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How to connect product goals and product initiatives to maximize value

A strong product vision can keep your product team anchored to the purpose behind your product. But without strategic goals and product initiatives, you’ll struggle to make that vision a reality.

Last updated

7 Jan 2022
 Product goals and product initiatives

Learning to set product initiatives based on meaningful product goals can keep your product team on track, convince stakeholders of the product’s business potential, and make sure every product or feature you release meets your users’ needs. 

This article shows you how.

Hotjar helps you set product goals and initiatives that respond to user needs

Product managers use Hotjar to understand the blockers that prevent them from reaching their goals, and prioritize product initiatives to maximize impact.

The importance of purpose-driven goals and initiatives

Purpose-led product managers draw on an overarching vision to develop products that bring value to users and the organization as a whole. 

A brilliant product vision is critical—but you’ll need to take strategic actions to turn your vision into reality. 

Even the boldest vision cannot generate value unless you enact it in the targets and tasks your team works on day after day. 

Product goals vs product initiatives

Product goals translate the product vision into clear, measurable objectives. 

They define exactly what your product will achieve, the time frame for achieving it, and how you’ll measure it.  

Product initiatives combine key tasks and features into complex projects designed to achieve your product goals. 

Initiatives combine performance improvements, features,  and other activities into themes that structure the product workflow. 

A goal has a specific focus and often simply describes the problem you're trying to solve. 

An initiative is a long-term, complex undertaking that touches multiple teams and usually spans more than one quarter. Products might have many initiatives in flight at any given time.

Goals are important because they drive your thinking and planning on a daily basis; initiatives are important because they enable long-term success.

Andrew Drow
COO, Cloom

Let’s look at an example of how the product vision, product goals, and product initiatives fit together: 

Imagine you’re the product manager of a virtual events app. 

You might develop a product vision that’s something like: We aim to be the #1 product that empowers companies to host virtual events on a fast, secure, and customizable mobile platform. 

To help you achieve the vision, you set product goals like: 

  • Increase new customer signups by 10% in Q4 2022

  • Become one of the top 5 events apps on the Google Play and Apple store within 18 months

Now comes the fun part: working out what you need to do to meet these goals.

To meet these goals, let's say you need to expand into new user demographics or increase customizability and optimize the user experience and better meet your users’ needs. 

You then group the tasks and features that will contribute to achieving your objectives into key themes. These are your product initiatives. 

In our example, they could include: 

  • Optimize the free trial experience by end of Q1 2022

  • Enhance security features and permissions to meet the needs of larger enterprise customers within six months

  • Add four new collaboration features by end of 2022

Within these initiatives, you can map out specific tasks, features, and groups of features (or epics) to meet your product goals.

The main difference between product goals and product initiatives is that goals are the desired end results whereas initiatives are the steps a business takes to achieve them.

In short…

Product goals: the objectives that will aid you in seeing your vision come to life and ensuring it’s achieved in a timely manner.

Product initiatives: the work efforts and themes you will consider to achieve the goal.

Avner Brodsky

Why goals and initiatives matter

Successful product management needs a steady foundation based on clear, actionable goals and initiatives for your product. 

Bringing together product goals and initiatives: 

  • Keeps the product team aligned around what needs to be achieved and how to achieve it 

  • Stops you from getting distracted by every new request or idea

  • Helps you communicate how product tasks contribute to the company’s overall goals to bring stakeholders on board

  • Ensures that product resources are focused on the activities that will maximally increase value for users

5 tips for setting strong product goals

The first step to transforming your product plans into reality is setting the right goals. Here are five key tips:

1. Start with the organizational and product vision

Reconnect with the organizational vision to understand how your product helps the company achieve a deeper purpose and meet its business goals. Ensure your product vision acts as a bridge between business needs and user needs. 

Use the company and product vision statements to reflect on which goals will satisfy user needs while fulfilling business objectives. 

2. Get as much input as possible 

Setting product goals shouldn’t be a solo process. The more you collaborate cross-functionally with different team members, the more well-rounded your goals will be. 

Get stakeholder input to ensure your goals tie in with key business objectives and metrics, and consider a range of perspectives from your product team to ensure you set technically feasible goals. Involving your team in the process can also increase their sense of ownership and organizational awareness. 

It’s also crucial that you draw on user input to set data-informed goals. Product experience insights software (like Hotjar!) lets you see how users interact with your product and understand their experience by asking them key questions with non-invasive survey tools. 

3. Get specific

Making goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) might be a cliché, but for a good reason: it works. 

Include specific metrics in your goals to measure progress and track whether the product is adding value. It’s also important to define specific deadlines within your goals for the product team to work towards. 

To set better product goals:

  • Start from the top

  • Define what success is and the path to follow

  • Understand your points of leverage

  • Know your baseline, growth, and maintenance

Jonathan Tian
Founder, Mobitrix

 4. Find the sweet spot between ambition and realism

Excellent product goals need to be ambitious enough to provoke customer delight, hit business targets, and inspire the product team. 

