You’ve created a kick-ass Product Vision and Product Strategy but no one is paying attention. All your hard work is about to go to waste. Sound familiar?
Creating a brilliant vision and strategy will be pointless if it can’t be reliably shared with the people that matter. The good news is there are tried and tested ways to make a communications campaign a success.
What You Need To Know Before You Share Anything
In researching Product Leadership, we interviewed hundreds of product professionals. Since then we’ve continued to interview 4 or 5 product leaders every week. We invite you to read what‘s been written about creating a product strategy.
Here’s what the pros tell us about setting up your Product Vision and Strategy for the best possible success:
1. The Best Strategy Focuses On The Problem, Not The Solution
An effective Product Vision and Strategy requires that the team understands the problem extremely well. Focusing on a solution before adequate understanding has been established will result selecting a solution that the customer doesn’t want. This is often referred to a solution seeking a problem.
Focusing on the problem also makes your strategy less sensitive to a single technology. Over time, and as technology changes, different solutions solve the same problem.
2. Use Your Customer’s Insights For More Clarity
Your users know what pains they are having, but it’s very difficult for them to describe what a solution might look like. Don’t rely on them to point you to a solution. Use them to understand the problem that’s worth solving. A great product strategy communicates the solution as well as the problem it solves.
3. Really Valuable Solutions Are Worth Paying For
Focusing on problems worth solving means understanding if the customer is willing to exchange value for the proposed solution. A winning strategy must have established whether that problem is also something the customer will exchange time, money or energy (or all three) to acquire a solution.
4. Having Qualitative And Quantitative Data Is Not Negotiable
Data provides confidence to the product leadership and the team. When you start to share your strategy, data will help you answer questions that influencers have about your approach. You may never need to share this data beyond your company but it’s 100% necessary to have it at your fingertips at all times.
5. A Foundation Of Trust
Product vision and strategy can only work when you have your team’s trust. Successful communication relies on a receptive audience. Invest in this foundation before you blast out your new vision and strategy.
6. Keep It Simple
A trusting environment is required to create a platform for your communications campaign. Complexity is the enemy of trust because it creates confusion, doubt and misunderstanding. According to master product leader, Dan Ward, simplicity is addressed by considering the size, structure and specificity of every project.
If you’ve set the groundwork then you can start to put the pieces together for your communication campaign. And yes, it’s a campaign, not a once-off event.
How To Communicate Your Product Strategy
As Geordie Kaytes likes to say, “If you couldn’t hallucinate it, then it’s not a vision”. Any product vision needs to be something that can be explained in pictures, not just concepts. We’re not talking about a 50-page Powerpoint slide deck or a 200-node flow chart either. The best visual assets are generally a single image with a powerful and clear message.
Metaphors work well too. Beware though, they can often take on a cheesy tone, especially when a metaphor becomes an analog. If a product compares itself to dominant category leader, e.g. “we’re going to be the Uber of fast food”, it’s immediately lost its credibility. We recommend using relatable generic metaphors that cement the customer experience rather than a hypothetical comparison.
Human beings are emotional animals and not nearly as rational as we like to believe. All sensory inputs get filtered through the emotional centers of the brain before the logical parts get a chance to ponder them. Use this to your advantage by making the Product Strategy and Vision something that evokes excitement and even a little positive anxiety.
Tell A Story
Our brains are wired for storytelling. When communication is conveyed in the format we can quickly understand, we’re more likely to remember it and pass it along to others. A long list of bullet points is probably not going to make a memorable story.
Don’t Try Please Everybody
The best ideas don’t sit on the fence. If you’re worried you might piss a few people off, then you probably have a really good vision. Your goal is to rally those people who believe in the same future you do, not convert the naysayers and haters.
In our current digital obsessed world we forget that the best ways to communicate can be with good ‘ol fashioned printed materials. Posters, handouts, postcards, and business card sized reminders of the Product Vision are less likely to disappear with the click of a mouse. Our friends at Pluralsight have a wall sized vision and strategy poster in every major meeting place and busy hallway.
Test It Before You Launch It.
You need to eat your own dog food, or preferably drink your own champagne, before you launch it to the entire team. Take the time to meet with influencers and external advisors to get their feedback and reactions. This approach has the added benefit of slowly letting the team know what’s coming before it’s announced. Remember that trust thing? This approach ensures you have the team’s trust before the big reveal.
Communicating a vision or a product strategy doesn’t happen in one announcement. It’s a process. One that could take months, sometimes years. Prepare yourself and your team for a long-term campaign. Be willing to go over the same ground more than once for some constituents. Not everyone will get it and support it the first time around.
All communication is ultimately human-centered. 100% of your team and your customers are humans. Invest time in the people that will be affected by your new, or re-aligned strategy. Their support will be the most important determinate of your vision or strategy’s success.
Enjoy what you’ve read? Good, because there’s an entire book full of this stuff. Along with with two masters of product, Martin Eriksson and Nate Walkingshaw, I’ve written a book that all product professionals can benefit from.
We’ve interviewed hundreds of product leaders from around the world and from companies big and small. Their insights and experiences will take the lid off the mystery of great product leadership.