There’s a world of difference between product marketing and growth marketing, with both playing key roles in a company’s success. Yet founders often struggle to understand which position to hire (if not both), or assume the two roles are interchangeable.
Understanding the difference between product and growth marketing can help you build more strategic teams and skill sets. This article will go over what product and growth marketing are, the roles and responsibilities of each, and commonly associated KPIs.
What is product marketing?
“Product marketers aspire to know the customer better than anyone else.” – Kevan Lee, Product Marketing Playbook
A product marketer’s job entails communicating the value of a product(s) to the right customers at the right time. They’re responsible for successfully bringing a product to market and keeping it there.
Product marketers are masters of messaging, positioning, and research. They must understand the ins and outs of your target audience, and identify your biggest selling points based on the customer’s core values.
They are also the bridge between the product and marketing teams, but shouldn’t be confused with product managers, who are involved in the actual development and roadmap of a product.
For example, a product marketer might conduct generative customer interviews to refine your product positioning, learn how your product is used, and ensure your target customers realize the full value of the product. On the other hand, product managers might conduct evaluative customer interviews to see whether your product is easy to use and meeting your customers’ needs.
What is growth marketing?
“Growth = System [your growth model] + Motivation [user psych map]” – Brian Balfour, System + Motivation = Growth
Growth marketing involves creating and managing campaigns that can scale lead generation and conversions. Most growth marketers assist with much more than lead acquisition and brand awareness, helping to push leads down the sales funnel using various tactics across different channels.
Growth marketing focuses on acquisition, activation, engagement, retention, testing, and conversion optimization.
According to Brian Balfour, you achieve growth when you 1) optimize or expand your growth system, or create a new growth loop of acquisition, activation, engagement, and retention; and 2) increase the motivation behind your audience’s desired actions, or give them a new motivation to take the action you want.
For example, a growth marketer might build out your attribution model and analyze your acquisition sources to determine which channels you should invest more time in based on cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value.
Bonus: What is brand marketing?
“A lot of you have heard about the ‘4 Ps’ of marketing. I’m going to talk about 3 different Ps today. They are your purpose, your position and your personality.” – Arielle Jackson, Three Moves Every Startup Founder Must Make to Build a Brand That Matters
We thought we’d throw in another commonly confused term here: brand marketing. Brand marketing is the practice of boosting brand recognition, trust, and loyalty. Marketers who specialize in this area focus on voice, values, and other parts of a brand’s identity so customers develop a particular perception of their brands.
Think of Apple, for example: when people hear the company name, they immediately think “innovative” and “easy-to-use products.”
Brand marketers often create the brand guidelines, voice and tone, and editorial guidelines that serve as the foundation for other marketing efforts.
Product marketing vs. growth marketing
On a day-to-day basis, the two roles could have very different schedules and goals. Here are some ways these positions differ.
Team organization and roles
Product marketing is usually led by an individual team member who reports to the head of product or the head of marketing.
Product marketers are typically segmented by:
Solution or feature – In this team structure, each product marketer is assigned to a particular product line or feature(s). Alternatively, they may be dedicated to a particular line of business — like sales, marketing, or finance — and assume all responsibilities and products relevant to that vertical.
Marketing specialty – Product marketers are assigned to specific marketing activities, like market intelligence, product launch, messaging, and sales enablement. Nevertheless, be careful to approach this role cohesively. For example, you don’t want someone who specializes in the sales enablement stage disconnected from the market intelligence/buyer research.
Customer segment – In this structure, the product marketing team is aligned with the sales team’s organization. Each marketer represents a particular customer segment, which could be arranged by demographics, business size, or other criteria (for example, SMBs and enterprise accounts).
Growth marketing, on the other hand, is generally managed by a team.
The size and roles of growth teams vary significantly, but they tend to have at least a:
Growth lead or manager – The person who oversees all growth marketing campaigns and prioritizes tasks for the rest of the team. S/he essentially creates the roadmap for the team to follow.
Growth engineer – The person in charge of implementing experiments and providing technical insight (such as deciphering and writing code) regarding the product and/or test.
Data analyst – The person who helps to piece together all the data across experiments and investigates how the growth team’s efforts impact the company’s bottom line.
Marketing designer – The person who builds creative assets for a campaign and/or specializes in UX design. S/he ensures customers have an enjoyable experience with your site and product, no matter what experiment is conducted at a given time.
Product marketers are typically responsible for product launches, beta tests, pricing decisions, product positioning, competitive research, and customer interviews.
Their strategy should start with the customer, craft a narrative that leaves an impression, and advocate for an experience that fits their audience. They’re responsible for all the efforts that go into a product launch and its continuing success.
Some may focus entirely on digital marketing, while others may plan experiential marketing campaigns — the main goal is to create demand for products among the right audiences.
Growth marketers lead A/B tests and a variety of other projects, depending on the company’s needs.
They’re experts in funnel and conversion optimization. For example, if sales are slow, the growth team may install an account-based marketing (ABM) program or develop advertising campaigns.
Conversely, if the company is looking to scale, they may implement marketing automation. In yet another scenario, the growth team may analyze the onboarding process or a product’s UI/UX to raise retention rates.
Key performance indicators (KPIs)
Product marketing KPIs build up to a larger revenue goal and reflect the team’s efforts in improving acquisition and upselling/customer retention.
These metrics may include:
- Trial conversion rate
- Trials/demo requested
- Net promoter score (NPS)
- Customer lifetime value (CLV)
- Renewal rate
- Churn rate
- Product usage
- Daily active users
Growth marketing KPIs change from project to project, depending on the campaign and goals.
They could range from top-of-funnel to bottom-of-funnel KPIs, and may include metrics that product marketers also target, for example:
- Traffic-to-lead ratio
- Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
- Sales qualified leads (SQLs)
- Cost per lead (CPL)
- Daily active users
- Customer lifetime value (CLV)
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
Where do the product and growth teams overlap?
As you may have noticed, it’s not uncommon for the two marketing roles to share KPIs, since both manage various, sometimes coinciding aspects of a customer’s journey with your brand.
Growth teams tend to have a broader focus than their counterparts, as growth encompasses the entire company (and so may include multiple products).
However, there are many instances when their goals will align, such as improving product adoption.
In this event, the product and growth marketing teams may work jointly to launch a referral program or automate workflows. They could design campaigns together and test new strategies based on what has or hasn’t worked in the past.
Where should you focus first: Product or growth marketing?
This can be a tough riddle to solve, but the best place to start is by looking at your company’s weaknesses or where it needs to grow.
For example, a new startup might need to justify their value. In this case, a product marketer can help refine their messaging to better communicate their benefits. A product marketer can analyze product-market fit, define your ICP, and position your brand as a strong contender for consumers.
On the other hand, a more established business might be struggling to convert leads. They could hire a growth marketer to perform a deep dive into the buyer experience and A/B test various strategies. That said, I’ve noticed growth marketers tend to be popular hires for both early-stage startups and enterprise companies because there’s always room to improve engagement and conversions.
Wrapping up – Product marketing vs. growth marketing and their roles in your company
Your marketing team is unique, with its own specific needs — and that’s okay. Who you hire is more important than following the exact marketing team structure, and growth and product marketing are not mutually exclusive.
Do you have specific areas you want to strengthen? Or are you looking at the bigger picture for your business? Determine what types of expertise and solutions you need ahead of time, then look for people who can fill those gaps.