When you release a new product into the world — whether that’s a new kind of hat or an app — you need a sense of structure and momentum to keep things on track. Without direction, everyone will be pulling in different directions. This is where a product vision statement comes in handy.
A product vision is a roadmap. But it’s so much more than just a guide: It’s a document that explains why your product should exist. Not what it does, or how it does it — but why. Setting this out clearly will help everyone work toward a single, clear goal.
Product vision statements are important, and it’d be a huge mistake to set off on your journey without one. To help you get started, here’s everything you need to know about creating your first product vision statement.
What is a product vision statement?
A product vision statement sets out the long-term goals of your product. It should be short and clear and serve as a reminder to everyone involved about what they’re trying to achieve with the product.
It articulates the product vision in the long-term, like to be the number-one hat choice for people who climb mountains. Or be an app to help people learn a language in record time.
Why is a product vision important?
1. It helps you create your work plan
Picture a cross-section of the earth. There’s the molten core, then the outer core, the mantle, the crust… think of your product vision as being right in the center. That’s your ‘why.’ After that, you have your work plan, a strategic guide that tells you how you’re going to achieve the vision. It can include objectives or themes. Then you have individual tasks and schedules.
Drafting a vision statement first means you’ll always have the core purpose as a foundation on which to build everything else. It also makes it easier to articulate your objectives: Ask yourself whether each one feeds into the vision. If they do — then great. If not, it’s time to rethink.
2. It speeds up decision-making
Imagine you’re out at sea with no map. You could go left or right, forward or backward. Before you made a decision, you’d have to stop and think. Even then you still wouldn’t be certain. Now imagine you’re out at sea with a compass and an instruction to go north. When faced with an option, you can ask yourself — ‘Does this take me north?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ then you can go ahead. If it’s no, then you don’t. Decisions are fast and easy and made with confidence.
This is what a product vision does. Every time you or your team are faced with a choice, they can refer back and ask themselves — “Does this support it?” If it’s a yes, they can move forward. If not, they needn’t waste their time.
For this reason, a product vision statement is also a helpful tool for helping you identify opportunities. It sets out why certain tasks need to be done or why certain things need investing in, which helps stakeholders get behind it to work together to reach the same goal.
3. It helps collaboration
With a single vision, everyone can move in the same direction. Making sure your vision is present at all times means that everyone can ensure everything they do supports it,right down to the smallest schedule change. So put it somewhere where it’s easily accessible, and make sure there’s one person in charge of maintaining it and communicating it.
Who is responsible for the product vision?
The product vision is usually created by the product manager, VP of Product, or the Chief Product Officer (CPO). This person needs to make sure everyone knows it and is sticking to it as the project progresses. Everyone else is then responsible for knowing the vision inside-out and ensuring everything they do is in line with it. So the short answer to the above? Everyone.
The organization might have an overarching vision for the entire business — or there might be separate visions for different products. If this is the case, then there may be several product managers working in the same organization, with an overarching Chief Product Officer responsible for bringing these all together to form a whole for the entire business. It can get a bit complicated when a business has different portfolio products, but clearly articulating each of these is hugely helpful for cohesion and direction in the long-run.
Some real-world product vision statement examples
One thing all the biggest and most successful companies all have in common? Really great vision statements. Coincidence? I think not! Here are three to inspire you.
Google: “To provide access to the world’s information with one click.”
Uber: “Evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.”
Teach for America: “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.”
How to craft an inspiring product vision statement
1. Work out who needs to be involved
Invite colleagues and stakeholders who can all add their own knowledge and passion to the mix. Let everyone contribute to shaping the bigger vision, then gradually lead the conversation toward a conclusion. Everyone needs to be behind this, so make the process as democratic as you can.
2. Create a product vision board
Seeing information presented visually makes it easier to digest — create what’s known as a product vision board to help you organize your thoughts. Top tip: Use diagramming software to create it. That way, it’s easy, personalized, and shared in an easily accessible place (the cloud).
Once you’ve filled in the four bottom columns with as much information as you can, start work on your vision and add it to the space at the top. Then share your board with the wider organization. (Image Source)
3. Write your vision
Next, it’s time to create your vision statement. American business consultant Geoffrey Moore offers a fill-in-the-blank template to help you craft it:
For [our target customer], who [customer’s need], the [product] is a [product category or description] that [unique benefits and selling points]. Unlike [competitors or current methods], our product [main differentiators].
To help you fill in these gaps, think of answers to the following questions:
- Why does our product exist?
- What are our competitors doing?
- What does our product do better?
- How do our customers think of our product?
- What are the market opportunities over the next few months and years?
- What challenges might we anticipate in the future?
4. Fine-tune it
This is your call to action. It needs to be big, bold, and rousing. It also needs to be written in the present tense and in clear, jargon-free language that everyone can understand. (Top tip: Run it past a few people to get their feedback.)
Try to condense your product vision statement into an elevator pitch-style sentence. It should give anyone reading it a reminder of what your product is all about. The bottom line? Make sure your vision statement is inspiring but achievable, and broad, but insightful.
5. Communicate your vision to the wider team
If you want everyone to follow the product vision, then they need to know about it. Good organizational communication is a must here: Team members need to understand their objectives, stakeholders need to feel confident, and managers need to know in which direction to lead their team.
Share the messages verbally, via email, on posters, and during meetings. The more people know it inside-out, the more insightful questions they can ask, and the easier they’ll find it to contribute toward the goal.
A product vision statement is vital: It doesn’t just provide guidance — it also motivates and inspires, and helps you when you feel lost. It’s your guiding star.
Once you’ve created your product vision statement, don’t just pop it in a drawer and forget about it: Keep it alive. Share it via your diagramming tool and revisit it regularly to make sure it still holds true. And, if you achieve your vision statement, remember to update it — and let everyone else know.
Whether you’re creating a brand-new vision statement from scratch or you’re revisiting an old one, the important thing to remember is to have fun. Think big. And let your creativity guide you. If you have fun writing your statement, that’ll shine through and inspire everyone else who reads it.