In the intricate world of product management, a compelling product vision isn’t just a “nice to have” – it’s a necessity. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, he didn’t just talk about a phone. He introduced a vision – ‘an iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator.’ That vision changed the mobile industry forever. Your ability to craft, hone, and communicate a product vision can significantly influence the success of your product and, in turn, your career.
In my years of experience, I’ve watched many product managers grapple with the challenge of articulating an inspiring and actionable product vision. That’s why I’m here to share my tips for creating a product vision that genuinely resonates.
Why Product Vision Matters
A product vision is like the North Star in an ever-changing sky. Here’s why it’s indispensable:
- Directional Clarity: It offers a roadmap, ensuring everyone is headed in the same direction, optimizing efforts, and avoiding confusion.
- Alignment: When departments have a unified vision, they function harmoniously, promoting faster and more effective product development.
- Market Differentiation: In a crowded market, your vision will help your product stand out and offer something distinctive.
- Customer Trust: Delivering on your vision fosters a bond with your customers, leading them to rely on and advocate for your product.
Examples of high-impact product vision statements
Here are a few great examples of a product vision that helped these companies succeed.
Apple’s iPhone: “An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator; a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone.”
Slack: “To make work life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.”
Tesla: “To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”
Shopify: “To make commerce better for everyone.”
Establishing Your Product Vision’s Foundation
To create a good product vision, you must do the following:
Understand Your Customer
It all starts here. Dive deep into their universe – their pain points, dreams, aspirations, and behaviors. Utilize tools like in-depth interviews, surveys, and empathy maps.
Identify Market Gaps
By identifying what’s amiss in the market, you set the stage for innovation. Regular competitive analysis and understanding of emerging trends will help highlight these gaps.
Leverage Your Strengths
While ambition is good, it’s crucial to ground your vision in reality. Recognize your organization’s core competencies and ensure that your vision complements these strengths.
Crafting Your Vision Statement
Once your foundation is in place, you can begin crafting your vision. To create a compelling product vision, you’ll need to:
Keep It Concise
A vision is a guiding light, not an encyclopedia. It should be a brief and punchy statement that’s easily remembered.
Make It Inspiring
Your vision should be the fuel that ignites passion. It should be why your team jumps out of bed every morning, excited to contribute.
Ensure It’s Timeless
While products evolve and markets shift, your vision should remain a consistent anchor. While it should be aspirational, ensure it’s also evergreen.
Communicating the Vision
Communicating the product vision should happen across all levels of your organization. To succeed, you’ll need to do the following:
Tailor Your Message
Every stakeholder has a unique perspective, from developers to sales, marketers to C-suite executives. Customize your message to resonate with each group.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Use infographics, prototypes, or even simple sketches to make your vision palpable and relatable.
Embed it in the Culture.
Integrate the vision into everyday vernacular, team meetings, and milestones. Make it a living, breathing entity within the company.
Dealing with Skepticism
I don’t know a single product manager who created a product vision that did not get some level of pushback. This is normal and does not mean you must return to the drawing board. But you should do the following:
Stay Open to Feedback: Criticism is a gift, not a curse. Embrace feedback as an opportunity to refine and bolster your vision.
Show, Don’t Just Tell: Beyond articulating the vision, showcase its realization in stages. Early wins can convert even the staunchest skeptics.
Here are some product visions that may inspire you to develop a stronger narrative when evangelizing your vision and dealing with criticism.
Evolving Your Product Vision
While your vision is a guiding light, be prepared to make minor tweaks based on new data or changing landscapes. Staying flexible is critical.
Set aside time, quarterly or annually, to assess the vision’s relevance. This ensures it remains aligned with both market demands and internal capabilities.
Here are some articles that you might find helpful about this topic:
- 12 Traits of a Powerful Product Vision by John Cutler – John is a fantastic PM. I love all of his essays, but this one is particularly relevant.
- Inspiring with a Product Vision by Netflix Director of Product, Ebi Atawodi – She includes some helpful storyboard examples in this YouTube video.
- How to Create a Product Vision by Dropbox PM, Tansik Koyuncu – another YouTube video, this one is more for beginners. Still, it includes at least one good suggestion: to use the Amazon way of creating a working backward press release to make your story.
Carving out a powerful product vision is akin to setting the sails on a ship. It defines the direction and captures the winds of opportunity. As you venture forth in your product management journey, let your vision be the compass that consistently guides you toward new horizons.
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Share these insights with peers, and always remember: a vision is the art of seeing the invisible and making it a reality. Chart your course and let your product vision illuminate the path.