Foundation Series: Inbound and Outbound Product Management

Product Management Class

Inbound product manager or outbound product manager – what is the difference? We’ll look at the overall role, and the breakdown of responsibilities.

Product Manager Role Definition

More often than not, people talk about product managers without the qualifier of inbound or outbound. We wrote an article last spring where we discussed the role of the product manager. Michael Shrivathsan defined the role of product management as being split into six areas:

  1. Market Research
  2. Product Definition and Design
  3. Project Management
  4. Evangelize the Product
  5. Product Marketing
  6. Product Life Cycle Management

For more details on those six areas, check out our earlier article, as well as Michael’s article.

Everywhere At Once

The product manager is responsible for interacting with customers, marketing, and sales teams. This communication helps the product manager develop an understanding of the market. The product manager also researches the market – understanding competitors and existing products. From the understanding he gains, the product manager can identify needs and opportunities.

The product manager then works to turn this understanding of market needs into a set of requirements that drive the creation of a product.

Product managers shepherd the product through its life cycle. Product managers identify how the product will evolve and adapt to changing market needs. The product manager may drive the evolution of the product to compete in additional markets.

Product managers also help prepare the company to successfully sell the product. They define strategies for attacking the target market. They help the sales team understand what the product does, and how to position it against competitors. And they support the sales team in the field.

How do we split this up into inbound and outbound?

Inbound Product Management

The inbound part of of the job focuses on understanding what the product needs to be.
Inbound activities include

  • Understanding the market needs and our capability to meet them.
  • Defining a product strategy to meet those needs.
  • Planning the creation of the product, including documenting requirements.

Outbound Product Management

The outbound part of the job focuses on making sure that the product is a success in the market.
Outbound activities include

  • Defining a go-to-market strategy.
  • Preparing the sales team with an understanding of the product and market.
  • Supporting the sales team in execution with a focus on multi-customer activities.


Inbound product management is more about listening, and outbound product management is more about talking.

– – -Check out the index of the Foundation Series posts for other introductory articles.

4 thoughts on “Foundation Series: Inbound and Outbound Product Management

  1. Thank you for you wonderful contribution on product management, so what should be done in product strategy in relation to business plan?

  2. I had this doubt whether the two roles are different and if one path can be chosen over the other. But this article clarifies that inbound and outbound product management are just two parts of one product manager. Can they be picked up separately? I mean if I am more interested in inbound product management, can I just handle that role, and let outbound be handled by another product manager? If so, are there any obvious repercussions in this break of responsibility?

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