Define the North Star for Your Product

Göksel Temizer

Product Manager

Linkedin Profile

The data is not going to tell us what to do and it's not gonna be the single answer. We have to understand our vision of where we are going and then we can use data to help us get there. What is the measurable world that we want to create on the measurable side? I want to introduce a framework which is the concept of the north star. So we've had a bunch of blogs talk about the north star and generally, it's a concept that most people intuitively get but what we have found is that most companies don't know how to put that into action. So I'm going to walk you through a way that you can put the north star into action at your company. The definition of the north star is the leading indicator of future success. The north star is how we go from our vision to ultimately deliver impact. It is a guiding light that we will use to create our strategy and there are three things we want to do to create a north star. The first is that we have to define the game that we are playing. Using that, we will then create a measurable north star that aligns with our business outcomes, and then finally we're going to choose input metrics that are leading indicators and that's what's gonna determine our strategy. So start with step 1 define the game you're playing: this matters because if you think that you're playing checkers but everyone else in the industry is playing chess you're going to be in trouble and what we have found working with hundreds of different product-led companies is that generally speaking there are three types of games out there: 


  • The games of attention 

  • The games of transaction and 

  • The games in productivity 


So let's go into each of those. First, the game of attention: this is all about trying to get your customer, your user to spend more time within your application and some of the examples of north stars that you'll see here are things like time spent engaging with content several

Stories viewed a number of subscribers. We all know the examples of companies like this. So this is going to be Facebook, Netflix. The next game is the game of transaction: where you're actually trying to get somebody to make a purchase a transaction within your product, and examples of north stars here will be a number of purchases completed, searches completed, seed upgrades. We all know examples of these. We've heard about these companies as well such as Amazon, Walmart, and eBay. These are all examples of the games of transaction. The final game is the game of productivity: this is all about tasks' success and so the examples of north stars here are going to be like records created, messages sent, queries completed and we know these companies as well. So these are gonna be our b2b companies. The sales forces, slack, and amplitude are up here as well. So these are all the different games and as you can tell the game frames the type of north star but that alone doesn't determine our north star. We see that there are lots of different examples. So there are a couple of other things we have to take into account when defining a north star. The first is we want to make sure it is an accurate reflection of customer value. It's not going to be things like people just opening up your app or an ad viewed. The customer actually isn't getting value out of that. The second is going to be aligned with your product vision and the game you play typically has a pretty important role here and then finally we want it to be a leading indicator of revenue. Because we're trying to drive business outcomes ultimately as a product-led company. Certainly what a north star is not is a vanity metric. Most people are familiar with that but I find it's worth the time to actually talk about the vanity metrics so the vanity metrics are typically the types of metrics that sit at the top of your funnel. Now that doesn't mean that they're not important to track. It is important to track them but you don't want to hold people accountable for that. You want to find those metrics that are deep in the funnel and that typically represent something that is your north star.


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