Word about the Bicycle

Products, like human beings, go through the same life cyle: conception, birth, infancy, growth, maturity, and ultimate decline.

♦ Birth—All products are at their most vulnerable during the first months after their launch. Those from unknown parents require announcements even more to spread the news. Court every bit of free publicity you can wangle. Spend time cultivating journalists. Brief them thoroughly to explain your program. You will also need selling power to get the goods off the nursery shelf.

♦ Growth—When sales increasingly amount to more than they cost, you are in the growth phase. Extra effort will hasten the rise and enable you to get a hold before competition takes up the slack. Products can usefully be diversified to exploit different sections of the market and bar them from competitors. The growth phase does not last forever. Sooner or later the market for your product reaches its maximum size.

♦ Maturity—As product sales peak, competition is usually at its greatest. Reinforcement advertising can be used to remind users of your product's existence and keep sales on a high plateau. New growth can only come from opening new sales territories. Most opportunities lie abroad. Product development still continues but you begin to run out of new features.

If you have not established value in the brand, you may be forced by distributors to drop the price.

♦ Decline—Sooner or later, the world moves on. For reasons no one could anticipate at the outset, every product becomes outdated, usually with newer products snapping at its heels. There's a great temptation to embark on promotions or reduce prices on the basis that what you lose in price is more than made up from sales from a much larger herd. It doesn't always turn out like that. Smart operators see natural decline years ahead so they build new products like a series of arches as they go. As one product goes down another comes up and the corporation floats forward from crest to crest.

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