Product Life Cycle: The 5 Stages & Sales Channels You Need For Product Success

Product Life Cycle

Table of Contents

Launching a new product can seem like an insurmountable task. However, if you have the right launch strategy and take advantage of the right growth levers and sales channels, you’ve got a better chance of getting your idea off the ground! We will discuss the product life cycle, what it takes to launch a new product from start to finish and the sales channels that are sure to grow your user base in no time.

Stage 1: Validation

Before you launch a product, it’s good to have some validation that people really want what you’re offering. This is where building your initial user base comes into play and if all goes well, starts bringing in revenue! If users are willing to pay for something like your product or service, then you know there is demand for it.

The Trust Curve

What is the quickest way to get a user from free to paid for your product? Or what is the quickest path to make users want to refer your product to their friends? Getting users over the trust curve as early as possible in your validation phase is essential to your product’s success. 

How do we achieve this?

Focus on the product and keep the time to value as small as possible. The sooner your user gets their A-HA moment, the better.

Many people think it happens by creating a great launch strategy, offering your product for free/at low cost, providing excellent customer service but if the product does what it’s meant to do and you’ve spent the time validating your product, everything else becomes much easier.

At this stage, we usually have an existing network we can tap into and early adopters that are willing to take risks with your product. Keep in mind that as you move further into the Product Life Cycle, users will become much less understanding of bugs, issues and errors that affect their user experience. Keep your feedback loops short and take action on the feedback you’re being given.

Stage 2: Traction

If you launch your product and get users over the trust curve, you’re in good shape to start generating revenue in the next phase of the product life cycle. Now that people are willing to pay for it, how do you grow? This is a concept from the book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. It basically outlines four stages of traction:

– No one understands what you’re doing  (0% traction)

– People see value, but it’s difficult to try (25% traction)

– Many people understand the benefits, but most aren’t using it (50% traction)

– Everyone sees the value and wants to use it (100% traction).

The most important thing is to focus on one to two core channels or growth levers and no more. This is what’s going to help propel your business forward faster than anything else as it forces you to focus and double down on what is working.

If you have developed your early adopters well, this will give you the social proof and credibility you need to reach less risk averse customers.

Stage 3: Growth

If you want to succeed in the long run it’s important that you treat this stage of the product life cycle as its own with specific goals and KPIs. If you have been bootstrapped to this point you might find systems and processes are starting to be stretched as you add volume along the customer journey.

Be Warned: Your Product Market Fit May Change

When you launch a product, the market may not be as ready for your idea as you thought. You might also find that after validation and traction it’s time to pivot into something completely different! This is all part of building a startup or product but keep in mind that if things do change along the way and it doesn’t look like they’re going to work out, don’t be afraid to go back to the data phase and pivot accordingly.

Use small iterations keeping the long term vision, user experience and customer journey in mind. At the growth stage of the product lifecycle you may need to invest time into developing other acquisition or sales channels outside of the two core growth levers you have been using previously to establish product longevity.

Stage 4: Maturity

Once you launch a product and get it to market, the question becomes ‘How do I keep growing?’

At this stage of the product life cycle, you need your growth team to be firing on all cylinders. Get everyone pulling in the same direction with clear goals and KPIs that are measured weekly/monthly.

A word of warning: Growth at scale is a very difficult thing to do. You need to have your systems, process and tools in place so that you can launch products quickly while still maintaining the quality of customer service you’ve been building over time.

The key here is being able to launch new features/products without disrupting your core product experience or causing any issues for users during updates during this phase of the product life cycle.

Stage 5: Decline or Decommission

Time, resources and money are all valuable things that every business needs to ensure they’re spending correctly. Decline is just part of the Product Life Cycle but it’s important for you to understand what your exit strategy looks like at each stage so that when this becomes an option in the future, you can exit respectfully to move onto the next idea without burning those loyal clients. 

