Should product marketing report to product or marketing?

Often people ask where product marketing should report. Should the function report to the product organization or marketing? 

There are no absolute right answers, but there is usually a correct answer for a given company at a given moment in time. So it depends, but on what does it depend?

If your organization offers a single product or a small suite of complementary products, then either the product organization or the marketing organization could be reasonable homes for a product marketing function. The right answer depends mostly on the affinity of the people running marketing and product. If one of them has a greater attachment to, interest or background in marketing, then that may be the best choice. Some product leaders are business and market savvy; others are more focused on product and technology. Similarly, some marketing leaders are product-oriented, perhaps starting their career in product marketing; others have backgrounds in branding or demand generation. The question is less about prior experience and more about enthusiasm for the function and a desire to lead a broader role in the company. 

Another way to put it is to say that the best home for product marketing is with the leader who understands what it is and still wants it. 

Assuming that you also have product management as a strategic role, you should welcome the overlap between the functions as an opportunity to collaborate. Having positions in different departments could be a catalyst for greater cross-functional collaboration. 

The best home for product marketing is with the leader who understands what it is and still wants it.

Should product marketing report to product or marketing? – Crispin Read, PMM Hive

For more complex organizations, the right approach becomes correspondingly more complicated. 

For large organizations with multiple divisions, each running their product portfolio, product marketing belongs inside the division or business unit. The alternative would be to create a gigantic central product marketing group that would have dozens, perhaps more than a hundred product marketers, sitting in isolation from the rest of their product division. Putting product marketing in the divisions ensures that the product marketers are working closely with the other product specialists in their division and leaves the central marketing group most concerned with branding. Demand generation may be in the division, centralized, in geographic sales entities, or probably some combination. 

Decentralized product marketing creates some issues, however. Product proliferation is a danger; multi-divisional companies are the main culprits of a “Products A-Z” menu on their web site, leaving customers little opportunity to understand what the company does. Product marketing approaches may be inconsistent across the portfolio. 

Portfolio-level marketing teams at the central level can mitigate these concerns by tieing the individual products together so that customers can see the big picture before diving into the details. Industry, solution, and product line marketing teams are examples. Fundamentally, it doesn’t matter that much where product marketing or product management report. It does matter that your company is doing all of the critical activities that the roles imply. Getting the work done is more important than who does it or to whom that person reports. 

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2 comments
  1. Nice write-up Crispin. You touch on it briefly, but I think the buyer and GTM needs warrant more emphasis. BU located PMM groups work fine, but often represent a very inside out view of the products. As you suggest, the portfolio marketing function centralized often overcomes these issues, but I have seen too many organizations (without these portfolio teams) that have BU based product marketing groups that fail to deliver on GTM objectives because they tend to be only focused on their own product agenda and even end up competing with other PMM groups for shared resources like demand gen, events etc – especially if you are the small product group versus some very large portfolios.

  2. Great points, Piet. From that point of view, there could be some merit to a centralized product marketing function across business units. Whichever way you cut it, running marketing across multiple business units isn’t easy…

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