It takes a special marketing class to really learn the in’s and out’s of appealing to customers. If you don’t want to sit through a class, stay right here for a crash course. There’s a direct way stars, question marks, cows, and dogs relate to your business.

Does that sound crazy? It shouldn’t! In 1966, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) created the BCG Portfolio Matrix to determine each Strategic Business Unit’s (SBU) return on investment, growth potential, and level of risk. Each quadrant was broken down into basic categories that you learned in kindergarten – Stars, Question Marks, Dogs, and Cows.

Updated Chart

You’re probably very confused about what each image means and why it’s broken down this way. As a business owner, you can use this chart to help you determine which of your products are working and which ones are complete duds. Here’s how!


Night Stars

This is a fast-growing market leader that yields large profits but needs a lot of cash to finance its growth. If you can catch customers in the product’s prime, you’re likely to strike gold! Think of it like a child actor who loses their fame after they get gray hairs and a deeper voice.

Question Mark/Problem Child:

Business Questions

These products show promise because of their rapid growth, but because of their poor profit margins, they end up creating a lot of questions. These unanswered questions could end up affecting your bottom line.


Night Dog

Products in this category have low-growth potential and own a very small market share. Your only options are to either grab your money and run or completely scratch the idea and move on. In other words, “let a sleeping dog lie.”

Cash Cow:

Cash Cows

This is a product that’s sitting in the pasture waiting to be milked (not literally, of course). These products generate more cash than they need to maintain the market share and the revenue made is used to fund Stars and fix Question Marks.

There you have it! You can break all the products and services you offer into these categories and figure out a better plan of action. If you need a reminder, or want this wisdom to exist in the office every day, you can’t go wrong with a star stress reliever, cow stress ball, or dog stress toy!

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