Product marketing and growth marketing. Outward vs inward facing. New vs existing. These two functions are often misunderstood and confused, yet both are absolutely critical engines of growth for technology companies today.
Let's peel back the onion and dive into the distinct flavors of each role. I'll walk you through their different focuses, messaging, research approaches, launch processes, org structures, required skills, and relationship to product management.
By the end, you'll have clarity on where these marketing cousins overlap, where they differ, and why you can't have one without the other if you expect to build a truly scalable, sustainable business. Sound good? Great - let's get to it!
The best way to start is by clarifying the core definition and focus of each function.
Definition & Focus
Product Marketing is focused on launching, positioning, and messaging new products or features. Product marketers own outbound activities like messaging, positioning, competitive analysis, and launching new products. They serve as the voice of the product and help determine product-market fit.
Growth Product Marketing is focused on acquiring and retaining users by making the product more viral, sticky, and habit-forming. Growth product marketers own inbound activities like activation, retention, referral, and revenue. They serve as the voice of the user and help determine product-user fit.
|Growth Product Marketing
|New products and features
|User acquisition and retention for existing products
|Product usage, conversions, NPS
|Funnel metrics, retention, referrals
|Outbound (website, events, ads)
|Inbound (in-product, virality)
|Voice of the product
|Voice of the user
Product marketing messaging focuses on product capabilities, differentiators, and value props for customers. Messaging is centered around why customers should buy/use the product based on their needs.
Growth product marketing messaging focuses on driving user activation, retention, and referrals. Messaging is centered around getting users to take key actions to drive growth. Messaging is often directly in the product experience.
|Growth Product Marketing
|Why buy/use the product
|Getting users to take key actions
|Collateral, campaigns, websites
|In-product, onboarding, emails
|Resonate with target customers
|Prompt user behavior
Product marketing research focuses on understanding target users, the competitive landscape, and market opportunities to identify product gaps. Research informs positioning and messaging.
Growth product marketing research focuses on understanding user behavior within the product to identify opportunities to improve engagement, retention, and virality. Research informs in-product experiences.
|Growth Product Marketing
|Target users, competition, market landscape
|In-product user behavior
|Inform positioning and messaging
|Identify growth opportunities
|Surveys, interviews, focus groups
|Analytics, cohort analysis, usability studies
Product marketing owns the launch process for new products and features. This includes planning positioning, messaging, content, and campaigns. The launch process is outward-facing.
Growth product marketing owns the optimization process during and after launch. This includes planning onboarding, adoption campaigns, and iterating to improve retention. The optimization process is inward-facing.
|Growth Product Marketing
|Positioning, messaging, campaigns
|Onboarding, adoption campaigns
|Drive awareness and trials
|Optimize activation and retention
|During and after launch
Product marketing and growth product marketing may be structured in a few different ways:
Separate teams: This is most common at companies with large marketing organizations. Separate heads of product marketing and growth product marketing report to a CMO.
Combined: At smaller companies, the two functions may be combined into one product and growth marketing team. A single head owns both outward and inward-facing work.
Distributed: Some companies take a distributed approach, with product marketers aligned to product teams and growth marketers aligned where growth is needed.
Integrated: A fully integrated structure has product and growth marketers work closely together under shared leadership. Work is jointly prioritized.
There is no one right answer, as organizational structure should support company size, strategy, and culture. But alignment and integration between outward and inward-facing teams is key.
Skills & Mindsets
While product marketing and growth product marketing have some distinct focuses, skills and mindsets also overlap considerably:
- Market and user research
- Messaging and positioning
- Analytics and data orientation
- Cross-functional collaboration
- Campaign and content planning
- Customer/user obsession
- Data-driven decision making
- Creative problem solving
- Bias toward action and testing
- Continual optimization
However, product marketing tends to prioritize skills like competitive analysis, market sizing, and outbound marketing. Growth product marketing emphasizes skills like funnel analysis, in-product experiences, and virality.
