Product Management , Strategy — 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 at getting feedback from their immediate teams. They understand how the entire business works, what the business key performance indicators (KPIs) are, and they constantly ideate on how existing and new features could be improved to help the business meet those goals. Read more on how to evaluate if your product roadmap aligns with your business goals here.

Let’s take a look at the process of socializing your product vision internally and why its imperative to your product’s success. 

What needs to be shared

Products don’t exist in vacuums or silos and therefore product managers cannot 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 are all questions you should not only be prepared to answer, but should guide your product vision and strategy. Stay focused on the high-level conversations over the details. 

Most product visions are socialized through a product roadmap deck. Most people have a better chance of being bought into what you want them to buy into when you explain it to them with visuals.

When to start socializing your product vision

Once you’ve identified:

  • a problem focused on specific solutions, 
  • created your hypothesis, 
  • have identified your success metrics, and 
  • you have designed proof of concepts, 

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

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

It is possible to socialize your idea too early in the process. If you as the product manager 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 this product vision. 

Start discussing your ideas with your immediate product teams. They work with you closely and can identify areas of opportunity or weak spots that you need to further ideate on. 

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 amount of effort and time that will be invested into building and iterating on the solution. They’ll take into consideration what existing infrastructure can be built on and what will need to be built from scratch. Receiving feedback from engineering will inform feasibility, timing, cost, and effort. 

From there, you’ll leave your immediate circle to 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. Ensuring you have an understanding of the business impact is crucial to solving the right customer problem and roll out of a solution.

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.

It’s incredibly important to get internal buy in from the people who will market, sell, and ultimately be incentivized by this new product or feature you want to build. 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? 

Great engineering and product teams will understand business KPIs and ask you a few questions that will help you create a talk track for non-product stakeholders. This is why it’s important to take the concentric circle approach to socialize amongst your closest stakeholders first. 

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 go into the process with an open mind and be prepared for tough questions and 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 for, and hire teams to support. 

Just like everything else in product – prioritize the feedback. Everyone wants to contribute, but not every idea or piece of feedback can be incorporated in what you believe is going to be most impactful. 

If you’re concerned about your ability to discuss feedback on the spot, consider creating a feedback form for people to enter feedback 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 it in their own groups to get people prepared. 

When to repeat the socialization cycle 

Congrats, you’ve successfully socialized your idea amongst the right stakeholders, gained their internal awareness and buy-in, and you’ve incorporated the appropriate feedback. 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 the 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.