Question: “Product management is often described as representing outbound and inbound activities. What are outbound and inbound activities?”
Answer: In their generic meaning, outbound and inbound activities, a.k.a. upstream and downstream activities, refer to the interaction efforts and the bi-directional flow of information between a company and its target markets.
In the context of the product management function, product planning and product marketing individually perform both outbound and inbound activities.
Product planning queries users in the market for information that will generate market requirements, which shapes the product (inbound); and then provides the users in the market with a product that solves the market problem (outbound).
Product marketing queries buyers in the market for information that will help buyers evaluate the product’s value (inbound); and then in different ways, e.g., sales, advertising, social media, provides the buyers in the market with the information that they need to make a buying decision (outbound).
Some perspectives in the industry refer to outbound activities as being primarily marketing activities that attempt to affect customers; and inbound activities as information gathering efforts to help build products. This overly simplified perspective results in encompassing catchy phrases such as “Product management [sic] listens to the market and product marketing talks to the market”. Indeed this rudimentary approach to explain the interaction between product management and the market is easy to remember but is also fundamentally incomplete because all entities in product management individually perform both outbound and inbound activities.