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What Product Lifecycle (PLC) Means for B2B Inbound Marketing

by Jennifer Beever on March 12, 2010

One marketing tool to use in determining which marketing strategies and inbound marketing tactics will be most effective in B2B marketing planning is your product or service lifecycle stage. Over the lifetime of a product or service, you go through different stages of introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. Here are some examples of marketing strategies and inbound marketing tactics that are best suited to each stage.

Marketing Product Lifecycle 4Introduction Stage of Marketing Product Lifecycle

When a product category is introduced, it’s time to educate potential customers and build awareness. Marketing strategies at this stage include identifying a “beachhead” or niche market in which the needs for your product or service are high and the audience is made up of pioneers who are likely to adopt something new. This is especially true for technology marketing.

Choosing your first customers at this stage can be critical, especially if your development investment was large and development time was long. This is often the case in software development and other technologies that need to be proven at the first customer installation before more can be sold.

Some of the B2B inbound marketing tactics that fit this stage include quality content online in a variety of media (blogs, video, podcasts, eBooks, whitepapers), webinars, eLetters and newsletters, press coverage in trade publications and blogs, speaking at industry conferences and social network testimonials from beta and early customers. The marketing budget can be minimized by leveraging word of mouth marketing with inbound marketing.

Growth Stage of Marketing Product Lifecycle

The growth stage of the marketing product lifecycle offers great opportunity for sales, but it is a stage of increasing threat as more competitors come into the market. Marketing strategies here might be to differentiate (flank) the competition with innovation or niche markets or to find ways to reduce cost of production or control distribution (direct attack).

B2B marketing tactics during the growth stage involve increasing volume of marketing in terms of number of target markets and amount of outreach. Failure to maintain your brand and increase awareness at this stage can be fatal. The marketing spend may increase during this stage, but the sales volume should increase as well.

Your competitors will be educating your target audiences in this stage, so the key tactic here is lead generation and engagement to develop early adopters into customers. Increased amounts of quality, branded content online can attract prospective customers, and then outreach tactics such as email marketing, telemarketing and webinars will engage them and move them through the buy cycle.

Maturity Stage of Marketing Product Lifecycle

In the mature stage of a product lifecycle, sales begin to plateau and some competitors may exit the marketplace. B2B marketing strategies at this stage include leveraging customer loyalty, identifying or creating new, untapped niche markets or distribution channels and innovating product variations to fit new uses. These strategies could lead to another product lifecycle.

B2B marketing tactics in the mature stage include customer loyalty programs, promotions and incentives, finding new distribution channels, continuing marketing via social networks and email. In this stage measurement of marketing ROI is critical, because businesses must be aware of when their mature-stage “cash cow” product or service (milk it for all it’s worth) becomes a “dog” with declining ROI.

Decline Stage of Marketing Product Lifecycle

In this stage, effective marketing strategies include reducing costs, eliminating ineffective distribution channels, unbundling or simplifying the product offering, reducing price and promotion budget. With inbound marketing, content can remain online indefinitely to attract the long tail of demand even with declining demand, with little effort by B2B marketers.

At what stage is your product or service? Do you agree with the inbound marketing tactics that I identified for each stage? Did I leave out tactics or strategies? Please comment below!

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