital marketer has been hired and is expected to perform the overall product marketing role. When I asked the reason behind this from one of the companies whom I was consulting recently, the answer was:

“Oh we have a limited budget for marketing and we just want to do some Facebook campaigns”.

Ok, that could be for now but what about later?

“Even later, we think our prime marketing channels to promote our products will be digital only”.

Sounds simple and fair enough, isn’t it?

But it’s not that simple in the real scenario. It’s a small company and this marketer is expected to own up the overall “growth” of the product – from awareness to consideration, from lead generation to conversion. Yes, the channels to be used are of course digital.

Considering I have worked in startups for long, I totally understand the need for resource optimization in smaller companies. I have also been a huge evangelist for digital medium ever since the start of my career but, just because your prime channel of promotion is going to be “digital”, you can not expect a digital marketer to do the overall job of product marketing.

The candidate could be an expert in understanding Facebook or might be a specialist in search engine optimization but these can’t be the be all end all of product marketing.

The role of a product marketer ideally starts from as early as the market validation stage, right when the product team starts to conceptualize the product. A typical product marketing role during launch would look something like this:

These roles may vary a bit depending upon the product category and organization, but overall a product marketer needs to have a holistic understanding of marketing and not just channel-specific approach.

Depending upon the growth stage of your organization and product, you may decide to hire the person at an appropriate time but before hiring, do invest some time in deciding your goals and objectives and hire the candidate with the right skills accordingly. You may even decide to give your digital marketer the overall product marketing role in future but this upskilling will take time and may not necessarily work always. 

Thank you for visiting my blog & reading this post.