Frogs, mosquitoes, butterflies — the animals we usually associate with the concept of metamorphosis in an organism’s life cycle.
Similar to animals, businesses go through an entire lifecycle during their existence. If you’re into business (SaaS or not), I bet you think of each stage of your product’s lifecycle differently. Different stages of the product lifecycle call for varying marketing strategies to ensure your product stays in the game for the long haul.
Learn from Slack’s marketing strategies at different stages.
- Slack launch through PR
- Growth through user onboarding, freemium, and pricing
- Beyond growth – ecosystem
As your SaaS grows, likewise should your product lifecycle marketing efforts.
In this blog post, we’ll explore how you can evolve your marketing strategies to support the growth phase you’re in. We’re also including pro tips from SaaS marketers so you have examples that work in the real SaaS world.
What is product lifecycle marketing?
The product lifecycle is the path a product takes from its conception and development to its official market release and, eventually acquisition/exit.
The lifecycle covers its progression as it gains or loses market share. SaaS businesses can delve deeper into the marketing practices that will make a product stay around for a long time.
The strategy (plus tactics) used in the different stages of a product’s lifespan is called product lifecycle marketing.
The main objective is simple. It’s to create a winning marketing plan tailored to each phase. It sounds simple, but it’s more complicated as more and more software products have been launched in the last few years.
“In my opinion, the traditional approach of marketing, where a product is launched and then promoted, is long gone. Efficient and more effective marketing channels have not only increased competition but have also presented remarkable opportunities. Keeping this in view, the companies should consider innovative marketing strategies across the product life cycle.”— Fatima Suhail, PR and Content Specialist at InvoZone
What are the product lifecycle stages?
Typically, there are 4 product lifecycle stages: introduction, growth, maturity, and market decline.
But to be more holistic, let’s add the two (2) preliminary stages that happen right before a product hits the market — the ideation and MVP development stages.
Here’s what happens in each stage.
|Stages||What happens here|
|Ideation||This is where it all begins. Think of it as that lightbulb moment when you realize, |
“Hey, there’s got to be a better way to do this! I’ll build a product to solve a problem.”
|MVP development||Once the idea is solidified and you’re ready to bring it to life, you move into developing the product’s first version that’s viable for release in order to validate the demand.|
|Introduction||This is when the new product hits the market. This phase can be both exciting and overwhelming, as it requires a lot of creativity, resources, and risk-taking.|
|Growth or Scale||The next stage is when a product gains traction. More people are buying it, and sales are climbing. So, this could involve scaling your operations and improving your product quality further.|
|Maturity||In the maturity stage, the product reaches its peak market saturation and stabilizes its market share. This phase can be comfortable yet dangerous.|
Think about smartphones like the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy that have yearly updates. Not doing this leads to death, like Nokia.
|Market decline||Sadly, even products also face a decline. Maybe a newer, better product has come along, or the market is just too saturated.|
“Each stage demands a different approach. The life cycle of product development has to be followed with proper awareness of the product coming to the market, to generating excitement and paying attention to what the competition is doing. To launching and maintaining market presence and customer loyalty.”— Howard Tillerman, Chief Marketing Officer for Making That Sale
Why product lifecycle?
The #1 reason is to keep the product relevant and profitable for as long as possible.
- It helps you make informed strategic decisions for financial planning and resource allocation.
- With an understanding of the product lifecycle, you’ll find it easier to position your product in the market. You’ll also be able to match the expectations and needs of customers, revamping your message at each product stage.
- By tracking where your product is in its lifecycle, you gain a competitive advantage. For instance, if you’re close to the maturity stage, you can plan ahead your next move so you dodge the plateau.
- You’ll be able to anticipate potential risks because all products eventually reach a point where demand diminishes.
- You’ll get insights if and when there’s a need to create new products, expand through partnerships, or innovate existing ones.
How marketing evolves throughout the product lifecycle
Successful SaaS companies often align their product lifecycle marketing plans with their customer lifecycle marketing, creating a more holistic approach to marketing.
The two marketing strategies complement and influence each other throughout a product’s existence. Ideally, they’re synchronized to provide a consistent and satisfying customer experience throughout the product’s lifecycle.
A customer lifecycle marketing funnel usually looks like this:
Let’s get down to business. And enhance this with product lifecycle marketing.
This is the creative phase, where ideas are brainstormed to address a particular problem or need.
To excel in this stage, you must first have a solid product-market fit — and you get it from thorough market research and customer conversations.
