Managing a product in the maturity stage of the product life cycle is not a popular topic. You can find loads of resources and tips for how to get started, how to find product-market fit, and how to launch.

But how to sustain a steady business once your growth chart flattens out? There’s hardly any guidance for this, yet the maturity stage is arguably the most important one for any product – especially in tech, where innovation never stops.

With this post, we’ve set out to fill the knowledge gap. We will cover:

  • What are the stages of a product life cycle?
  • What is the maturity stage of the product life cycle?
  • How do you know when you’ve reached the maturity stage?
  • What can go wrong when you’re in the maturity stage?
  • Examples of products in the maturity stage
  • 4 top strategies to employ during maturity to be successful
  • Why is being product led and lean so important when in the maturity stage of the product life cycle?

What are the stages of a product life cycle?

There are four stages of a product life cycle: Introduction, Growth, Maturity, and Decline.


The introduction stage of a product lifecycle is those early days when you build an MVP, bring it to market for the first time, and generally characterize your customers as early adopters or beta users.


The growth stage of a product life cycle is when your product experiences a fast rate of uptake in the market. You’re still pivoting some and moving fast – while scaling your team and business practices to keep up.


This is what the rest of the post will explain in depth! Generally, it’s the most coveted yet most difficult phase of the product life cycle. You want to get here fast and stay here long. 


The decline phase of the product life cycle is when it loses favor with the market. The market moves on, competition comes in, or some other reason. Eventually, every product declines. No product is forever.

What is the maturity stage of the product life cycle?

The maturity stage of the product life cycle is when business growth levels out because the product has saturated its market. Ironically, this is where the money is made, but it’s also where the product – and business – is at the most risk of disruption from below.

The goal is to reach the maturity stage as quickly as possible, to spend less time and money on scaling to a sustainable size or reaching profitability. Once there, the goal is to extend the maturity stage as possible so you don’t end up entering into decline prematurely, e.g. a competitor comes and disrupts you right away.

It is possible for a business to continue innovating, growing, and hitting a new steady phase – a type of progressive maturity. That’s why I like to think of the maturity stage as a moving window. You can actually reach it multiple times over the life cycle of the product.

Maturity is also the most difficult stage. You’ve accumulated tech debt, customers, and stakeholders who tell you what to do and expect certain things. You have contracts. You can’t pivot so easily anymore, so you have to make the absolute best out of what you have.

How do you know when you’ve reached the maturity stage?

You’ve reached the maturity stage when your product has done what Geoffrey Moore coined as “crossing the chasm.” This is basically when your product has hit the mass market, and it happens in the growth stage.

Once you’ve crossed the chasm, you’re essentially in the maturity stage. But how do you know for sure? Here are some business indicators that suggest your product is in the maturity stage of its life cycle:

  • You’re no longer pushing to introduce yourselves to the market
  • Your users are no longer early adopters
  • Growth and churn are steady
  • Revenue and profit are steady
  • A stable product-market fit is evident in your retention and customer lifetime value (LTV)
  • Net Promoter Score results and referral channels are solid

What can go wrong when you’re in the maturity stage?

There are some pitfalls to be aware of in the maturity stage. They can vary from business to business, but here are four: feature factory, fear of experimenting, backlog beast, and risk of disruption.

Feature factory

Businesses want repeatable, consistent growth. Tons of features won’t get them there.

In particular, mature companies hold on to the cadence of “launch, launch, launch” – once useful in the introduction and even growth stages – and start measuring the wrong things. They incentivize based on delivery velocity, burndown, story points, and volume.

If you’re measured by such output measurements, the team who are just focused on feature-based product management. These teams aren’t necessarily building the right things; they’re just building a lot. Learn how to avoid becoming a feature factory by measuring the right stuff.

Fear of experimenting

It makes sense why many mature businesses are afraid to experiment. They’re too big to take risks! Companies that have taken on investment have a fiduciary duty to increase value for shareholders. The company’s job is now to grow quarter on quarter, rather than serve the market in the best way possible.

In addition to playing it safe, these mature businesses want to squeeze everything they can out of a dollar. Revenue-generating teams, such as marketing and sales, might have a healthy budget. But cost centers, such as product and operations, are kept pretty tight. This leads to management thinking of product development like this: “How many features can we get out of 300 developers?” (Hello feature factory, explained above!)

So the company is making uninspired product decisions – and missing out on opportunities to innovate and keep up with the market! Kodak didn’t launch a digital camera and missed the boat. Blockbuster had the opportunity to buy Netflix and passed

Backlog beast

Mature companies often end up with a vertigo-inducing product backlog: a really long list of everything the team could possibly do. This is partially because of the feature factory pitfall, and partially because they don’t continue with product management best practices. The backlog becomes a repository for way too many things, which are then churned through in the name of speed.

We recommend that teams split strategy from execution. That means splitting the product backlog from the development backlog. (More on this in the final section!) We also offer some advice on how to clean up a big, messy backlog.

Risk of disruption

Once you build something, it’s easier for somebody to copy unless you have a technological or legal moat around you, such as proprietary tech or copyright. It can be incredibly difficult to continuously build a mature product that grows faster than the churn you give to these new competitors.

