Products, like people, have life cycles

Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

You know the routine. We’re born, we grow, eventually mature and ultimately die. That’s our life cycle as human beings – birth, growth, maturity and death. But did you know that the same life cycle also applies to companies. More importantly, those four stages apply equally to the “stuff” companies sell – their products and services.

Whatever stuff your company happens to sell, it’s not likely to sell well forever. There is the moment when it’s introduced – birth. That’s followed by a period during which sales began to soar – growth. Over time those sales will plateau – maturity. Eventually, sales of your stuff will start to decrease – the death cycle – prompted by competition, a decline in the need for what you’re selling, often both.

That same cycle can also apply to entire industries. Not too many years ago there was a big push for people to invest in privately owned “public telephones,” phones located in public places so that a person could walk up to one, drop in a few coins, and talk to anyone anywhere in the world. Privately owned public telephones were particularly prevalent in airports and hotel lobbies.

They’re not any more. Why? The proliferation of cell phones and the increased popularity of computers able to use the Internet, to name just two reasons. For the privately owned public phone industry there was birth, a short growth spurt, a shorter-yet period of maturity – then almost sudden death.

But let’s stay with companies for the moment. If you’re a one-product or one-service company, guess what? Unless you come up with new stuff – or old stuff you’ve vastly improved – the life cycle of your company is going to closely mirror the life cycle of your original single product or service, meaning it will eventually die.

Companies that make or sell just one product or service don’t have a very promising future. What’s needed to stave off the eventual death phase of such a company, even with improved versions of your stuff, is new stuff, exciting stuff, affordable stuff, stuff people actually need – or can be convinced they want, which is even more promising.

Better still, if you can phase in each new product or service so that their individual growth phases begin just before your current best-seller is approaching the end of its maturity phase, your company’s product line can remain in an almost constant state of growth and maturity. That’s because each new item can be introduced in a way that allows it to achieve its own growth and maturity phases as part of an on-going sequence of those phases rather than as part of a mass introduction of several new items at one time.

As a result, your company can continuously maximize its income because as Item A, for example, completes its maturity phase, Item B will have moved through its growth phase on the way to its own maturity phase, replaced by Item C entering its growth phase.

Want to stay in business for a while longer? Then develop more than one successful product or service. In fact, develop several you can sell consecutively and later offer concurrently. That type of planning can substantially extend the combined length of your company’s growth and maturity phases along with the profitability of your company.

• An award-winning marketing professional and certified business communicator, Phil Grisolia is also the author of an enlightening new ebook – “Shut Up And Listen! – 10 Easy Steps Guaranteed to Help You Communicate Better!” – available for 99 cents wherever ebooks are sold. Visit Phil’s website at www.PhilGrisolia.com. If you have a business-related question you would like Phil to answer, email it to PhilsDesk@PhilGrisolia.com, then watch for his answer in a future column.

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