Most businesses don’t last forever so think forward and accommodate this into your long term vision and strategy.

Sales Channels

If your validation is complete and you’re ready to start generating revenue, it’s important to understand what’s working and how you would like to grow in order to use the right sales channels.

Sales Led Growth vs Product Led Growth

– Sales led growth uses sales teams (inbound/outbound/partnerships) to drive growth. An indirect way of driving sales is through referrals from channels such as affiliate marketing.

– Product driven growth focuses on leveraging your product to grow, either by focusing on a user base that comes back often and engages with the experience regularly (e.g. high LTV/low CAC), growing virally through word of mouth or referrals, creating a retention strategy to keep users coming back (e.g. messaging/reminders) and lastly onboarding new customers with ease so they can see the value quickly within your product experience.”

Cost Per Acquisition

Your sales strategy will usually depend on one key factor, the cost of acquiring a new customer. Sales led growth requires a team in order to find and service leads. Depending on your unit economics and product life cycle stage, you may not have room in the budget for a dedicated sales team.

Paid Ads

When it comes to paid ads, you can launch many different channels that allow users to find your product when they’re searching online. Whether this be Google Adwords or Social Media Ads (Facebook/Instagram), social media sites are pretty saturated but there’s always room for new businesses in the space looking to launch their own products and stand out from the crowd due to the hyper targeting you get access to.

Outbound Sales

Outbound sales is a good strategy for some companies but not all. You can launch an outbound sales team or work with partners to make sales in the market, this may require you to have a higher cost of goods sold (COGS) as we have already discussed because you need to pay the wages of the sales team etc.

Inbound Sales

Inbound sales is a great way to launch your business as it’s more scalable and less expensive. You can launch in-app messaging/live chat, run content marketing campaigns via email or social media that allow you to target specific users with information they’re interested in based on the profile they’ve created.

Customer Success

Onboarding can fall into the customer success category as we should aim to activate our new users as quickly as possible to give them their ‘A-HA!’ moment. At early product life cycle stages, inbound sales and customer support can sometimes be covered by the same team which will keep your COGS as low as possible.

Testimonials & Referrals

You can launch referral programs or testimonials for your product that allow you to leverage the power of word of mouth. This is a great way to get users involved early on and create advocates for your business who are more likely to stay loyal when they recommend something positive about your company to a friend.

Content Marketing & Search Engine Optimisation

When it comes to marketing, you launch two main channels; paid media and owned/earned media. Content Marketing falls into the ‘owned’ or inbound side of this channel mix which allows you to launch a business blog that builds authority around your niche offering.

Social Media Channels

Social Media is free but does come at a cost of time. If you launch content marketing alongside social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter then this can work in your favour long term once user profiles and activity data is established. You can also create evergreen and scalable content that you can cut, edit and repurpose on multiple mediums.

Partnerships

Partnering with other businesses is a good way to launch your startup or product as you can leverage their audience and sales channels. Partnering also allows for quick market validations without having to launch the product yourself meaning you save time, money & resources when exploring new ideas or opportunities within an industry.

Online Communities

Online communities are a great launch channel for startups and products. This can be via social media channels such as Facebook Groups, Reddit or Slack Communities where you launch your product to early adopters and get their feedback before launching more widely.

Offline Events & Conferences

If you have the budget then offline events/conferences are worth exploring when it comes to the validation, traction and growth stages in the product life cycle. These are great for networking and can launch your business to a wider audience or target market if you have the budget/resources available.

PR & Outreach

Launching a startup or product is all about creating awareness around what you’re offering so offline press coverage, outreach campaigns and events work well alongside online content marketing strategies which we’ve already covered.

A launch is where you put your product out there and gain some form of validation from real users however this doesn’t mean the launch stage is the end, it’s only just beginning! Your startup or product will progress through a number of product life cycle stages before reaching scale but with these launch strategies in place then growth shouldn’t be an issue if executed correctly.

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