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Should Product Marketing Report Into Marketing or Product?

Product Marketing is a function so interconnected with multiple departments that, from company to company, it can even report into different teams altogether. Product Marketing - as its name indicates - is closely connected with both the Product and Marketing organizations. Factors like industry, company culture, and the specific leaders in the organization can play a role in where and how the team is structured. Where is the right fit and why? I turned to Marketing, Product, and C-level executives to get their take.

65% Said Product Marketing Should Live in the Marketing Org

Reason #1: Goals

Overwhelmingly, I heard that Product Marketing should live in the Marketing department. This came from product marketers, marketing leaders, and product leaders alike. One of the key reasons: focus and alignment of the Marketing team’s goals.

“Product Marketing should be working in collaboration with product in order to ensure alignment, however, a product marketer's goals should ultimately be set by leadership in marketing. Market adoption, penetration, usage, etc., align tightly with the goals of a marketing team, whereas product should be focused on more qualitative analysis such as user surveys/stories, NPS, user behavior/analysis in-app, etc.”

  • John Bonini, Director of Marketing, Databox

Download the Guide to Building a Successful Product Marketing Team

Reason #2: Skills/Job Profile

The skills and day-to-day of a Product Marketer are much more aligned with the skills and day-to-day of the Marketing team. While Product teams are responsible for building products, marketers are responsible for marketing them -- whether you’re in content marketing, PR, demand gen, or product marketing. There are a lot of shared inputs from both sides of the fence - e.g., market research and customer insights - but they are used to fuel different activities.

“When product marketing is part of Product, they gravitate toward being too internally focused and basically morph into product managers. The best way I have found is to have product marketing report to and be part of marketing, but have them sit next to product management and the development team. This allows them to be part of the communication for product, but think and act like marketing.”

Reason #3: Inter-Departmental Communication

By living in the Marketing org, Product Marketing also becomes a critical bridge to the Product org.

“Otherwise, marketing is completely cut off from product and there's nothing to bridge the gap between content and features. Planning content to match the product roadmap becomes extremely difficult as a result. I have seen this mistake repeated at more than one company and it's a real shame.”

  • Juliana Casale, Director of Content, Placester

Then Why Does It Sometimes Report Into Product?

Only a few of the leaders I spoke with said Product Marketing should roll up into the Product organization. I’ve seen this myself in a number of organizations - it’s often a result of the leadership available (e.g., Product leader who has led Product Marketing in the past). Another key factor can be how technical the Product Marketing function is - in highly technical industries selling to a sophisticated audience, the skills necessary for that PMM role can align more with the R&D organization.

Ultimately, the Reasons Are the Same: Goals and Communication

The majority of folks who said Product Marketing should live in Product cited some of the same reasons as those who chose Marketing: goals and communication. Firstly, which output of Product Marketing is most important for the company - product launch campaigns or input for product development? Who are the main “customers” of the Product Marketing team: the rest of the Product department or the rest of Marketing and/or Sales?

“I could see this belonging in either department, but it ultimately depends on the goals of the team. I think it's best to align product marketing with the goals of the product team. If the goals of the product team are aligned with the goals of the marketing team, then it doesn't matter. Product marketing can work on anything from market research, to case studies and training videos. When paired up with Product, they can help move activation and usage numbers, and stay close to software development projects that they can take to the rest of the organization with the right level of nuance. They can do the same when living in Marketing too - as long as they are incentivized in the same way.”

  • Magdalena Georgieva, Senior Product Manager, HubSpot

“It is a preference. Product Marketing (PMK) needs to collaborate a lot with Product Management and Marketing. I'm biased because a lot of the output from PMK is supporting Marketing (and Sales) - Personas, Messaging docs, Competitive Differentiation and Battle cards, Branding, Content - gated and web. Given how much Marketing depends on their output for success, I would lean towards having PMK be part of the Marketing org.”

  • Prashant Kaw, Sr. Director of Demand Gen, Progress

Finally, the question of alignment and communication can also be a reason for Product Marketing to report into the Product organization.

“It helps to stay close to the product team to be aligned on roadmap and other critical enhancements. When PMM reports outside of product, it can be easy for PMMs to get cut out of critical decisions.”

  • Sr. Director of Product Marketing, B2B SaaS Company

It Really Depends.

Of course, it’s not a simple choice, and the needs of the specific organization based on its industry or stage can influence where Product Marketing best fits.

“IMHO better into product in the early days because there is less of a fully-formed marketing team and product is more of the center of gravity. As sales+marketing scale, having product marketing in marketing makes more sense.”

Should It Be Its Own Department?

Product Marketing can be such a strategic and interconnected role that it may warrant being its own department reporting up into the CEO or COO.

“[Product Marketing is] integral to all marketing activities - needs to be tightly integrated into demand, awareness, customer comms, etc.; But in reality it is a critical bridge between the two and could also be independent and a peer of product and marketing.”

  • Jeff Boehm, Marketing Executive, Investor, Advisor

What’s clear across these responses is that it’s key to evaluate a company’s goals, priorities, and cross-team communication plans to determine where Product Marketing should live. Ideally, there will be close alignment with both the Marketing and Product organizations, but a company’s current priorities can inform where the Product Marketing function should focus. Are launch campaigns, messaging docs, and sales materials most important? Marketing is likely the right place. Or, is it more important for Product Marketing to be part of product decisions and providing the Product org with customer insights?

Finally, it’s important to identify the responsibilities and asks of the product marketer’s counterparts in either org - how will they work with product managers and what will each role be responsible for, say, in product training? How will they work with marketing managers and what will each role be responsible for, say, in product launches? If those roles are not defined, the product marketer themselves has the opportunity to outline how best these three teams - Product, Marketing, and Product Marketing - can best work together.

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Ellie Mirman
Ellie Mirman, a Crayon alum, is currently CMO at Mulberry, the consumer-first product protection platform. Previously, she was VP of Marketing at Toast, where she built and led the marketing function across demand gen, content marketing, product marketing, branding, and customer advocacy. Ellie also held multiple marketing leadership positions at HubSpot during its growth from 100 customers to IPO. She loves working at the intersection between marketing, sales, and product, and building marketing from startup to scale-up.