But they should also be realistic. Setting overly ambitious goals and failing to achieve them can demotivate the team, erode stakeholders’ trust, and even disappoint users. 

Get input from product engineers—and marketing and sales teams—to help you balance ambition with realism when setting product goals.  

5. Keep user needs at the center

The unique needs of your users should drive your product goals. Use continuous discovery methods to constantly deepen your knowledge of users and what they like, dislike, and want. You should be in constant contact with your customers to ensure your goals are still relevant to their product experience (PX). 

Hotjar’s tools can help by giving you a continuous stream of insights on what your users think and feel as they use your product. Use Hotjar Surveys for deep VoC data, and look at Session Recordings and Heatmaps to get a quick overview of what’s causing users to drop off and endangering your product goals. 

5 tips for running goal-led product initiatives

Once you’ve set meaningful, data-informed product goals, it’s time to translate those goals into action. Here are our top five tips on developing product initiatives to help you meet your goals:

1. Determine what’s needed to reach your goals

First, work out what’s currently blocking you from achieving your goals—for example, it could be a lack of product functionality, lack of users, or lack of market recognition. 

But don't guess:

Engage in a thorough product research process and gather as much user feedback as possible (Hotjar’s here to help!) to understand what’s needed to increase user signups, retention, ratings, or other factors that will help you hit user and business goals. 

Remember, your product initiatives are broad themes that describe where you’ll invest product work, so look for more than a single feature or task—for example, ‘develop social media sharing features and integrations by end of Q3 to appeal to a younger user base’. 

2. Test your initiatives with stakeholders and users

Once you have a rough idea of the product initiatives you hope to focus on, make sure you test them before going any further. 

Engage in cross-functional conversations with different stakeholders to hear their opinions and bring in developers to give you a technical perspective. 

Crucially, you should also test your product initiatives with users. Use customer interviews, focus groups, and Hotjar’s survey tools to gather user responses to your initiatives. Ask users whether they’d use new tools or features, how those new features would meet their needs, and whether they’d be willing to pay extra for them. 

As you’re running a product initiative, keep testing. Once you have an MVP or new feature ready, use Incoming Feedback widgets to see how users respond before completing the initiative. 

Hotjar’s Heatmaps and Session Recordings can also give you a birds-eye view of how users interact with a new tool or feature, showing you whether they’re clicking through and how successfully they can navigate new features, products, or upgrades.

The way to go is to use the Key Technical Challenges (KTC) approach.

First, make partial prototypes, do tests, and figure out how to solve the key challenges and at what cost.

The project principal can then decide to continue with the next stage, or perhaps need to decide that for now, there is no cost-effective way to solve this KTC, and everyone is better off shelving the project.

Keesjan Engelen
CEO, Titoma

3. Map your initiatives to your product goals

Though product initiatives will typically have shorter timelines than product goals, you should map out your initiatives in line with when you hope to achieve certain goals. 

For example, if your goal is to increase signups by 20% among enterprise users by the end of the year, you need to define the timing for your product initiatives related to capturing enterprise users. 

Make sure the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) you use to measure success in your product initiatives are plotted out against the metrics you’ve incorporated into your goals.

Product managers need to connect their product initiatives to their product goals to ensure the correct measurements are being made and that they're making smart business decisions. To do this, you should specify a key metric that will be used in both the goal and initiative.

Nathan Gill
Chief Product Officer, Epos Now

4. Prioritize your product initiatives according to goals

Your goals should also determine which product initiatives are top of mind and help you prioritize initiatives.  

When deploying decision-making frameworks like the cost-benefit matrix—where you compare the benefits of an initiative with its cost in time, effort, and resources—your goals can help you understand which benefits to focus on. 

This will help you focus on the most valuable initiatives and streamline your product backlog management. 

5. Communicate your product initiatives

Product initiatives are powerful strategic tools—tie product initiatives into shared strategy documents that the product team can use as touchpoints in their day-to-day work. 

You should also communicate your initiatives with stakeholders throughout the process. Product initiatives are a great way for executives and business departments to see how product features and tasks contribute to business goals. 

Tying together product goals and initiatives 

For an aligned, focused product team—and delighted users and stakeholders—ensure your product goals drive your product initiatives. 

But the relationship isn’t one-way: product goals inform product initiatives, and what you learn from running initiatives informs new product goals.  

If your initiatives start to deviate from the product goals you’ve set—especially as you’re iterating in response to feedback—it’s an opportunity to re-examine your product goals and workflow to see what’s gone wrong and whether your goals are still relevant. 

By defining product goals and product initiatives that complement each other, you can ensure your everyday product workflow is dynamic and responsive, generating value for users and your organization alike.

Hotjar helps you set product goals and initiatives that respond to user needs

Product managers use Hotjar to understand the blockers that prevent them from reaching their goals, and prioritize product initiatives to maximize impact.

FAQs about product goals and initiatives