9 Lessons from Launching on Product Hunt

Survicate on Product Hunt

TL;DR:
Survicate got over 480 votes, which resulted in more than 2450 sessions, 49 new accounts, 1 discount code redeemed.

The most important lessons: planning is the key, be careful with promotion, if you’re not in top 3 you don’t exist, some products are more likely to gain traction on PH than others and there’s not much you can do about it. 
Product Hunt rush lasts 24 hours and then you need to focus on all the other activities to grow your company.

Product Hunt is the promised land of startups looking for recognition and new customers. Everyone’s competing for the attention of their audience — early adopters willing to try new things, provide feedback, and use new products (and ideally pay for them but it seems to be the difficult step, more on this later). You can find there anything, from silly iPhone or Android apps to fancy physical products to SaaS tools. Survicate belongs to the last category — it’s an all-in-one customer feedback tool for SMB. And this text will be about what I learned from orchestrating Survicate’s launch on Product Hunt.

Background

In fact, Survicate had been present twice on PH before the last launch. First, it was uploaded by some random person when the product was still shitty and really simple — it was just a website survey tool (basically, an alternative to Qualaroo). Result? A few votes, we didn’t even make it to the front page.

A few months ago, we built an integration with Intercom. It allows to send collected answers straight to Intercom as events, attributes, tags or notes — something interesting for many users of Intercom. This is almost all SaaS startups and hundreds of other companies all over the world. So we decided to go on Product Hunt again. We didn’t make it to the front page immediately but by a sheer luck managed to get there a bit later. Problem? It was a Friday evening and nothing was planned. Result: 80 votes and a few comments but still not exactly what one would expect from launching a startup-focused product on PH.

As they say, the third time’s a charm. We spent a few months developing and testing a bunch of new features that made Survicate an all-in-one feedback tool (we added questionnaires, in-message surveys and NPS email surveys). Then we decided to go on PH again. But this time, we wanted to do it well.

Preparation

I hate reinventing the wheel so I started looking for case studies of marketers who had managed to successfully launch on PH before me. I found several great articles, and two the best are case studies of Bench and LRN. I basically took their ideas and executed them. That’s why I’m not going to describe what I did, you’ll be better off reading those two case studies. Instead, I’m going to focus on my observations and what I learned. I believe it can be a good compliment to the posts of Justin and Nathan. 
Hint: look at this recent article for a complete checklist of a successful PH launch: https://medium.com/@hichamamine/how-we-got-1000-upvotes-on-product-hunt-by-curating-a-checklist-from-50-successful-launches-6b77ce29b444#.g85sqdayk

Results

We launched on Product Hunt on Oct 18, 1 minute after midnight San Francisco time. Flash-forward, we finished the day with a bit more than 440 votes, 2000 visits to our website and 40 registrations. Within a few days, those numbers increased slightly — additional 40 votes, 400 sessions, and 9 new accounts. Plus, over 40 discount codes sent to visitors from PH (some created accounts, some not). Additionally, we received one inquiry from a serious investment fund (negotiations in progress, we’ll see how it ends) and a few leads of high quality who emailed us asking about details of our product.

