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Product marketing vs growth marketing: what’s the difference?

Product marketing and growth marketing are essentially two approaches to the same two problems: how to attract customers, and how to keep those customers happy enough to stick around.

Organizational awareness

Last updated

14 Nov 2022

The idea that ‘product’ and ‘growth’ can be taken as separate fields of marketing originated in software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, so both disciplines are still quite young and fluid. However, there are clear conventions about what product marketers—also known as product marketing managers, or PMMs—and growth marketers each do, what success looks like for them, and where they usually collaborate.  

Drawing a line between product and growth marketing helps teams ensure they’re using both approaches to their full strategic potential. By ensuring your marketing strategy has both product and growth methods, you can be confident your product has every possible chance of finding and delighting your target market. 

The key differences between product marketing and growth marketing

We asked Chrystalla Pieri, a Product Marketer at Hotjar, how she’d describe the difference between product and growth marketing in one sentence. She said:

A Product Marketing Manager focuses on who the audience is, and a Growth Marketer on how to attract that audience.

Let’s unpack that. 

In a nutshell, product marketing focuses on the back-and-forth between “what do the users want from our product?” and “what is the product we’re selling?” A PMM's job is to understand the user as deeply as possible, and ensure that the product and its marketing speak directly to their needs.

Product marketers…

Continually review user research 

A PMM is always deepening their understanding of the user and their jobs-to-be-done (JTBD). This involves reviewing analytics data and seeking out product experience (PX) insights. 

Own the product’s messaging and positioning

PMMs relate the value of a product to the target market. This could include everything from creating landing pages that highlight key benefits, to helping choose the pricing model. 

Work across multiple teams

Product marketers work closely with product teams, and might even suggest features. They also work with customer success and sales teams to understand common objections. 

Rich user insights → impactful product marketing

Hotjar Recordings inspire product marketing efforts with playbacks of your users’ sessions. 

While a product marketer finds every possible way to make a product a hit with its target audience, a growth marketer is working to reach more of that target audience. 

Growth marketers…

Work with several marketing disciplines

Growth marketing is about driving growth by any means—from ads to PR to SEO. Growth teams might include, for example, a content marketer, a data analyst, and a performance marketer. 

Run data-driven experiments

… like A/B testing, multivariate testing, and split testing—to learn how to get more customers, conversions, or referrals. Failed experiments are scrapped, while successful ones are scaled. 

Use product experience insights 

… to formulate hypotheses for experiments. They use tools like Hotjar’s Heatmaps to see where customers linger on a page, and decide where to place key information.

🔍 You could say that a product marketer is the researcher who walks around the lab talking to everyone, and collaborates on ways to send a more customer-centric product out into the world. 

🧪 A growth marketer, meanwhile, takes a mad scientist approach to winning customers, constantly experimenting with new strategies. They churn through ideas quickly, discard failures, and double down on anything that works.

Similarities between product and growth marketing 

There are clear distinctions between how product and growth marketers approach the goal of winning customers. However, there are also areas where their interests overlap, and where they work together.   

Going beyond the marketing funnel 

Both growth marketers and product marketers play with an expanded version of the marketing funnel. In the classic funnel, marketers are only responsible for three stages: creating awareness of the product, and persuading someone through the consideration stage to conversion. Once a person has converted, the marketer’s contact with them has finished—thank you very much, well done. 

Product and growth marketers go beyond this. They both seek to drive:

  • Customer retention 

  • Usage of new features

  • Upselling 

  • Referrals

In terms of SaaS, this nonlinear, expanded marketing funnel exists largely because software is often sold on a subscription model. If customers commit to buying a package every month, quarter, or year, conversion is no longer a one-time event. Consequently, part of a marketer's role in a software company is to convince existing users to keep converting

Product and growth marketers often work together on the post-marketing funnel aspects of marketing. For example, a growth marketer might design an experiment to put a referral link in a prominent place in the product. They would then need the help of—and customer insights from—a product marketer to choose a location for the referral link prominent enough to convert, but without annoying the user too much.

The nitty-gritty of ‘who does what’ between a product and a growth marketer often depends on the structure of an individual marketing team. Here are some examples of what being a product and growth marketer might look like for every stage of the traditional marketing funnel—and beyond. 

Diving into user-centric mindsets 

Of the two roles, a product marketer takes the most thorough approach to understanding the user’s experience with the product.  In practice, however, both types of marketers need to have a user-centric mindset for their work to resonate with their target market, and often work together on customer research. 

For example, a growth marketer might analyze survey data to understand why a customer has chosen their software, and find that many respondents describe the product as easier to use than its competitors. If that’s the case, a growth marketer’s ad copy might sing, “Try out the simplest [product] you’ll ever find.” Successful growth campaigns speak directly to their target market’s perspective.

#A customer satisfaction survey prompts users to rate your product and provide feedback in their own words
A customer satisfaction survey prompts users to rate your product and provide feedback in their own words

If a growth marketer has created an ad, the PMM might own the landing page it links to. After analyzing the same survey data, they might craft a landing page to highlight the benefits of the product as users describe them. Then, after the landing page is created, they can use a tool like Hotjar to watch recordings of user sessions and see if visitors interact with it in the way they expected, identify areas of dropoff or rage clicks, and decide how to refine the page to fulfill its purpose more efficiently.

Growth and product marketing: a powerful combo 

For software companies, there's a huge benefit to investing in product marketing and growth marketing as distinct areas. 

Dividing your marketing team between growth and product specialists helps ensure you’re covering all bases when bringing your product to market—from the nuances of messaging and positioning, to star-gazing strategies for world domination. 😉

Much like peanut butter and jelly, these two approaches to SaaS marketing are quite different, and pretty potent taken alone. But when brought together, product marketing and growth marketing are a winning combination.

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