Relationship to Product Management
Both product marketing and growth product marketing work closely with product management:
Product marketing partners with product managers to define and launch new products. Product marketers are a key stakeholder in setting roadmaps.
Growth product marketing partners with product managers to improve product adoption and retention. Growth product marketers help optimize new and existing product experiences.
Product management, product marketing, and growth product marketing complement each other across the product development lifecycle. Open communication and tight collaboration among the roles is key.
In today's world, having strong competencies in both product marketing and growth product marketing is essential for technology companies. While there are important distinctions between the two functions, they should be seen as highly complementary. To be successful, companies need to skillfully blend outward-facing product marketing and inward-facing growth product marketing. The most effective organizational structures encourage tight collaboration between cross-functional partners pursuing a shared vision of growth.
1. What are the key differences between product marketing and growth product marketing?
The main differences come down to focus and goals.
Product marketing is focused outward on launching and positioning new products and features. The goals are achieving product-market fit, driving adoption, and communicating value propositions to customers.
Growth product marketing is focused inward on optimizing retention, engagement, and virality of existing products. The goals are achieving product-user fit, increasing stickiness, and driving referral through great user experiences.
While the two have overlap in skills like research and analytics, product marketing is external-facing while growth is internal-facing. Product marketing targets the market; growth product marketing targets user behavior.
2. What kinds of messaging does each function focus on?
Product marketing messaging focuses on educating the market on capabilities, differentiators, and value props of products. Messaging highlights "why buy" and is tailored to resonate with target customer segments.
Growth product marketing messaging focuses on driving adoption, retention, and referral. Messaging emphasizes "why use", "why stay", and "why share" - prompting users take key growth actions. Messaging is directly in the product experience.
3. How do the research approaches differ?
Product marketing research aims to deeply understand users, competitors, and market forces to identify product gaps and opportunities. Research like surveys, interviews, and focus groups inform go-to-market positioning and messaging.
Growth product marketing research analyzes in-product user behavior through methods like analytics, cohort analysis, and usability studies. Research identifies opportunities to improve engagement, retention, and virality.
4. What are the differences in launch vs optimization?
Product marketing owns the launch process - planning positioning, messaging, content, and campaigns to drive awareness and trials of new products. Launch planning focuses outward to the market.
Growth product marketing owns optimizing the user experience during and after launch to increase activations and retention. This means planning onboarding, releases, prompts, and campaigns to influence user behavior post-launch.
5. What organizational structures can support product and growth marketing?
There are a few potential structures:
- Separate teams - most common for large orgs
- Combined team - one head owns outward and inward focus
- Distributed - product marketers with product, growth aligned to growth areas
- Integrated - joint priority setting and tight collaboration
There's no one right answer, as long as the two functions align and integrate work closely.
6. What are some key shared skills and mindsets?
Shared skills include market/user research, messaging, analytics, collaboration, and campaign planning.
Shared mindsets include customer/user obsession, data-driven decisions, creative problem solving, testing/iterating, and optimization.
7. What unique skills does each function prioritize?
Product marketing prioritizes skills like competitive analysis, market sizing, product positioning, and outbound marketing.
Growth product marketing emphasizes strong analytics, funnel optimization, viral product design, and in-product experiences.
8. How does product marketing interact with product management?
Product marketing partners closely with product management to define and launch new products - from planning roadmaps to shaping positioning and go-to-market.
9. How does growth product marketing interact with product management?
Growth product marketing also partners closely with product management to optimize activation, retention, and growth of products. Growth focuses on improving and iterating on product experiences before and after launch.
10. Why are both functions essential for modern technology companies?
To build scalable and sustainable companies today, you need to excel at both outbound product marketing and inbound growth product marketing. Companies must blend external marketing to the market with internal optimization of user journeys. Doing one function in isolation is insufficient. Tight collaboration between product marketing and growth under shared goals is key to growth.