Smaller startups will nip at your heels. While you’re trying to satisfy increasingly difficult customers (the ones that have been with you for a long time), these other companies are building for new users in the market that you haven’t been able to accommodate yet.

Take banks, for example, which were complacent for years. They saw digitalization coming and didn’t try to lead the pack. Then startups started disrupting the individual products in that industry: debit cards, insurance, mortgage, and money transfers. Now, legacy banks have to fight a product battle on several different fronts, and they’ll likely never win.

Examples of products in the maturity stage

Not all mature products are household names, not by a long shot. But here we’ve chosen three global giants to explain how they protect the core product – and how they manage it – reflects the maturity stage of the life cycle.


Facebook has grown, evolved, and rebranded over the years. Throughout all of that, the company has known not to mess with the product’s hallmark proprietary feature: the news feed. The team protects the algorithm while experimenting with other parts of the app.

As for the experiments, new features – from emoji reactions to video calls – are rolled out selectively to certain segments of users. They market test new ideas before introducing them to the entire user base.

To stave off decline, Facebook has bought small companies that compete with certain elements of its product, such as Instagram (visual content) and WhatsApp (messaging). Now Meta is venturing into the metaverse, and the future remains to be seen.


Similar to Facebook, Amazon protects its most central technology: the Buy Now feature. No matter how the platform might experiment with other things, the purchase function remains the same.

Over the years, the company has consolidated parts of logistics and delivery under its own roof. Not only that, Amazon has set the bar in the delivery space – particularly through the Prime membership option, which sees packages delivered in a matter of hours. Innovation like this keeps the company safer from competitor disruption.

Finally, the e-commerce giant branched into new territory with Prime Video and Amazon Studios. Offering a streaming service, as well as original films and television series, keeps Amazon growing and maturing in new markets.


Spotify keeps the core library of songs in place. Music is what’s expected of their product, now and probably forever. And Spotify Music is definitely in its maturity stage.

At the same time, the company is constantly building new stuff and trying to break into new territory. Now Spotify not only streams podcasts but also produces its own. They launched audiobooks, rolling out 300,000 titles already on the platform.

The top strategies to employ during maturity to be successful

Protect your cash cow

In the maturity phase, product experimentation and self-disruption are necessary. But it’s no longer a “move fast and break things” approach. Certain mature features need to be taken care of cautiously and need to be managed differently than other parts of your product.

These are what we call the “cash cow” – such as the engine of the business or any proprietary technology. You need to identify what must be protected, and what can be disrupted. 

Disrupt yourself

If the threat of disruption is all around, then the key to survival is to disrupt yourself! Here are four ways to build experimentation into your company:

1. Give team time for R&D
Research and development are necessary to innovate your product. Google allocates 20% of its time to it. Google Maps and Google Chat came out of this! Find a percentage that makes sense for your business. Whatever you can afford, give teams the space, time, and permission to think about things that might sit outside of your regular product box.

2. Hackathon
Hackathons are as good for building interesting new product areas as they are for building teams and cohesion. And any team can do one! It could just be a day, it could be a week. At the end of it, you may end up with a new product line that could boost your portfolio and disrupt your staid business.

3. The Lab
“The Lab” is creating an innovation hub within a larger organization, whose task it is to discover and internally “disrupt” the company. It’s like running a startup in-house or having an R&D department. This is pretty popular with big corporations, banks, and big tech. For more insight, check out The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen.

4. The Facebook
“The Facebook” is about imitating the social media company approach to product rollouts. They use hyper-segmentation. With the world’s largest user base, they never launch anything to everyone all at once. Instead, they segment to a fine degree, targeting only the most relevant users.

When you’re experimenting with potentially disruptive new features, release it to a small group of users. Test, learn, iterate – and continue rolling it out to wider and wider circles. This requires using feature flags really well!

Cultivate psychological safety

Psychological safety is a key element of successful teams at any stage in the product life cycle. People have to be willing and able to speak up if they have an idea or see room for improvement. They should feel free to question, pitch, challenge, and take some kind of initiative. 

Building a sense of psychological safety on the team is important to keep your team members on board as you embark upon a new journey of experimentation and disruption – because it’s bumpy! Some of your bets are going to be wrong, and the team needs to be okay with that.

Ditch the timeline roadmap

The timeline roadmap is essentially an out-of-date plan of what you think you should build into your product. When you plan far ahead and stick to deadlines, you lose the room to iterate, learn, and be lean.

Again, we recommend teams separate strategy from execution. The roadmap is a tool for experimentation and reflects your product vision. The strategy piece requires product discovery, as well as time to brainstorm, research, and test.

You need to make room for potential changes in the market and the competitive space. By ditching the timeline roadmap, you’re able to make space for that.

Why is being product led and lean so important when in the maturity stage of the product life cycle?

In the maturity stage of the product life cycle, you need to remain product-led and lean in order to maintain your position in the market and stave off decline.

Even though it seems like you’ve made it, you can’t sit back on your laurels and enjoy the profits. Churn will catch up with you. Your competitors will catch up with you.

Being lean allows you to make room for potential changes in the market and competitive space. You are flexible and ready to adapt. The companies that stay lean are the ones who do stay at the top of their game.

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