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A product life cycle is the overall lifespan of a product and all the stages it will move through. Learn how marketing teams can leverage the PLC here.

  • The product life cycle is the progression of a product or service from ideation to completion.
  • Utilizing a product life cycle can help you make informed decisions, increase company profitability, and improve customer satisfaction.
  • The five stages of the product life cycle are development, introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.

Your marketing plan should include strategies to make the most out of each stage of your product life cycle. But before you can start formulating strategies, you need a clear understanding of the product life cycle stages, how to determine what stage your product is in, and how to use market research to inform your efforts throughout the life cycle. 

The product life cycle (PLC) is the progression of a product through five distinct stages—development, introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.

The concept was developed by German economist Theodore Levitt, who published his Product Life Cycle model in the Harvard Business Review in 1965. We still use this model today.

The product life cycle is the time from the product concept through its eventual withdrawal from the market. The product life cycle is used for decision-making and strategy development throughout each stage. 

Marketers use the product life cycle to customize messaging for each stage, using market research to guide their efforts. The maturity of a product in the PLC allows marketing teams to determine what marketing efforts they should focus on and how they should promote a product. This results in better strategy and enhanced product marketing efforts.

Managers use the product life cycle to make strategic decisions about pricing, expansion into new markets, packaging design, and more. The product life cycle helps to align company strategy with a product’s current stage of development. Managers use this alignment to pinpoint new opportunities and improve the market performance of a product over its lifetime.

Our Concept Testing solution helps you get ideas validated by a trusted audience in less than an hour.

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Market research plays an integral role in each stage of the product life cycle. Use the ultimate guide to market research developed by SurveyMonkey to help you understand how research is key in managing the life cycle of a product. 

Every product spends a different amount of time in each stage, meaning there is no definitive timeline to reference. Each stage has its own costs, risks, and opportunities, and you’ll have to adapt your strategies depending on where you are in the life cycle.

The first stage in the product life cycle is development. The development stage of the product life cycle is about refining your concept, testing your product, and creating a launch strategy. 

Concept testing with real potential users is an important part of the development step. With concept testing, you’ll know your target market’s reaction to your concept and make changes according to their feedback—before you’ve even begun to create.

During this initial phase, you’ll encounter a lot of costs without producing any income from this new product. You may be funding this stage yourself or you may be seeking investors. Either way, the risk is high and outside funding is often limited. 

Market development can encompass anything from a brief sketch to a prototype of your product. All you need is enough to show potential investors and customers. Validate your market potential early, so you can begin raising funds to launch.

Here are three tips to improve the development stage of the product life cycle: 

  1. Messaging and claims testing: Conduct A/B testing of different messages, use surveys to gather feedback on each potential option, and test out distinct marketing channels.
  2. Ad testing: Concept test each ad you intend to launch across various demographics.
  3. Focus on high-quality research: Conduct thorough market research to understand what the market needs, wants, and has a preference for. 

The introduction phase of the product life cycle is when you launch your product. Your marketing team will be focused on building product awareness and reaching your target market. Typically, all content marketing and inbound marketing are based on promoting the product.