“Here, community engagement is underrated. Before anything concrete materializes, I found that engaging potential users in communities (like niche forums, LinkedIn groups, and Slack communities) to discuss their pain points can provide valuable insights. It’s less about selling, more about listening and gathering insights.”— Waleria Pagowska, Product Marketing Specialist at Brand24
A comprehensive analysis to identify trends, consumer pain points, and potential demand for your product idea. The marketing team’s focus at this stage will be to understand potential customers.
“During the Idea stage, I’ve found that conducting market research via social media polls or surveys can be incredibly effective. It’s a bit unconventional, but it provides real-time feedback. “— JamalFarah, Chief Information Officer at Roowaad Inc
Don’t forget to do a competitor analysis to differentiate your product in the market. Study your competitors. Learn their strengths and weaknesses. Identify gaps in the market that your product can fill.
“Crowdsourced innovation challenges in the ideation stage invite potential users to contribute ideas, generating both excitement and valuable insights.”— Kurt Uhlir, Chief Marketing Officer at Kurtuhlir
Key marketing activities:
- Market research
- Competitor analysis
- Defining your product positioning
During this stage, the focus is on building your new product’s basic features and functionality. That’s your MVP (minimum viable product) in the making.
Don’t confuse MVP with your beta release.
An MVP is the scaled-down version of the final product. And that includes just enough features to meet the core needs of early users and gather valuable feedback. It’s like a functional prototype meant to validate the product concept.
“For the minimum viable product, offering exclusive access to early adopters and soliciting their input helps refine the product. We’ve found that personalized email outreach and feedback-driven promotions work wonders here.— Sophia Gomes, Content Writer at Eventify
Meanwhile, a Beta version is, technically, a more advanced version of the product. It’s usually offered to a larger group of users to uncover any remaining issues or bugs before the official launch.
“Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and get it in the hands of early users as soon as possible. This will help you to validate your product idea and get feedback from real customers.”— Aman Thakur, Product-led Marketing Expert
In the MVP stage, the primary goal is to test your product with real users and validate your idea. Even though it’s not traditionally considered a marketing activity in the promotional sense, gathering feedback can have a pivotal role in refining the product concept further.
While at it, you must design a basic brand identity that is in tune with your target audience. This includes creating a compelling name, logo, and messaging that reflects your product’s unique value. But don’t spend too much time or money on it. The main goal is to use the identity to establish your positioning and hopefully differentiate yourself a bit from the crowd.
Additionally, marketing at this stage is geared toward building hype. You might create a buzz around your upcoming MVP by using social media.
“The MVP stage is crucial for User Onboarding Optimization and Micro-Influencer Partnerships. Our marketing team works closely with product development to refine the onboarding process, which leads to a better user experience. We also identify micro-influencers in our niche and provide them free access to the MVP for their genuine feedback and exposure to their audiences.”— Geoff Cudd, Founder of Don’t Do It Yourself
Key marketing activities:
- Early feedback gathering
- Product branding
- social media promotions
Once the MVP is ready, the product enters the introduction stage. This is the phase where the product is officially launched. It’s often characterized by low awareness, but that’s fine. As a smart SaaS company, you must have a solid SaaS marketing plan during the introduction stage.
It will be the blueprint of your team’s strategic plan to promote your software product. Just remember to keep it simple with a clear sight of your marketing advantage.
Need some reference on how to build your plan? Here’s how to do SaaS marketing planning in 5 simple steps.
In this stage, where you’re relatively new to the digital world, you must do both demand generation and lead generation strategies. You first generate demand and then capture the leads that become interested in you.
Key marketing activities:
- SaaS marketing planning
- demand generation (content creation & distribution, paid ads or webinars)
- lead generation (inbound and outbound marketing)
What tactics worked with the pros:
“If your newer products are yet to capture the attention of its intended audience, or you’re still at the idea stage of your newer products, it’s imperative that you keep your maturing product selling as effectively as possible. This means that you should look more to differentiation than awareness for your product. ”— Dmytro Spilka, CEO and Founder of Solvid
“To stand out during launch, leverage referral marketing. Encourage your early users to refer others in exchange for exclusive benefits. This can create a viral effect and drive rapid growth.”— Max Shak, Founder/CTO of nerdigital.com
“At launch time, unusual guerrilla marketing tactics such as innovations in packaging or surprise tie-ups add a unique twist setting us apart.”— Andi Merovci, SEO Team Lead at Ajroni Enterprises
“In the Launch Stage, we’re transitioning into a more aggressive marketing phase with paid advertising and partnerships. Our site is optimized for conversions and lead capturing. We measure KPIs like conversion rates and customer acquisition cost.”— Valentin Radu, CEO of Omniconvert
This might be your favorite stage. In this phase, your product starts to become established. You should see an increase in sales and revenue. Your marketing focus will be on keeping up with demand, building your brand, expanding your customer base, and exploring new market segments.
