The Five Stages In the Life Cycle of Online Products

Life cycles are an extremely useful concept. Like most models, they help people to visualize the progress of an online product under certain conditions. They help people to predict the effects of decisions within the life cycle of that product.

There are a number of different life cycles. In fact, everyone who has an interest in an online product has some form of life cycle. Learning content creators have their version of a life cycle based on the effort. Accountants have their view of a life cycle based on income. Project Managers often have two. One based on the development cycle and one based on the types of projects needed. And marketers have their view.

In a previous article, I suggested a very complex life cycle. However, in this article I’m going to describe one life cycle of online products as seen by a marketer.

This marketing life cycle consists of five steps.

1. Pre-Launch

The period before the launch of a product is the focus of many other life cycles. But for a marketer, this time is used for two main purposes. The first is preparation of a marketing plan and marketing assets to be used later in the life cycle. However, this period is also used to create a buzz. Frequently this is a very heavy period of marketing as pre-orders are important to recovering the cost of development of the online product. A large pre-order also helps to focus partners on the product so that they continue to support the marketing effort in the next stage.

2. Growth

Once the product is released there will be an initial period where sales grow. While the pre-launch focused on the initial penetration of the market, this stage is more concerned with obtaining a commanding share of the market. This period is often characterized by high marketing spending with respect to profit.

3. Stabilization

In time, the market begins to reach equilibrium. While new competition enters the market, it tends not to disrupt the status quo. This stage is characterized by high profit with limited market spending and a stability in the market share.

4. Decreasing Sales

As time goes by sales begin to decrease. This can be caused by an obsolete product. Or it may be a market-wide phenomena caused by market saturation. Or it may be the result of an alternate innovative market arising. In any case, this stage is often characterized by wild swings in marketing spending. This is the result of increased spending on marketing with little result followed by a demand to reduce spending in order to increase profit. Determining the value of increased marketing spending during this time can be frustrating and frightening.

5. Alternate Use

This is sometimes referred to as retirement. However, I prefer the concept of alternate use with online products. Online products are most often used as bonuses to improve the sales value of other products. Actual retirement is frequently used to adjust the market demand. Online products are also frequently improved and renamed with a version which somewhat eliminates their retirement in this stage. However, regardless of the strategy chosen, this stage is characterized by the withdrawal from sale of the product and the associated suspension of marketing efforts.

The Life Cycle of Online Products

Like many things, products go through a cycle during their effective lifespan. These cycles are regular and predictable. A formal life cycle can help build an understanding of the pattern of stages that a product goes through.

There are many different life cycles each based on the focus and pattern, which the author is observing. In this article, I’m going to share a very detailed nine-step life cycle of an online product.

1. Plan

A good online product begins with a plan. The plan details much of the background information required for the online product. However, only the requirements for the product are provided.

2. Design

In this stage, the requirements are given form. The online product that was described in the plan is defined in detail. A detailed outline of the product is produced.

3. Produce

This stage varies depending on the media of the online product. For example, an eBook is written at this stage. A teleseminar on the other hand may be written but it definitely is presented and recorded.

4. Package or Publish

The online product is still in a rough state at the start of this stage — although it is in fact complete. This stage polishes the product and adds elements that turn it into a professional, salable product. For example, a video will have opening and closing credits added and a cover designed.

5. Generating Traffic

At this stage, the product is available. However, sales are not actually occurring. Instead, traffic must be generated in order to ensure that sales are sufficient to justify the costs so far. This is often referred to as a pre-launch stage although it can occur after the launch.

6. Marketing and Selling

At this stage, the product is available and the traffic has reached a stable point. Sales are reasonably stable. In this stage, the marketing emphasis has switched to finding the right types of traffic, rather than the growth focus of the previous stage.

7. Declining Sales

After a period of time, almost all products begin to experience a decline in sales. This may be because of market saturation or real or perceived obsolescence.

8. Bonus

Finally, the sales have dropped to the point that marketing and sales efforts fail to produce sales. At this point, the product is retired from sales. However, it becomes available for use as a bonus to support the sales of other products.

9. Retirement

Eventually, a product will cease to be of value even as a bonus. At this point, the product will be removed from the products for sale list.

Building a Catalog of Online Products

How many times have you heard that you must have your own products in order to make money online? How many times have you seen someone offering a course on how to make big money writing eBooks? How many times has something about the pitch just seemed wrong? Or at least sounded a little like snake-oil?

Well, you’re right to question the concept.

Yes, you really do need to have a list and your own products in order to make the big money in internet marketing. But you’re never going to make a fortune with a single eBook. Sorry, it isn’t going to happen. At least it isn’t going to happen to the vast majority of us.

In order to make money over the internet, you need a catalog of online products. Not just one product but a line of related products. After all, once you sell one product to a person and turned them into a rabid fan, wouldn’t it make sense to try to sell them more products? In any other market that’s where your major sales come from. And the internet really isn’t any different. But to do that you need a product line, meaning a catalog of related online products.

But how do you do this?

In this article, I’m going to explain one technique for building a catalog of online products.

Creating an online product always begins with an analysis of your customers. It can be existing or it can be a predicted customer. In any case, you need to develop a picture of your target customer.

Once you’ve done that you need to identify their motivators. What is it that will make them want to buy your product? What problems are they facing? What is going to happen in their future that they want to avoid? What would they like to happen?

Step three is to determine a solution. How can your topic or product solve their problem? How can you create a teachable system for solving their problems, achieving their goals or avoiding their fears?

Okay, now you’ve got something to sell them. All that’s necessary is to turn it into a product. Or two. Or three.

Start by identifying what products you need to create to support this line. What will be your freemium? What will be your introductory product? What will be your midrange product? What will be your high value product? Now keep going. What will be your marketing products?

Now that you’ve got one product line defined it’s time to consider the rest of your catalog. Start by going down. How many other people can you sell this product to with only minor adjustments?

Then go wide. What similar products can you create that your customers might like?