Don’t forget to feed the cash cow

I went to a top-notch seminar this week. One of the speakers talked about innovation. I liked what he said. It fitted well with my worldview.

There was only one bit that I felt was incomplete, and it’s essential.

He spoke about the Boston Consulting Group’s well-known ‘growth-share matrix.’ The vertical axis is the growth potential of the market. The horizontal axis is the competitors’ market share. Low growth-low share products/services are ‘dogs.’ High growth-low share products/services are ‘question marks.’ High growth-high share products/services are ‘stars.’ Low growth-high share products/services are ‘cash cows.’

BCG Matrix

Some of you will have heard this before. The idea is to have a balanced portfolio of products across cash cows, question marks and stars. No dogs.

All good so far, but there is an important point missing. If you don’t feed cash cows, they starve. Without a little ‘TLC’ they can quickly become dogs. Much better to take a look at adapting them, putting in some reasonable investment and seeing if, as the market matures further (and your share slips), you can move them back to question mark or even star status. Its called incremental innovation.