Product Management vs. Product Marketing in the “Product Supply Chain”

farm-to-fork

So some of you looking at careers paths may be faced with the question of whether or not you are or want to be a Product Manager or a Product Marketing Manager.

You can certainly Google this for an “expert” answer, but some colleagues once gave me simple analogies that I think work well.

“A Product Manager is a marketing oriented technologist, and a Product Marketing Manager is a technology-savvy marketer.”

“A Product Manager helps get product on the shelf, and a Product Marketing Manager helps get products off the shelf.”

This last analogy is appealing to me because early in my career I was concerned with all things supply chain related in consumer product manufacturing and distribution industries.

So you can imagine in a small business a “product” – say specialty beef jerky – could be handcrafted and distributed by just one person.  But as the business grew into jerky of different flavors and packaging quantities, and demand required different production methods, no one would think this is a one-person operation anymore.  You need multiple people for your “farm to fork” supply chain.

At a minimum, you need people who are experts in sourcing quality materials (beef, spices) at reasonable cost to make products.  And you need someone who knows how to distribute the products to wholesalers and retailers.  Then you need someone who knows how to advertise and market the product to the consumer.

Understanding these basic ideas is important not only in your own career path, but in the types of people you have to hire if you are in a senior management role.  So it may not be reasonable to expect your Product Marketing Manager to know the secret formula for your beef jerky.  And don’t expect your Product Manager to necessarily know how to package your product, or what stores to place it in.

Farm to fork sounds simple.  It ain’t.

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