The growth stage of the product life cycle is when the fun starts. You’ve stepped out of the uncertainty and entered the experimentation phase. After facing the challenges of the introduction stage, the product now has steady sales with the demand still growing.
Every stage in the product life cycle is unique and requires different marketing efforts. Marketing in the growth stage is focused on customer retention rather than acquisition. However, it’s still not easy navigating the high waters of marketing in the growth stage.
In this article, we will discuss the growth stage of the product life cycle and how to develop a marketing strategy for this stage.
What is the Growth Stage of the Product Life Cycle?
The growth stage of the product life cycle is the third stage in the product life cycle. This stage is considered critical in establishing a product’s position in the market, increasing sales, and improving profit margins.
During this stage, the demand for the product increases alongside profits. The product’s market expands as competitors start launching their products to compete with the originator.
But First, What is the Product Life Cycle and Its Stages?
The product life cycle is a length of time during which a product goes through various stages starting from development and ending in decline. It’s widely used by marketers and business owners to make important decisions.
There are generally five stages in the product life cycle:
From Introduction to Growth
Once a product has been developed, it enters the introduction stage. This is when the product is first launched into the marketplace and the marketing team starts promoting it via content and inbound marketing. Most of the marketing content at this stage is focused on reaching out to the consumer and educating them.
During the introduction stage, product sales are low and demand is slowly growing. Companies usually design their marketing campaigns and test the distribution channels. If the market strategy works, then the product enters the next stage — growth.
With the arrival of competitors, you’re no longer the “new” product in the market and no longer enjoy the hype that comes with it. Here are two ways to make the most out of the growth stage:
- Introduce new product lines or features to diminish the competitors attempting to copy.
- Capitalize on your current position to introduce your product as the best one out there.
Moving from the Introduction Stage to the Growth Stage
The introduction stage of the product life cycle is the most critical and challenging. Marketing is focused mainly on building product awareness to encourage consumers to try and ultimately buy the product.
The product in the introductory stage is rarely profitable. In fact, you may be spending more money (on marketing and sales) than earning in profits. That’s because sales are low, and you have promotions going on to encourage consumers.
The marketing goal in the introduction stage is to keep it as short as possible. Next comes the growth stage, which means reaping financial rewards for all your hard work.
It may be hard to tell when you’re past the introductory stage. Here are a few tell-tale signs that your product has entered the most-awaited growth stage:
- Sales are higher (and growing rapidly)
- Marketing is focused on highlighting product features
Marketing in the Growth Stage
Now that your product has entered the growth stage, you’ve achieved a certain level of awareness. People are buying your product and you’re making a profit. However, what worked in the introductory stage will not work in the growth stage.
Marketing in the growth stage is all about getting creative. Customers have more choices and the goal is to help them see what sets your product apart from the rest.
In his article, exploit the product life cycle, Theodore Levitt explains marketing in the growth stage as, (1)
“Instead of seeking ways of getting consumers to try the product, the originator now faces the more compelling problem of getting them to prefer his brand.”
Marketing goals in the growth stage are:
- Increase market share
- Build brand preference
There are many ways companies, specifically, originators can increase their market share and build brand preference. It starts with using the feedback (from the introduction stage) to position your product. Another way is by rewarding the loyalty of your current consumers and turning them into brand advocates. After all, word-of-mouth is the best form of marketing. (2)
"The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer"."
— Peter Drucker.
Let the Voice of Customer Drive Your Marketing Strategy
Seth Godin, the author of ‘this is marketing’ said:
“Don’t find customers for your product, find a product for your customer”
— Seth Godin
A good company does not start with a product, but rather a problem. They find a problem that people are facing and build a product that solves it. When the product is ready, they already have a whole consumer base ready to give it a try.
“It takes months to find a customer and seconds to lose one.”
— Vince Lombardi
To build a successful product, a company must connect with its consumers beyond attributes like features or price. A satisfied consumer is more likely to promote your brand and hesitant in jumping ship. Even if they do, they’re very likely to return. However, to create a loyal customer, there are certain things that your brand must do.
Conduct Competitor and Customer Research
Have you ever heard the phrase, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer?”. This phrase is at the center of every great marketing strategy. To develop a great marketing strategy, it’s important to research both your customers and competitors.
In the introduction stage, marketing is based on customer behavior, and in the growth stage, marketing is based on data from customer experiences.
For an effective marketing strategy, combine quantitative data and qualitative data related to the customer experience. Qualitative research can be used to obtain facts regarding the user’s experience with your website, brand, or product features. Qualitative research gives you the why behind the what. For example, quantitative research data tells you whether a user will recommend you, whereas qualitative research data tells you why they would or wouldn’t.
You can conduct qualitative research via:
- Usability testing
- Individual customer interview
- Customer surveys
The next step is to fine-tune the user personas that you created in the introduction stage and make data-driven UX.
Competitor research is central to all marketing strategies. ‘Keeping up with the competitor helps you stay ahead of the game and you’re not caught by surprise.
“The presence of competitors both dictates and limits what can easily be tried—such as, for example, testing what is the best price level or the best channel of distribution.”
The best way to conduct competitor research is by carrying out a competitor analysis. Here’s how to conduct a competitor analysis:
- Identify your competitors
- Determine the products or services your competitor offers
- Research the competitor’s sales tactics
- Determine the competitor’s market positioning
- Evaluate competitor’s website and customer experience
- Analyze your competitor’s content strategy
- Learn about the technology your competitor is using
- Analyze your competitor’s social media strategy
Create a Compelling Value Proposition
A value proposition is a statement that states why a customer should choose your product or service. An effective value proposition is clear and relevant to your target consumer’s problem or experience. The idea of a value proposition is to work as a differentiation tool.
According to Harvard Business School, (3) you need to answer three questions to define a value proposition:
- Who are your customers?
