Traditionally really small software companies have Development, Marketing, Sales and that’s about it (Ok I am generalizing here – there might be a lawyer, a finance person or two, possibly an IT person, work with me on this one, ok?).

Once the organization has landed a customer or two, and have started thinking beyond release 1 and basic survival, they typically start thinking about forming a real product management group.  The idea is that these folks will focus on the product roadmap and future releases, competitive analysis and they will also do things like product demos, and a lot of more technical sales support.

Meanwhile there is the “Marketing” department which is really pure marketing communications and is focused on things like building the website, maybe creating a brochure, and writing press releases.  They might book an analyst meeting or set up press interviews but they would rarely be the spokesperson.

This set up is broken for lots of reasons but the main one is that there is this idea that marketing doesn’t need to understand the product.  In some cases, I have heard folks argue that it is better if marketing doesn’t get “bogged down” in product details and stays “creative”.

If I look at the Pragmatic Marketing Framework (you product management types will know this thing by heart.) where they break down the responsibilities of product managers/marketers and recommend something called “The Product Management Triad” to cover the larger product management and product marketing functions.

Here is what that looks like (here’s me crossing my fingers it is ok for me to reproduce this here – let me know Pragmatic Marketing folks if I’m breaking the law.  Click for a larger image):

Product management triad

Here’s the thing that I keep thinking every time I come across the Product Management/Marketing Communications setup.  Why wouldn’t you start with Product Marketing and add a marketing communications person later?

If I look at the boxes under Product Marketing – what else is left to do?  A solid product marketing person can do all of the stuff in the Product Marketing Manager boxes (a senior one can cover product strategy too) and probably most of the communications stuff too.  Can they write press releases and brochures?  Sure they can.  They are going to outsource graphics (or hire a graphics person), the same way the marketing communications person did.  Sure when you get big enough maybe you can afford to hire a person that just worries about the look and feel of the website but this person shouldn’t be the first marketing person you hire.  The first marketing person you hire should have a solid product background (or the ability to pick it up quickly) so that they brief analysts, build presentations, write white papers, do a competitive write-up as well as manage the vendor building the web site and execute a lead gen program.

Let’s face it, we are way past the days where the first marketing thing a company had to worry about was advertising.  Why are we still building companies that way?