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How product managers plan new initiatives: a 5-step approach

Product initiatives are top-level actions that guide teams, ensuring every feature or update in the roadmap contributes to product goals. Without clear and focused initiatives, your team will struggle to prioritize features. 

On the other hand, brilliant initiatives steer your product roadmap in the right direction and help you grow your business. But they rarely emerge from gut instinct alone and require careful planning that considers product performance and the user experience (UX).

Summary

Product initiative planning is an agile process that combines performance metrics, user insights, and employee wisdom to interpret data and identify actions supporting product goals. 

Embrace this data-backed planning approach to make informed decisions and home in on high-impact initiatives. Here’s how to do it in just five steps.

  1. Commence or continue product research: delve into business metrics and seek customer feedback to see the bigger picture

  2. Connect initiatives with product goals: tie initiatives, features, and activities to product goals to tighten your plan

  3. Conduct user tests: validate changes early to maximize team resources 

  4. Communicate your findings with confidence: share data-backed insights and action plans to gain stakeholder buy-in

  5. Craft actionable steps: organize your initiatives in one place to simplify tracking and collaboration

1. Commence or continue product research

Product research is a key initial phase in launching new initiatives. This deep dive into product usage, UX, and customer behavior enhances your understanding of user needs and preferences, so you can uncover ways to improve your offering and optimize product-market fit.

Combine quantitative and qualitative approaches to ensure you get a complete picture of what users expect from your product and create a list of key initiatives to explore:

  • Quantitative analysis: evaluate core business metrics like conversion rates, churn rates, and customer lifetime value (CLV) to see how well your product is doing. A high churn rate could mean user satisfaction or product engagement issues, prompting a deeper qualitative study.

  • Qualitative analysis: collect user feedback to reveal why people use your product in certain ways. For example, a feedback widget (like the red button on the right side of this page →) lets users rate and comment on product features, which tells you what they like or dislike, and what needs improving.

Let the insights from numeric data and user feedback guide your feature prioritization. This holistic approach helps you make decisions that truly reflect what your users want and need, whether you’re releasing a brand-new product or updating an existing one.

💡 Pro tip: use Hotjar to get a holistic overview of your insights. While well-rounded insights are game-changing, product managers can’t spend too much time switching between quant and qual data. 

Improve your workflow by tracking your metrics and product experience insights in one place, with a single suite: Hotjar (hello there 👋). For example:

  • Use templates in Hotjar Surveys, like Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) and customer satisfaction (CSAT), to put a number on your customers’ long-term and short-term happiness 

  • Then, follow up with a simple, open-ended question, such as What was the reason for your rating? to decipher the reason behind their unhappiness or delight

Hotjar PM Laura Wong suggests aggregating the quantitative data (ratings) to get a summary and then exporting survey responses as a .csv file. Take the comments verbatim and look for themes in the answers to identify pockets of problems. Then, you can generate problem-solving actions for shortlisting, such as building a live chat feature.

Gauge customer satisfaction over time through the NPS® survey

2. Connect initiatives with product goals

Now, it’s time to move from research to action. Tie shortlisted initiatives into existing or new product goals. Then, adopt a product prioritization framework to score and rank initiatives based on their potential impact on these goals. Data-informed teams rely on multiple frameworks, such as

  • RICE: prioritize initiatives by assessing the potential number of users they’ll reach, their potential revenue and impact, the confidence you have in your data, and the required effort to bring them to life

  • MoSCoW: categorize initiatives into priority tiers backed by user experience data to resolve opinion conflicts among decision-makers, including key stakeholders and your team

  • Kano: compare customer delight levels, gauging user demand and reaction, then determine how much effort and cost you need to invest into your initiatives

  • Cost of delay (CoD) analysis: consider the financial or strategic impact of delaying a feature rollout

Once your evaluation is over, group activities and features under each initiative.

#Three examples showing the relationship among product goals, initiatives, and features
Three examples showing the relationship among product goals, initiatives, and features

Use Hotjar’s product experience insights to discover high-impact initiatives and reach your product goals.

3. Conduct user tests

At this point, you should have put the most critical initiatives on your product roadmap. But product planning doesn’t stop there—so what’s next? You need to gather evidence and build a business case to justify prioritizing one feature over another. As such, you need to integrate these popular techniques and tools used for product roadmap prioritization:

  • Session recordings: use Hotjar Recordings for low-cost usability testing to watch playbacks of anonymized user actions, such as clicks, movements, and scrolling. This lets you see exactly where people engage, stumble, u-turn, or completely leave—so you glean vital insights for your product planning process.

  • User interviews: set up user interviews via Engage to understand the why behind user actions and decisions. For example, you might learn that people from your biggest customer segment churned because they chose the wrong plan. So, as part of a revenue-driven initiative, you’d develop a suitable alternative (e.g. offer a new plan that provides maximum value to this segment).

  • Heatmaps: analyze heatmaps to get a clear, visual overview of how people interact with your product. See where users frequently click and scroll, so you can uncover features they engage with or ignore and prioritize bug fixes in your backlog.

  • Concept surveys: launch concept testing surveys to experiment with a new product feature or design concept. Learn whether it’s relevant to your target market—how useful and practical the proposed feature or design is in their daily lives.

💡 Pro tip: start with our built-in template to create a solid concept testing survey in seconds. Add images to immediately show your ideas to respondents and get their opinions on your features and designs.

Gauge user reactions to new concepts with Hotjar

The above activities allow you to weigh initiatives against possible risks and opportunities. They’re especially valuable when your team is divided between pursuing innovation or letting practicality take over.

4. Communicate your findings with confidence 

Next, share important findings as they crop up during and after qualitative and quantitative user research. Take advantage of Hotjar’s integrations with communication platforms like Slack to inform team members of ‘Eureka!’ moments. For example, receive alerts when someone answers your concept testing survey or leaves feedback and forward insightful responses to your team for a thorough discussion.

I use Feedback to gather evidence from users, and connect it to Slack via the Hotjar <> Slack integration. This way, every time a user leaves feedback, I get a notification on Slack, can tag my team, or discuss it with them in one place.

Laura Wong Product Manager, Hotjar

Then, propose new initiatives that you can now back up with strong product and user experience insights. When stakeholders see the immediate value for the company and users, they’re more likely to support your user-led product decisions. 

5. Craft actionable steps

Whenever you greenlight an initiative, feature, or activity—including conducting further product or market research—organize the actions in your favorite project management tool, like ClickUp or Trello.

Then, add these approved initiatives to your product roadmap. For more granular monitoring, create a separate initiatives board for your team, including details like requirements, relevant metrics, status, and timeframe.

💡 Pro tip: let artificial intelligence do the legwork so you can focus on putting your next steps into action. Hotjar’s AI for Surveys generates an in-depth report based on your open-text responses. The report includes findings, quotes, and next steps—a good starting point for your product initiative planning process.

Our AI assistant crafts user insight reports instantly, providing an extra pair of hands to busy product managers

Start planning successful initiatives today

Equipped with your data-backed planning approach, you can now start developing clear, well-defined initiatives that help you gain stakeholder buy-in and drive business growth. Remember to keep performance data and user insights at the heart of your initiatives, so you can prioritize features and updates more effectively, hit your milestones one by one, and make your product goals a reality.

Ensure top-tier product planning with Hotjar

Combine performance metrics with product experience insights to enrich your plan. Drive action and make decisions that lead to growth.

FAQs about product initiative planning