A product north star is a measurement of a product management team’s ability to solve their customer’s core problem, as well as how that relates to the long-term financial goals of the company.
A product north star, or north star metric, is essentially the gold standard by which the product team is judged within an organization. It’s a broad-brush approach, no doubt, but it gives key stakeholders a fast and simple means by which to assess and monitor a product’s success and its alignment to company objectives.
The north star model, sometimes known as the north star framework, is a means of visualizing how a product north star is decided upon. It is effectively a hierarchy of metrics and KPIs with the product north star, quite appropriately, sitting right at the top.
It’s easy to confuse a KPI, which can be quite generic — more downloads, more users, more orders — with a north star, so the framework visualization can bring clarity. Key KPIs are always important, but they should serve a greater purpose — and that’s the north star.
Perhaps the best way to understand how a product north star operates in practice is with a real-world example.
Let’s imagine you’ve built an app that helps users get discounts on their online shopping. In this case, you might have key KPIs which include:
X number of downloads per month
X daily active users
X discount activations per week
These are all valuable metrics, but they don’t encapsulate the true value of the product to a customer.
In this case, a solid product north star would be Total percentage discount activated per week. Why? Because the discount is what is most valuable to a customer, and the thing which is most likely to have them using the app again and again.