For Scaleups , User — 08.25.2020

Why Product Managers Absolutely Need to Socialize Product Vision

Jake Trowbridge, Senior Product Manager

As the product manager, it’s your job to understand your customer and identify features that keep your product ahead of the competition. Whether you’ve been handed a new product vision to execute or you have an idea of your own, it’s also your job to socialize your product vision and gain buy-in from internal stakeholders. 

Where should you start? What’s the process of soliciting internal feedback? And how do you manage the feedback once you receive it? 

Exceptional product managers don’t stop once they get feedback from their immediate teams. They understand how the entire business works, identify business KPIs and constantly ideate on how existing and new features could be improved to help the business meet those goals.

To get these outcomes, product managers must socialize the product vision internally and keep their entire team aligned about what makes a successful product. Here’s how. 

What Needs to Be Shared

Products don’t exist in silos. As a result, product managers can’t create product ideas in a vacuum. You might have a brilliant idea for a feature, but you need the right stakeholders to think it’s brilliant, too. 

Why is this important? Many product ideas fall flat because the product vision wasn’t shared with the right people at the right time. 

What problem are you solving for and why? Who does it affect? What’s its impact to the business? These questions should guide your entire product vision and strategy. Use them to stay focused on the high-level conversations. 

Most product visions are socialized through a product roadmap deck. When you leverage visuals to explain the benefits, more people will buy into your vision. 

When to Start Socializing Your Product Vision

Once you’ve identified:

  • a problem focused on specific solutions
  • a hypothesis
  • your success metrics

…you’re ready to start getting buy-in from your teams. 

The process is the same whether the product vision was handed to you by an executive or founder or you created the product vision yourself. No matter where the idea comes from, a product manager is responsible for validating and socializing the idea.

Avoid socializing your idea too early. If you aren’t confident in the solution you want to present, nobody else will be, either. 

Who Needs to Know

Take a concentric circle approach to determining who needs to know about the product vision. 

First, discuss your ideas with your immediate product teams. They work closely with you and can identify opportunities or weaknesses. 

Next, go to your engineering teams. They require more detail than most teams because they’ll focus on how to build the solution. Engineering is your resource to understand the effort and time that will be invested in building and maintaining the solution. They’ll consider what infrastructure already exists and what must be built from scratch. Receiving feedback from engineering will inform feasibility, timing, cost and effort. 

Then, focus on expanding feedback within your organization. Executives, marketing, customer success, sales, finance, legal and all parts of your organization are impacted when solving your customer’s problems. 

Understanding the business impact is crucial to solving the right customer problem.

Tailor Your Message to Specific Stakeholders 

It’s important to understand impacted stakeholders. Everyone likes to feel heard, and product managers can lean into this when generating awareness of their product vision.

You must get internal buy in from the people who will market and sell the new product or feature you want to build. We recommend asking: 

  • Will this feature impact how marketing packages the product for purchasing? 
  • Will sales reps be incentivized to sell this new feature? 
  • How will customer support manage customer inquiries and help tickets for this product feature? 

Since great engineering and product teams understand business KPIs, their feedback can inform your talk track for non-product stakeholders. The concentric circle approach will help you socialize the vision with your closest stakeholders early so you can maximize impact. 

Tips for Receiving Feedback 

Yes, everyone will have thoughts and opinions on your product idea. No, you do not need to accept every piece of feedback you receive. 

However, you need to enter the process with an open mind and be prepared for challenging conversations. Product managers hold the keys to the product — the reason why the business exists and the item that other teams sell, market, budget, and hire teams to support. 

Prioritize the feedback. Everyone wants to contribute, but not every idea or piece of feedback will create something impactful. 

If you’re concerned about your ability to discuss feedback on the spot, consider creating a feedback form for people to share ideas on their own or for you to fill out during the conversation. Always follow up with a one-sheet the stakeholder can use to socialize the plan in their own groups to get people prepared. 

When to Repeat the Socialization Cycle 

Congratulations — you’ve successfully socialized your idea among the right stakeholders, incorporated the right feedback and gained internal awareness and buy-in. Your product is almost completely built and ready to go-to-market. 

Guess what: you’re going to do this all over again.  

Product managers are responsible for a product throughout its entire lifecycle. Once it’s out in the wild, you need to test features, report back on metrics and continue iterating on features until they meet customer needs and business KPIs. 

Set expectations with your stakeholders of what’s to come, when they’ll receive updates and how you’ll keep the organization informed. 

Learn more about how we can help your scaleup socialize your product vision at every stage.