How We Learned to Get Into Product Hunt Top 5. The Story of RealtimeBoard
The biggest resource featuring new products — Product Hunt — has recently celebrated two year anniversary (congratulations!). It introduced thousands of new products to the community, and RealtimeBoard is lucky to be a part of this journey.
But our story is special. While many companies describe their Product Hunt experience as success OR failure (or describe nothing), we managed to achieve both fail and success — with a unique chance to learn lessons from both sides of the scale.
So if you’re looking to get featured on Product Hunt, read our story and learn from our mistakes to improve your performance and benefit your startup.
RealtimeBoard is a SaaS application designed to make remote visual collaboration simple and straightforward for everyone. Individuals, teams and companies worldwide use it for project management, interface development, user flow mapping, storytelling, brainstorming as well as other unique and curious use cases. It was initially designed in 2012 with Flash but in 2015 significant construction work was made on site. Currently RealtimeBoard user list is more than 1 Million, it is completely rebuilt with HTML5, has an upgraded design and some brand new features. It is available for desktop computer, laptop, interactive whiteboard or touchscreen, tablet and mobiles.
Our Epic Fail on Product Hunt
Although we have recently achieved 600 upvotes and were included into Top 5 of the day, the story of RealtimeBoard and Product Hunt starts way back, even before we made a conscious decision to get featured there.
There’s nothing to be proud of, but this is our story. For our first time, we were hunted by the hashtag inventor Chris Messina …and no one on our team was aware of that. Unbelievable! While so many folks are dying to be featured on the main page by a respected hunter, we have missed our easy chance.
In 2014 we weren’t using Product Hunt, and the community saw us for the first time. Although this hunt was upvoted by 100+ people, successful two-way communication didn’t happen. We just weren’t there for it to happen.
It was a fatal coincidence — we scheduled a set of marketing activities at the same time, so we didn’t notice a spike in traffic from Product Hunt. Due to our inability to respond to the Product Hunt community RealtimeBoard raised low interest, so no one even mentioned us on Twitter.
Can you imagine our frustration a bit later, when Product Hunt fame entered our office and instead of planning a campaign we had to face the results of our mental isolation?
- Monitoring mentions in real-time is a key to good publicity and public relations. Here’s where Notify comes to help! It’s not perfect, but it is more powerful than your good old search engines or monitoring tools if you want to react immediately. Of course, it’s better if you know every trending point in the industry, but if you don’t, you should rely on helpful tools. Nowadays almost every article or review, even comments are reposted in Twitter — and then Notify can send you an immediate alarm. For a better workflow — integrate it with your Slack.
- Also, it’s better to run the process than to go with the flow. Trend monitoring is a necessary routine, but it is YOU who should be the initiator of any public activity. In this case, you are always ready to welcome new visitors and make sure they are satisfied.
- Take customer feedback into account. Although we didn’t get to respond to these few comments we received on Product Hunt, we did take the feedback very seriously. The opinion was in line with what we’ve been hearing from our active users — they were all claiming that running on Flash is a huge disadvantage for us. The decision was made — we were moving to the shiny HTML5. Next 9 months were spent rebuilding RealtimeBoard from scratch, with the Flash version still being available to our users.
- Product Hunt doesn’t give a second chance, but it appreciates renovations and launching in new niches. A quick research shows that there are many products with 2.0, 3.0 or integrations with other products (just type “for” in the search bar and you will get Giphy For Gmail, Hearthstone for iPhone, etc.). This was our four-leaf clover turned into the update that was worthy of sharing with the world — “rebuilt with HTML5, RealtimeBoard is turning 2.0”! We decided that it was time to meet the Product Hunt community again.
New Chance for RealtimeBoard 2.0
So how did we manage to become the second most upvoted whiteboard on Product Hunt ever?
We started the preparation one month before the launch.
Guess what we did first, when we decided to get hunted? :-)
- We created a new board in RealtimeBoard in order to prepare a visualized strategy and create an action plan, separated into three columns: before launch, launch day, after launch. We focused on running the process while maintaining every little detail. Having the entire process visualized, accompanied with helpful links, docs, a mood board and any useful piece of advice that we could find, allowed every participant to make significant input and stay updated.
- We designed our launch plan according to Product Hunt FAQs and Pro Tips. We were active but didn’t attempt to break the rules, because their voting algorithm is smart enough to ensure a fair competition.
- In order to expand the supportive audience, we promoted Product Hunt website across our friends a month prior to the launch (for those who hadn’t used it before). It was fairly easy because Product Hunt is pretty exciting!
- We created a special landing page for Product Hunters, added the famous kitten and a bar with an action button. It was available at a dedicated URL link: /producthunt/.
- Our homepage was also tweaked — we were ready to add the kitten and a bar leading to the Product Hunt main page in time for the launch. We used Hello Bar to place the message on both pages, using branding color of Product Hunt.
- Many words are written about the amount of credibility you get when you are hunted by one of the top hunters. We were lucky enough to receive an agreement for being hunted (15 minutes after we pushed the “Send” button) from Chris Messina, hashtag inventor, who also hunted us a year ago.
- It’s strictly forbidden to ask for upvotes but it’s appreciated when you are spreading the word. So we prepared an email for our users to let them see what’s new and share that we were on Product Hunt main page, inviting them to join the discussion.