Product Hunt traffic

Lessons learned

  1. Make sure you’re ready for PH. 
    If everything goes well, you can expect a decent amount of traffic coming to your website from different devices so the website must look good. If it crashes, you’ll simply get removed from PH. Not a big surprise but I’m an active user of PH and still see products that gain some traction and then get removed because websites can’t handle so much traffic. 
    We were close to sharing their fate. We wanted to launch on PH a week before but the developers were working on cleaning up our databases so the application lagged sometimes. For this reason, I decided to delay the launch and from the perspective of time I’m pretty sure it was a good step.
  2. Plan launch in advance and divide tasks. 
    If you want to make it big on PH and have no regards that you could have done something more, there’s a lot work ahead of you (read mentioned case studies if you don’t trust me). You’ll need to contact all the people you’ve previously listed, answer comments, post in different communities, send discount codes if you offer them, handle more customer support than usually etc. I wouldn’t make it alone. I was lucky anyway to buy a new laptop a few days before the launch, the old one wouldn’t handle so intense multitasking.
  3. Product Hunt is not for everyone. 
    I think it’s easier to get good results when you offer a simple and free tool, especially for designers or coders, or connected to remote work — this is a big thing on PH. Also, there are temporary trends, like ‘Stacks’ of all kinds. It started with Startup Stash, still the biggest success on Product Hunt of all time. Similar websites quickly popped up and some of them also managed to gain popularity, like Marketing Stack or PR Stack. Joining such trends probably isn’t what companies are looking for but can be a good way of building a personal brand or a side project dedicated to building the popularity of your other products or yourself. 
    Another case is launching when you have a product with a big community around it — take Growthhackers Projects or Intercom as examples. It’s just easier to get votes when thousands of startup and marketing junkies use and love your product. If you have a niche product for a specific audience, getting more than 200 votes will be a big challenge and this directly translates into how many visits and customers/users/leads you’ll get. Which leads us to the next lesson.
  4. Product Hunt is a better source of fame and traffic than customers. 
    PH’s audience consists of people who want to know and try new products or services. Which means: they check things out, give you a vote if they like it and maybe even create an account to see how a product works. But paying is a different story. And it doesn’t surprise me — I’m the same. I love checking out novelties but it doesn’t mean I start using them and become a customer.
  5. Be careful with promotion. 
    While Product Hunt won’t kill you for asking a few friends to support you, things can easily get nasty. If you overdo promotion (especially direct asking for votes, it’s an absolute no-no) you can quickly get removed from PH. 
    My example: I started contacting people on Twitter and asking them to add Survicate to their collections. After a few tweets, one of the moderators contacted me and asked to stop. You can complain about that but this is what keeps shitty products away from PH.
  6. If you’re not in top 3 you don’t exist. 
    I bet you know one of the basic rules of designing websites — place important elements higher because they draw attention. It certainly works for PH as well. After falling from top 3, I saw an immediate downfall in website traffic from 20–30 sessions at a time to 5–10 sessions (use Google Analytics Live to track it). As a result, you start getting fewer votes because fewer people have a chance to visit your website and like you. When you start falling it’s difficult to revert without things like press coverage or support of influencers.
  7. Spread promotional efforts across a day. 
    We started big, quickly got 100 votes, then 200. Then I got tougher. A few cool products were added and started gaining traction rapidly. We lacked a boost in the evening SF time and started falling, even though we had more votes than all but one product. But it appears that dynamics is what matters to PH most and we didn’t have it 15 hours after launch. In terms of votes, we were second but we finished the day on the sixth place so we were not even included in an everyday mailing with top products from the previous day.
  8. Don’t be shy. 
    You have mere 24 hours to make the most of your presence on PH. So publish posts on your Facebook and twitter, join communities in advance and post there as well. I was surprised by feedback I received — people got really interested in our launch and eager to support us. But maybe it’s not so surprising — after all, you’re not selling them anything, you’re just showing them a cool product. 
    One important note here: be careful with messages. Don’t write ‘Hey, I’m on Product Hunt, vote plz’. People hate that and if someone from PH team sees a post like this they will kick your ass. Explain what your product is and ask for feedback.
  9. In doubts, contact PH support. 
    I wanted to make sure we can launch again on PH after mentioned false start some 2 years ago. I didn’t expect any problems because their rules state that you’re eligible for launching again when you introduce substantial changes, which we did. I decided to check anyway and it was a good decision — one of PH moderators replied that it’s no problem to upload Survicate again but they will need to do it themselves to avoid Survicate being blocked by their filters that prevent people adding the same products over and over again. Another plus — we landed on the front page exactly one minute after midnight SF time, as we planned. 
    If you add a product and it doesn’t make it to the front page right away, you’ll have it much harder to see good results from PH. However, if you’re launching on PH for the first time (check it, your product might have been added without you knowing about it) you can skip this and focus on getting an influential Hunter to add your product, it makes getting to the front page easier.

Was it worth all the effort?

Definitely, even though results were not astonishing — 1 new customer is not so much, is it? Even in our scale (roughly 120 customers and $13k MRR), one new customer is a modest result, to put it lightly. But I think launching on Product Hunt is something most startups should do. Why?

For the last couple of months, the idea of launching on Product Hunt has been coming back again and again. Now, it’s over and we’ve already moved on to thousands of other things that will help us grow Survicate — SEO, guest posting, nailing Quora, PPC, promoting our awesome integrations (any Pardot or Intercom users here? : ) etc. Because that’s the thing — Product Hunt lasts one day, next morning you get back to normal work and need to find ways to grow traffic and customer base with all other kinds of activities. Of course, acquired customers or interest from journalists can be fruitful in the future but Product Hunt alone won’t take you from a small unknown startup to a company worth billions of dollars.

Questions about Product Hunt or Survicate? Let me know in the comments or contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter, I’ll be happy to share my experience.