Cows, dogs, question marks, children and stars? BCG

As consultants we sometimes start talking a strange jargon filled language, it makes us feel knowledgable!

But what does it mean if you have products / services that are described as a dog? As a question mark or problem child? A rising star? A cash cow? Now I suspect you have heard of a cash cow – it is a product or service that doesn’t need much investment to bring in profitable sales. Indeed, a business’ holy grail. But what are the others and who came up with these terms?

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) drew up a matrix years ago to help identify where to spend the marketing money, the R&D money, the sales effort, which products and services to keep and which to quietly let die.

Let’s talk a closer look, in the diagram below you will see a two by two square, the bottom axis is low market share to high market share; the vertical access is low market growth to high market growth.

An example of a BCG matrix

I prefer the term question mark, but some prefer problem child (the kid can make good, or the kid can go down a bad path). So, take a little time and be harsh / fair about which of your products and services sit where today and where you think they are going in the future. Which question marks could become a rising star, which are heading to dogs; which rising stars today are going to be your cash cows of the future?

Yes, it is a bit of jargon using those specific terms, but the positioning of yourself against your competitors can make a difference to focus, one that you hadn’t noticed until you spend a few minutes mapping it all out on a BCG Matrix. It will help you prioritise. That will benefit your business growth going forwards, possibly a better work life balance too. It helps you be more objective.

[originally issued 3/8/20; edited 19/3/24]

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