The caveat is you may also start to see competitors entering the market. But relax! You should be well-positioned by this point to stay ahead of them.
Marketing’s purpose is to fuel the growth of your product.
A good practice is to implement exceptional SaaS onboarding practices into your product. You should continue with promotional efforts and expand to reach a broader audience. You might invest in reaching and converting more free trials, targeted advertising, and partnerships to accelerate user acquisition.
Key marketing activities:
- Customized onboarding experiences
- Paid advertising
- Content distribution
- Personalized marketing campaigns
Pro tip: Speaking of personalized, get your onboarding tactics to stand out so they can never be forgotten. Only send targeted emails to users based on what they do or don’t within your product. Encharge lets you send this kind of email, boosting user adoption during onboarding.
What tactics worked with the pros:
“The growth phase? Oh, that was all about making friends in the industry. We collaborated, learned, and grew together with some incredible partners who just amplified the journey in ways we couldn’t have imagined. It was all about synergy and expanding horizons together.”— Sudhir Khatwani, Founder at The Money Mongers
“For the Growth stage, we simply doubled down on what was working. We’re now targeting more relevant keywords and rank for thrice as many as we used to at the beginning of the year. It’s still an ongoing process, though. If you just stop (and this applies to any PLG tactic you adopt), things just won’t work anymore. But for us, it’s easy. As our product grows, we simply need to cover more topics. So, for instance, if we have a new feature around message scheduling, there are naturally lots of new keywords that can be directly tied to this feature so we can continue creating product-led content.”— Nat Miletic, CEO of Clio Websites
The product reaches a state of maturity when sales growth stabilizes, and competition may intensify. So, your goal is now to maintain market share and continue to innovate to stay ahead of the competition. But please face it — marketers face the challenge of meeting the competitive landscape head-on.
During this stage, SaaS companies focus on improving profitability by reducing costs and optimizing their marketing channels. The marketing team should focus on retaining loyal customers and finding new ways to drive revenue growth, like adjusting the pricing model.
Also, companies can leverage the large customer base acquired during the growth stage to cross-sell or upsell to existing customers. Content marketing plays a vital role here in educating existing users about advanced features or new use cases.
Key marketing activities:
- Customer retention strategies
- Diversifying marketing channels
- Optimizing pricing plans
- Content marketing
What tactics worked with the pros:
“Brands can’t afford to rest on their laurels when their product reaches the maturity stage. I’ve consistently found that this is the most important time to spring into action and build an intelligent marketing strategy to ensure that your business doesn’t lose out on its revenue streams. There are many reasons why marketing your products at the maturity stage is essential.”— Dmytro Spilka, CEO and Founder of Solvid
“When you’re an industry staple, it’s tempting to rest. But we reinvented by hosting user-generated content competitions, which fueled innovation and kept our community engaged.”— Waleria Pagowska, Product Marketing Specialist at Brand24
“During the maturity stage, customer retention and growth remain the top priorities for our marketing initiatives. We maintain our relationships with current customers through reward programs, special deals, and ongoing value delivery. We also constantly solicit consumer feedback to promote product innovation and keep our competitive advantage in the market. Overall, our marketing strategy changes to meet the unique requirements and goals of each stage of the product lifecycle.”— JasonToy, 88stacks
Despite the product being successful and established over the years, there comes a point in time when the market shifts towards a newer product, and the demand for the existing product decreases.
The market decline stage is the time to re-evaluate the product’s viability and decide whether to continue selling it. Be aware of the signs of decline and make appropriate changes — reposition the product or discontinue it altogether. Or even selling it (just like in our case above!).
If the product is still relevant, businesses must focus on reducing marketing budgets and cutting costs while maintaining brand value. But if, in your honest opinion that it’s not, the focus shifts towards clearing out inventory and ensuring that the product leaves the market gracefully.
