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What Does A Product Manager Do?

Sumit Gupta
May 2011

The objective of marketing is to
    sell more product
      to more people
         more often
            at higher prices
- Sergio Zieman, ex-CMO Coca Cola

Text books usually call this the 5 Ps: Product, Pricing, Place, Promotion, People.  This article is just a laundry list -- details are left to other articles I authored.

Marketing can be divided up into two types of activities:

  • Inbound product and business management
  • Outbound product marketing

Inbound product management  involves

  • Manging the lifecycle of a product
    • Requirements gathering
    • Product strategy (how many products, product segmentation)
    • Product definition & feature prioritization
    • Some amount of program management
    • New product introduction
    • Customer feedback
    • Positioning features -- this is a key task of PMs
  • Business management
    • Pricing
    • Revenue forecasting
    • Supply management
    • Business operations
Product managers spend a lot of time working with engineering to prioritize roadmap features based on business priorities. This means gathering customer feedback to determine what features:
  • A customer will pay for
  • Will generate new business
  • Help renew existing business
This point is super important – customers will always ask for tons of features, but the product manager prioritizes those that customers will actually pay for. At every step, you ask – will the customer not buy if we don’t add this feature?

Outbound product marketing focuses on revenue generation on products. This means

  • Developing a market segment strategy
    • Segment marketing sizing
    • Which segments to focus on -- a function of segment market size, product fit, and ability to access
    • Segment revenue strategy
  • Creating sales tool
    • Product positioning - this is a crossover between inbound and outbound product marketing
    • Product brochures
    • Web strategy and web content
    • Simple, effective sales tools based on the type of sales team
    • Success stories
  • Product launch and public communication
    • Press release
    • Press briefings & launch events
    • Campaigns & advertising
    • Marketing campaigns to reach customers
    • Promotions, bundles, channel programs

For example, a new bagel store may run a campaign to get the word out about their opening. Instead of running ads in the local newspaper, it will probably be more effective to call on local offices and offer discounted breakfast bagels once a week. Don’t forget to leave coupons behind for the employees!

You can learn about marketing (in particular in startups) from some of the articles I authored.

Please leave a comment. I really look forward to your experiences and feedback.

Questions, Comments? Send me a note at sumitg AT

Sumit Gupta
Please feel free to contact me at sumitg at

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