- Which needs of your customers will you meet?
- What relative price is acceptable for both customers and the business?
A compelling value proposition can include anything, but it typically includes:
- A catchy headline or summary of your offerings.
- Supporting copy explaining your offerings and their benefits.
- The hero shot — a product image (or video) to reinforce your message.
- Boosters — a little something to instill confidence in the reader.
A good value proposition is
- Clear and easy to read, follow, and understand
- Communicates hard results
- Offers reassurances
- Avoids the hyperbole (exaggerated statements)
Steps to Create a Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
Creating a compelling UVP requires brainstorming and experimentation. You need to come up with options, test each of them, and find the best one.
Here’s how you can create a unique value proposition in seven simple steps:
- List the key features of your product
- Pinpoint unique key features
- List the customer pain points associated with each feature
- Define the desired outcome of each pain
- List pains or outcomes by severity or frequency
- Use the top pain outcomes as UVPs
- Score each UVP and select the best one
Testing the Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
Once you have found a UVP, the next step is to test it. You can test your UVPs via:
- A/B testing, also known as split testing where you can test the top candidates by measuring sales conversions, lead counts, click-through, etc.
- Pay-per-click advertising where you split tests various ads at the same customer to measure the click-through rate and landing page conversions.
Tailor Your Marketing Experience to the User
Case studies have shown that the fastest route to growth is through customer happiness. Big companies like Slack and Dropbox have used this approach time and again to grow into what they are today. For example,
- Word-of-mouth reviews from its users helped Slack grow from 8,000 users to 500,000 users
- With great community building and user experience, Canva grew to 15 million users in just seven years.
- In just one year, Dropbox went from 100,000 users to over 4 million users thanks to its referral program.
Use Social Media to Stay Close to the Customer
Social media is an excellent tool that brands can use to stay close to their customers. There are two ways you can use social media to break down the barriers between your company and your customers.
Social Media Customer Service
Over the last few years, people have been actively using social media to voice their opinions. When a customer says something about your brand, they generally expect a response within a day. Meeting this expectation has been shown to increase brand loyalty.
Statistics show that 59% of the brands reply to user Tweets within 15 minutes. For a competitive advantage, use a social listening service to monitor your brand’s mentions and overall sentiment so that you can respond accordingly.
Building a community on social networking sites is another great way for brands to interact with their customers online. This community can be:
- Facebook groups
- Branded hashtags
- Slack channels
- Youtube channels
Research shows that building a community can increase brand trust. Not only do companies gain invaluable insights from their customers, but they also feel valued. To understand the interests and problems of your customers, conduct a survey and ask questions to understand what they want.
Personalize the Customer Experience
Not every company has Netflix’s personalization algorithm, but there are multiple ways that you can deliver a tailored experience to your customers. Start by using personalization to show the customer that you know them. Leverage the data you’ve attained over time to send tailored offers, remind them of their progress, deliver special discounts, celebrate special occasions, and show location-based content.
Currently, many companies offer a personalized customer experience including:
- Netflix shows personalized recommendations based on content that you’ve previously watched.
- Grammarly sends weekly personalized updates that show how the user has improved this week.
- Starbucks sends a discount notification to users (note: with this feature enabled).
- Snapchat uses geo-filters.
Reaching out to your consumers with creatively tailored content is becoming unavoidable. Various software can help you personalize the customer experience like:
You can use any software from the list to personalize your customer experience. Here's how you can do it in three easy steps:
Step 1: Choose the Right Variables
Step 2: Configure Rules to Create Segmented Content
Step 3: Launch the Personalized Content
Use Incentives to Drive Customer Loyalty
Incentives, much like personalization, are a way to show customers that you care. Personalized content promotes customer satisfaction, incentives motivate repetition and advocacy. You can use gamification to optimize customer retention and promote advocacy.
Challenges of the Growth Stage
- Increasing competition: as an originator, companies have the benefit of no competition in the introduction stage. However, as the demand increases, competitors step into the market with a product similar to yours.
- Lower prices: in the introduction stage, you may be using the skimming pricing strategy — charging early adopters a hefty amount for a premium product. However, with a growing number of competitors, you will need to sell your product for a market competitive price.
- New marketing strategy: marketing in the introduction stage is all about creating a buzz, but in the growth stage, marketers need to take a more sophisticated approach to the market.
Benefits of the Growth Stage
- Reduced Costs: companies usually spend a lot of money on product development and marketing in the introduction stage. In contrast, the growth stage is profitable as the sales are high and growing.
- Larger consumer base: the marketing efforts in the introduction stage have successfully spread product awareness, and there’s now a much-larger consumer base. Now, the marketing efforts are focused on retaining those customers.
- Better consumer awareness: the market size and product demand tend to increase in this stage as more and more consumers learn about the product, which leads to an increase in sales.
- Profit hike: with lower production costs and higher sales volume, manufacturers often see an increase in profits during the growth stage.
Experiment to Drive Growth
The only way to survive in a market where every other competitor is offering the same product and marketing to the same audience is experimentation. There are two things that you do in this scenario:
- Come up with a creative way to sell your product
- Do what the competition is doing, only better.
To innovate and become more efficient, you need to design growth marketing experiments also known as growth hacking where you experiment to find what works best for you. You come up with new ways to grow your brand. If a strategy works, run with it, and if it doesn’t, then drop it and move on to the next one.
Not every business reaches maturity and the growth stage is often the best stage for most businesses. However, you may face many challenges associated with marketing an original product. With some help from Starlight Analytics, you can market your product with confidence. Starlight Analytics offers solutions like product concept testing, price testing, and social listening. The first two help you refine your product and price it correctly. Whereas, the social listening tool helps you stay in touch with your consumers and gain feedback firsthand.