Every new product starts with a vision. But that vision can only be fulfilled if it is shared and understood by all key stakeholders. What are the keys to gaining this level of alignment?

You’re 6 months out from the launch of an exciting new product, and your CEO wants to talk about it.  As Product leader, you’ve been planning this launch over the last 6 months, and everything is right on schedule.  Your financial projections are rock-solid, and your development costs are in line with expectations.  You understand the features and benefits of the product frontwards and backwards.  You don’t know what the CEO wants to talk about, but you’re not concerned.  You’ve got this.

 

 

The Interrogation

 

When you arrive in his office, you’re immediately surprised at his line of questioning:

 

  • CEO: Tell me specifically about our objectives for this product?
  • YOU: Well, we think it’s going to be a far more advanced version of..(CEO interrupts)
  • CEO: I understand the product will have advanced features, but what are we hoping to achieve with this product?
  • YOU: Well, we’re projecting Year 1 revenues of.. (CEO interrupts)
  • CEO: I understand our financial projections, but what strategic objective is this product fulfilling?
  • YOU: Well, the impact to our bottom line is…(CEO interrupts)
  • CEO: How does this fit into our overall strategy?  Does it help move our product portfolio in the direction that we’ve aligned on?  What is your vision for this product?  How and when have you shared this vision with our other leaders? Are all of the key stakeholders aligned with your vision?
  • YOU: Well, I’m not sure what you mean…
  • CEO: How does your vision take into consideration industry trends?  How well is your vision aligned to a problem that the market has not been able to solve?

     

After another 55 minutes of being peppered with questions that you struggle to answer, you walk out…deflated.  What happened?

 

Well, in the scenario above, what happened was that your CEO had spoken to his top sales and marketing leaders and realized that they weren’t able to answer these same questions – at least not with consistent answers.  Why not?  Because there was never a clearly articulated, shared vision for this product.

 

Download the Product Vision Scorecard. This tool will force you to address questions specific to your product vision, provide you with an alignment tool to distribute to other key stakeholders, and generate a score to determine how well you have crafted your own product vision.

 

Your Product Vision Is Your North Star To Revenue Growth

 

 

My SBI colleague, Jeff Traenkner recently wrote an article detailing the importance of a product platform .  A product platform allows you to deliver a consistent experience to your customers across your entire offering.  A strong product platform can represent your North Star that guides how you design your customer experience.  At an individual product level, your North Star is a documented Product Vision.

 

A new product concept must be much more than a collection of cool ideas and features that reside in the head of a few champions.  There must be a vision that is shared by key stakeholders that serves as your North Star to the success of that product.

 

 

Without a shared vision among key stakeholders, your product will simply not drive the type of revenue growth that it may be capable of delivering. This is due to a number of factors.

 

Without a shared vision:

 

  • Sales will request features that are not aligned with the true objective of the product, and without this North Star, Product complies, driving development costs up
  • Marketing’s messaging will miss the mark, and will fail to deliver the desired level of demand
  • Sales’ messaging will miss the mark, driving opportunity win rates down for the new product
  • A sub-optimal fit into the product portfolio will cause higher-than-expected cannibalization of existing product sales
  • The lack of clarity in the positioning of the product will cause confusion in the market, diluting your brand

     

Download the Product Vision Scorecard to determine if you have successfully developed a product vision for your most important new product.

 

Get Your Vision Down In Writing And Force Your Colleagues To Engage

 

So, how do you avoid the pitfalls above?  It begins with a developing a Product Vision Brief.  This is simply a document that will captures the vision that you and other stakeholders align around. 

 

The brief should capture the following:

 

  • Who are the targets for the product?
  • What market problem should the product be uniquely qualified to solve?
  • How will the solution delivered by the product be differentiated in the market?
  • How does the product fit into your broader corporate strategy?

     

The key is not just to put your vision in writing, but to gain alignment from your colleagues and other key stakeholders.  It may be painstaking to get all key stakeholders to stack hands around a common set of answers to these questions, but once you done this, you’ve taken a huge 1st step toward the development of a successful product.

 

For a fascinating look at how one dynamic leader takes new products to market, check out this podcast.

 

Everything Else Follows Your Vision

 

There are, of course, a multitude of other factors that go into the successful development and launch of a product.  You must still plan and coordinate numerous moving pieces, ensuring successful development and a successful commercial launch.  Ultimately, all of these activities should point right back to the vision that you documented as the product concept first took shape.

 

Download the Product Vision Scorecard. This tool will force you to address questions specific to your product vision, provide you with an alignment tool to distribute to other key stakeholders, and generate a score to determine how well you have crafted your own product vision.

 


 

Additional Content

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chad Wittenborn

Bringing growth leaders into alignment around emerging best practices, enabling them to outpace their competitors and make their number.

Chad deploys a highly analytical approach, leveraging a background heavy on growth strategy, sales effectiveness, and operations, to drive top-line revenue growth.  Prior to joining SBI, Chad held a variety of growth leadership roles in industries ranging from Manufacturing to Healthcare.  He has worked closely with sales, marketing, and operations leaders to identify obstacles to growth and to execute initiatives to overcome those barriers. Chad has delivered results by leading projects involving structural transformations of sales organizations, new service line launches, incentive plan overhauls, performance management programs, and CRM implementation and adoption.

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