It's a problem you see in business all the time.

Your product becomes successful. You're growing! You go gangbusters and all is right with the world. Eventually, it peaks.

Then sales begin to decline.

You ask customers what you can do to make your product better. You add those things.

But people continue abandoning your product.

You go back to your customers again and they tell you to add more features. You add more features!

But people continue abandoning your product.

It's like you're living in a hellish version of "Groundhog Day," where things are getting worse and worse and worse.

It's called the product death cycle. David Bland illustrated it perfectly on Twitter:

Flavor of the Month

You can see this flavor-of-the-month problem in numerous industries, but one example is restaurants. A new restaurant opens, gets amazingly positive word of mouth, and becomes so popular there are lines out the door and you need to wait months for a reservation.

Just a few years later, though, people start flocking to other, newer restaurants. That first restaurant, losing its sheen as the shiny new thing, sees its revenue slowly dry up. They start to panic. They renovate the restaurant, radically change the menu, and change the outfits the staff wears. But nothing really works. Eventually they're forced to go out of business.

We see this all the time in technology where product life cycles are much, much faster here. Some tech gadget or tool becomes incredibly popular because it's new and awesome, but later is rendered obsolete, or even dies, because of even newer and more awesome technologies.

Fighting for Survival

Tons of companies get to this point. The end of a product life cycle is getting closer and closer.

Obviously, you don't want your business to die, but you realize nobody is using your product anymore. So what do you do?

The absolute worst mistake you could make at this point is ask what your customer want to do to improve the product and then spend six months to a year retooling and investing precious resources into creating whatever your customer has asked for.

Why? Because after you've added your new features, even fewer people will use your product.

All you'll get out of this process is window dressing. Your existing customers are just going to keep asking you for little add-on features and functions around your existing dying core product.

And around and around you'll circle until your company finally goes down the drain.

What Should You Do Once You're in the Death Spiral?

If you really want to survive these kind of downturns in your product life cycle, then you need to think back to what you made your product so great in the first place. 

Think back to the beginning of your business. What made your company so special at the start?

Were you offering something that was unique, novel, and completely different from anything else than your competitors had at the time? Being so radically different is probably what made you so successful.

Perhaps your product simply has become too watered down over the years. Can you  recapture the innovative spirit of your early days?

Embrace Change or Face Disaster

While it's tempting to not want to upset your existing customer base, as small as it is, you really need to change your thinking if you want to escape the death spiral.

Ask yourself: What would we make if we didn't have the customers we have?

You need to think about how you can start a new life cycle, rather than thinking only about how you keep your existing product on life support for a couple more years.

After you've reached this point, you must decide to change the DNA or your organization. As Elon Musk has wisely said: "You need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster."

Published on: Jul 7, 2016