- Our mailing list included:
a) active and loyal users, who used the app not less than 10 times in the last two months (we didn’t want to spam everyone);
b) people who were both RealtimeBoard users (or Twitter followers) and Product Hunt community members. This way we could reach out to those users, who were able to leave comments on Product Hunt — and that’s exactly what we encouraged them to do later.
- We had priorly prepared a bunch of messages for social network profiles so we could get them posted at the right moment. It’s worth mentioning again and again that our messages didn’t not ask for upvotes and just pointed out that we were turning 2.0 and were being featured on the Product Hunt main page.
- While there are many ambitious people who are getting upset with unexpected results like these folks, we had decided that it was OK to achieve any place on Product Hunt, as long as we achieve our internal goals. That is why we set our goals for Product Hunt campaign, which included being featured in Product Hunt Top 5 daily email, Monthly Collection, increasing traffic and twitter followers, etc.
- Since Product Hunt community is very friendly and open to communication, people tend to tweet not only about the upvoted products but also reach out with direct feedback to makers. We learned our lesson from the first launch, and adjusted the list of our Notify monitoring words to include CEO and CMO Twitter handles.
- All the above-mentioned steps were part of our step-by-step action plan. We had allocated responsibilities between team members and made sure they understood what exactly they had to do in what period of time. This action plan was available in RealtimeBoard, so every engaged employee could get instant access to the latest information.
Although we read lots of articles saying that launch day was crazy, our preparation let us enjoy the fun and feel way less overwhelmed when launching.
The Day We Reached Top 5 on Product Hunt
Late in the evening on November 9, two hours prior to the launch, Chris Messina (thanks again!) sent us a link so we could add makers’ accounts.
At 00:12 when it all started, everyone stuck to the plan listed in RealtimeBoard: we installed the welcoming bars on the website and spent the next 24 hours answering questions, spreading the word and promoting the discussion.
We had our plan open in RealtimeBoard, so we had all the links, documents, messages, etc. at hand. We ran the process. Nothing could overwhelm or surprise us, and we spent seconds on every required action.
We were leading the list during the first 80 upvotes, and competed for the top spot with Airbnb Experiences during the next 200 upvotes and several hours.
Although the plan worked well for us, some flexibility is always a great advantage. For example, at some point in time the icon image of Airbnb was replaced with a darker picture which looked more catchy, so we reacted with a GIF to stay visible.
When it became clear that we were going to rank as the third product of the day, it didn’t bother us too much, because we still reached our internal goals!
After the launch we thanked the community, sent the appreciation letter to Chris Messina and went to sleep.
Do you think we stopped at this point? No, we just needed a second wind to keep going!
Our “after launch strategy” was designed to get the most benefit out of the launch.
First of all, we analyzed and answered all the feedback that we got on Product Hunt and Twitter. We used positive language and engaged people to use the product using trigger questions.
We also applied engaging tactics to increase retention and referral. We scheduled a reminding letter for all the Hunters who signed up for a free trial at RealtimeBoard, so they didn’t forget to use their discount before the trial period was over.
RealtimeBoard is the third most upvoted product of November 10. We achieved Product Hunt Top 5 status.
RealtimeBoard is the second most upvoted web-whiteboard (you can check it out in the whiteboarding collection).
Mentions in Twitter increased by 265%.
The number of daily visitors doubled (November, 10).
The number of daily signups doubled (November, 10).
Since November, 11, RealtimeBoard daily site traffic grew by 1.4% (which is significant in real numbers).
Lessons Learned 2.0
Product Hunt was built by smart people! They focus makers on the product and UX first. While you are trying to hack Product Hunt, someone is making a good product. Hacking may get you a better spot in the list, but it never plays out well in the long run. That’s why we put a lot of effort into preparing RealtimeBoard for the launch.
Any competition drives you crazy by nature. And success doesn’t come from nothing. Preparation is the key. Yes, it’s not easy breezy, but playing dirty or just keeping your fingers crossed won’t lead you to getting a high rank.
And do you really need this top spot of the day? Different products have different target audience — that is why this obsession with the first place is a bit pointless if you’re aiming for actionable results.
We learned our previous lessons, read many articles, improved the product and performed good, but there is still room for improvement. We cannot explain why we didn’t do this, but we leave it here as an opportunity.
Mailing list could have been expanded to include those who:
- Have left comments on similar products;
- Have upvoted your product before;
- Have upvoted other similar products before.
We could have reached out to veteran hunters prior to the launch day — it would have benefited our credibility rank afterwards. This can be done via Twitter or Product Hunt feed. If you don’t have access for commenting, try to find a friend on Product Hunt. We received an invitation from a friend a week before launch, but didn’t use it wisely. We could have left comments with mentions under products of N top hunters to get recognized better during our launch.
If your launch was generally successful, pitch the media. Your targeted goals will help you stand out: instead of pitching a product with 500+ upvotes and 3rd place of the day, write (for example): “the most upvoted web-based whiteboard ever”. Make sure to have your CEO, CMO or PR thank every author for the article or review.
Unique value proposition and your story will highlight you as Ryan Hoover advises. Due to the fact that there are some whiteboards on the market, it was risky for us to use a “win or die” strategy. We knew that our product has an intuitive interface, wide range of tools and integrations, competitive price and a nice engine. So we hoped for users to make their decision based on their experience with the product. It is a hypothesis, but we think that having a good story behind it all could be even more captivating.
You can find more articles about using RealtimeBoard, productivity, collaboration, planning and case studies on RealtimeBoard blog.
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