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Why SMART Product Goals Could Make Or Break Your Next Project

Why SMART Product Goals could make or break your next project

“Certain dreams I had, were shattered.” – Juicero co-founder Doug Evans

Juicero was a promising Silicon Valley startup that ended its operations in late 2017. The company sold a $700 WiFi-connected vegetable and fruit juice device that was great at first glance and had the investments to back it.

But, there was a problem. Early adopters figured out they could easily squeeze Juicero’s proprietary juice bags by hand. The machine had made itself obsolete and investors weren’t enthused. The company plummeted from a $120 million valuation until it’s inevitable closure.

The thing is, Juicero had a good product goal: creating the easiest, best-tasting juice system, with no preparation or mess. Unfortunately, Juicero saw only one path to that goal and it was the wrong one.

It’s easy to poke fun at Juicero and other quirky startups after the fact. But, these misguided product goals and approaches happen all the time, even at companies with highly successful trajectories. In 2017, a PwC study found that 54% of companies struggle to bridge the gap between innovation strategy and business strategy.

How can you keep your next product from falling victim to this statistic? It all starts with your goals.

Product goals keep you from getting lost in your own vision

The goal for any new product should match up in some way with the goals, desires, and experiences of the end user. Without a positive impact on the end user, a product is pointless and it won’t have met its goal. But, product vision can become cloudy to the point that you can’t see your goals anymore.

For example, it may be an impressive engineering to produce a juicing force that could lift a car, but why would any end user care? Lifting a car isn’t necessary to positively impact the life of the average juice drinker. Delivering on the actual product goal will.

High-performing companies focus on their product goal and weigh every decision they make against that goal. To do the same, you need to get granular with your goals by making them SMART.

SMART goals are an effective way to level up your product goal

When a goal is SMART it means that it’s specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. SMART is an effective method for bringing a molecular view to your overall product goal. It brings clarity, purpose, and cohesion to your team dynamic, which will make everyone’s role clearer and their job easier.

What does a SMART goal look like in the context of a digital product?

Let’s assume you have a digital product that’s been in the market for a while and you’re releasing a new version of it. A bad product goal would be to achieve 75% adoption. Why? While user acquisition is an indicator of whether or not you launched a successful product, this goal doesn’t go far enough. You can’t really answer the question: “Do people like, continue to use, and find value in my product?”

To answer this question you need “product adoption” broken down into SMART components, such as:

  • Increased engagement of existing users
  • Re-engagement from previous users
  • New user enrollment rate
  • New user engagement rate

Additionally, at each stage you could seek feedback on how users feel: Why didn’t they use the product before? What changes do they enjoy?

Product adoption is just the tip of the iceberg. With SMART goals, every person working on the digital product has clarity around what you’re building, why you’re building it and how it will impact the end user.

SMART goals appeal to leadership and create transparency

Digital product teams that don’t use SMART goals are stuck in a grey area when it comes to reporting to leaders. Their status updates may be short and lacking the detail that leadership needs to understand what’s been accomplished. This is a difficult situation to be in, especially when you need to foster a long-term working relationship with leadership that’s based on transparency.

In contrast, SMART goals offer a detailed look at whether you’re on track or off track. Nailing the detail down gives you the credibility you need to get the support of your leadership team. You can more easily unblock obstacles, make critical decisions, or unlock additional funding. And, it will be easier to justify ROI later on.

How SMART goals can actually make or break a digital Product

Let’s go beyond just talking about the benefits of using SMART goals. Here’s where the rubber meets the road and we see how they actually affect product outcomes. We’ll look at a bad example and good example that we experienced at GoKart Labs.

Un-SMART goal

Reimagining a financial transaction system. In this project we did with a financial services company, the objective was to make a really great user dashboard, and represent data in a beautiful way. Those were guiding principles from high up in the company.

But from a product goal standpoint, they missed some very specific things. This included auditing the amount of complexity in the data architecture. And, missing key interactions in backend systems.

We certainly built something that was beautiful and gave the data a fresh look. However, we underestimated the effort required to provide a holistic solution and great customer experience. We didn’t meet their full-scale product needs. And that’s because we didn’t have the right objective at the beginning.

SMART goal

Healthcare industry solution. This client wanted to rethink how it provides the right solution to members that need to navigate health benefits available to them. We’ve been very clear on objectives and key results. There’s an experience we need to provide for those members, employers, and the people working behind the scenes on requests.

By breaking down our goals and ensuring they met all the criteria for a SMART goal, we had greater transparency. Everyone knew what was expected from them and each goal along the way felt attainable. As each goal was achieved, we were able to continue innovating within this framework.

Blockbuster had goals, Netflix has SMART goals

Blockbuster Video’s product goals seemed fine at the time: optimize the total basket amount for shoppers in brick and mortar stores. They focused on things like increasing the number of candies and that somebody can buy at the checkout. What they lost sight of was focus on meeting users where they were living, which was online distribution.

Netflix, meanwhile, has gone through phase after phase of reinvention. Netflix saw early on that users would be able to get their media anywhere easily, so why do they come to Netflix? From mail and physical media, Netflix refined its goals from online, to content acquisition, to content originator.

Your next project needs SMART goals

Stop putting together lists of irrelevant, amorphous, and unattainable goals. SMART goals bring simplicity and clarity to your team, are easier to justify to leadership, and more accurately target user needs.

Want to learn more?

Learn how GoKart Labs weaves innovation into our digital product development process. Enter your email below to learn how to connect your digital product strategy with business outcomes in our free guide on Digital Strategy That Drives Growth.


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