I’ve found an interesting article about a problem, experienced by start-ups but nevertheless relevant for big companies as well. It’s called the Product Death Cycle.

The lean and easy diagram is drawn and spread by @davidjbland, a management consultant from San Francisco. He has tweeted the diagram more than a year ago. Now it seems to get a famous illustration in Growth Hackers community. So I thought it would be great to provide you guys a closer look at what this Product Death Cycle is about.

As stated above, the Product Death Cycle is about product management and especially about bringing new products to the market. So the shown diagram seems to aim for start-ups. But, from my perspective, I really recommend to not forget the big companies, which also need to reinvent and to innovate their product portfolios.

The Product Death Cycle starts with “No one uses our product“. So this state is commonly known as the starting point of every new product. It’s really important to understand, that this state is not the problem in itself. The problem comes up if we think about, how to react on this.

The phase “ask customers what features are missing” is the next step. Most companies understand that they need to act more customer (user) centric. So it seems to be a logical step in the right direction.

The last phase is called “build the missing features” – so it’s about how we react on what we have learned from asking our customers (users). But this is also the point where the cycle is closed – which means, it will start from the beginning. So, still no one uses our product.

But why?

There are some misleading points with the mindset behind the phase two “ask customers what features are missing”. Let’s have a closer look at where we can find the cause(s) of the problem with this phase.

  • Ask customers what features are missing”
    Before asking customers about missing features you should ensure that your new product is aligned with your vision. Mostly, the vision behind a product is a great one, but the productization of this vision is not well done. So, this should be the really first point to double check.
  • “Ask customers what features are missing”
    Do you really know, who your customers (users) are? Is the small current amount of users, who may be interested in your product and who you are asking, the original target group of your product? Commonly not. The feedback you might get when asking your customers (users) might be misleading and likely let you lose your focus.
  • “Ask customers what features are missing”
    Features? Come on! Why do we talk about features? This point assumes that you think your problem can be fixed by just  adding more features to your product. 
    I’ve read a great phrase about product development (unfortunately I can’t remember the source). “Products tend to have a whole series of features but only a small number of benefits to the actual consumer.” So we should try a more differentiated approach on what is going wrong with our product that no one is using. Before I think about missing features, I should check the following attributes a product should fulfil.
    First: Check the benefits of your product by using The Value Proposition Canvas. This is fundamental and provides the reason why your product exists.  Furthermore you should check if you operationalized your value proposition in the right way. So this is neither about features nor about benefits (in sense of a value proposition) – it’s about design, haptic experience, usability and also attributes from a market perspective like pricing, competitors and availability. Depending on your type of product, I’m sure there are a lot more attributes to consider.
  • “Ask customers what features are missing
    Do you really think that someone will miss something about your product? The last days I heard a TED Talk about reasons why start-ups succeed by @Bill_Gross. With his experience, he started to analyze why some start-ups succeed and why some others (more likely) fail instead. He came to the surprising result, that in most cases the timing was the biggest success factor.
    So, considering this, ask yourself – is the world ready to use your product? Or could it be a bit to early to start with your idea?

So far, my thoughts about the Product Death Cycle manifested in more words that I expected. But, please, let me know yours about this.