“Product goals” can sound like one of those buzzwords that get flung around but which you only look into before meetings with stakeholders. That’s an impression I often get in conversations with junior product managers. Their eyes go blank when the term comes up and their mind clearly wanders to all the nifty features they could be conjuring instead of this boring biz-dev stuff.
Are they in for a surprise.
Product goals are a stepping stone on the road to producing a viable product that achieves market fit. No product that ever made it to fame, or even to profitability ever skipped the goals, and the fundamental understanding of what it is the team is trying to accomplish.
Why product goals are a critical link in the product chain
Put simply, product goals are a KPI-driven element that connects between vision and execution. Much of the product management process is about breaking down ideas into actionable items: ideation turns into users stories, epics and themes; roadmaps are composed of sprints and backlogs and so on.
In this context, goals are the leader’s way of translating the product strategy into more concrete ideas, which can then be made actionable.
Goals are still an abstract idea, but objectives (usually called Milestones) are a means of turning the idea into a tangible concept and achieving it. Where goals would be a strategic, measurable target that stem from Key Performance Indicators – milestones are usually a list of actions we’ll need to take in order to obtain those goals.
Example of Product Goals and Milestones/Objectives
To give an idea of the goal-milestone relationship:
- Goal – lose 20 pounds in 3 months
- Milestones – reduce sugar consumption to 1 item p/day; jog 3 times a week; eat fresh salad 4 times a week
You’ll notice that both goals and milestones are measurable and anchored in hard numbers.
Now, following the milestones plan doesn’t automatically guarantee you’ll lose all 20 pounds in 3 months. There’s a whole optimization process ahead, wherein you can adjust tactics and milestones if you notice you aren’t meeting the timeline. If, after 3 weeks, you notice you’re losing weight rapidly – you might consider tweaking your diet to match your new sports regime. There’s also the option you’ve set an unrealistic time frame, and may need to fine-tune your metrics/schedule accordingly.
Examples from the world of Product Management
While personal health speaks to everyone, I put together a short list of product-related examples that may be more enlightening to the product professionals among us:
- Product goal – increase user retention by 15% in Q1
- Re-do entire onboarding drip campaign (6 emails)
- Implement analytics tool by end of month
- Implement support-bot by end of month
- Add 15 items to knowledge base, based on user searches
- Design and launch incentive plan, including up to 25% discount
- Product goal: double average weekly sessions on mobile by end of May
- QA all mobile functions
- Improve loading time by 30%
- Add 3 top integrations to mobile version
When to develop product goals: examples
As I noted above, we can define product goals as KPI-driven elements that serve as the bridge between product vision and execution.
With that in mind, Product Managers should always be thinking through and re-examining their product goals for both new products and those already on the market. They should also remain open to new product goals — because successful products evolve over time, and markets are fickle.
And although any team might create its own unique product goal definition, it’s a good idea to make sure that the goals you set always answer at least the following questions:
- What are we hoping to accomplish?
- What’s our timeframe for meeting this objective?
- What will success look like? (Note: If you don’t have a quantifiable metric attached to your product goal, you won’t be able to determine if and when you’ve achieved it.)
With those criteria in mind, here are a few common types of goals that Product Managers and Product Owners might set for their products. You can use these for brainstorming your own product goals:
Boost usage with free trial
Reach 1,500 trial users
Increase trial conversions
Boost post-trial paid signups from 4% to 8%
Grow MRR from $400,000 to $600,000
There are also moments or events in a product’s lifecycle when Product Managers will want to add new goals — and possibly adjust their existing ones as well. Here are a couple of event-specific examples of product goal triggers:
- New product launch
Here, a Product Manager or Product Owner might develop preliminary iteration goals for the product’s release — such as 350 free-trial signups within the first three months.
I describe these as “preliminary iteration goals” because, until the product hits the market, your team might not have enough data to pinpoint the right range of new users to expect (or whatever other product goal example you’re using as a metric).
- Entering a new market segment
When your team wants to introduce your product to a new user persona or new industry, you’ll want to create some specific product goals for this event.
Perhaps you’ll set a goal of gaining a 3% market share for your product in the new industry within the first year.
In Craft.io, product goals are designed as part of the Strategize section. This structure allows you to carefully and thoughtfully assemble your strategic goals in containers, where they can be meaningful guidelines in your roadmap, and a constant reminder to the team and stakeholders where you’re going and why.
Great example of product strategy is waiting for Craft.io users after sign up. Or download it for free at Craft.io templates
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