Key marketing activities:
- Sales or repositioning
- Promotional pricing and bundling
- Social media ad retargeting
- Exit strategies, i.e., phasing out the product gradually or selling the brand
Should I use the BCG Matrix?
When dealing with product management and strategic decision-making within a business lifecycle, it’s understandable that the BCG (Boston Consulting Group) Matrix concept enters the picture.
While understanding the product lifecycle is about comprehending the stages a single product goes through, the BCG Matrix is much broader. It’s about managing your overall product or service portfolio. It focuses on market share and growth potential, visually representing where each product or service stands relative to others in your portfolio.
The BCG Matrix helps by categorizing your current product or service portfolio based on two key factors: market share and growth potential. It classifies products into four quadrants: Stars, Cash Cows, Question Marks, and Dogs.
- Stars are the products with high market share and high growth potential.
- Cash Cows are the products with high market share but low growth potential.
- Question Marks are the products with low market share but high growth potential.
- Dogs are the products with low market share and low growth potential.
Visually, it looks like this:
The BCG Matrix provides a high-level view of your product portfolio, guiding resource allocation, while studying the product lifecycle dives deeper into the specific strategies needed for individual products at different stages.
Together, they create a comprehensive approach to managing and marketing your products effectively.
Uncontrollable factors in marketing and how to deal with them across the lifecycle
We can’t deny it — we don’t control all the variables at play in marketing.
Some of these uncontrollable factors include:
- Market dynamics
- Technological advancements
- Technological risks
1. Market dynamics
The first uncontrollable factor in marketing is market dynamics. The market is ever-evolving, and customers’ preferences, needs, and behaviors change constantly. As a marketer, you must turn these changes into opportunities and keep up with market changes to stay ahead of the competition.
Here’s what you can do:
- Stay vigilant in monitoring market trends, consumer preferences, and economic indicators. Keep an eye on your target audience’s evolving preferences and adapt your messaging, promotion channels, and product offerings accordingly.
- Be prepared to adapt your marketing campaigns swiftly in response to changing market dynamics. Flexibility and agility are key.
- Build a clear profile of your target audience. This helps you anticipate their needs and respond effectively to market changes. Conduct surveys, collect feedback, and engage with customers to stay connected.
2. Competitive landscape
With your SaaS growing, new competitors can enter the space. And they may alter customer behaviors or employ more innovative marketing techniques.
To stay ahead of the competition, you need to know what works and what doesn’t. Regularly monitor your competitors’ marketing strategies and look for ways to improve or differentiate your own. You can uncover competitors’ SEO, SEM, and content marketing strategies by leveraging business analytics tools.
3. Technological advancements
Technology is a double-edged sword. It can provide invaluable data and insights but also complicate marketing strategies. Today, there are more options and opportunities for reaching customers with the rise of social media, mobile devices, AI technologies, and other digital tools.
To ensure that your marketing efforts keep up with technological advances:
You need to embrace technology. Be proactive in adopting new technologies and find ways to incorporate them into your marketing strategy. This might include digital marketing tools, marketing automation, artificial intelligence, or data analytics.
Pro tip: If you need a reliable marketing automation platform, go for Encharge. With Encharge, you can connect your entire marketing toolkit without coding. Experience increased marketing and sales efficiency. Better customer communication, lower acquisition costs, and more conversions.
4. Technological risks
With technological advancements come technological risks. Data breaches, cybersecurity threats, and technological glitches can disrupt operations and lower customer trust.
Data privacy is a significant concern for SaaS businesses, and any breach can devastate your brand’s reputation.
When collecting data and using automation tools, you need to ensure that you follow best practices. It includes adhering to data protection regulations to avoid possible legal issues and reputational harm to your brand.
Maintain open communication with your audience about the steps you take to ensure their data security. Assure them of your commitment to protecting their information and building trust and credibility.
Ready to optimize your product lifecycle marketing?
The message is clear: lifecycles aren’t exclusive to living organisms!
Just like living creatures, products undergo distinct stages in their lifespan. Each of these stages demands a finely tailored product marketing strategy to secure the product’s survival in the market.
If your product lifecycle marketing needs a little help, Encharge’s premium services might be the help you’re looking for. After the development stages, our team can take your campaign from planning to launching and optimizing efficiently.
Couple this with a seamless Encharge migration process, it’ll be easy for you to move from your old marketing automation platform to a modern SaaS-focused platform.
Investing in scaling of marketing efforts so you adapt to any stage of the product lifecycle. Try Encharge for free today.