How Flatbook Broke ProductHunt’s All-Time Top 30 & Added $150K to its Funnel
Two years ago, our team set out to solve the subletting problem. Today, we’ve found a way to remove the need to sublet altogether.
To follow up a spectacular startup year in 2014 required something special. We chose ProductHunt to help us do this. We launched on ProductHunt last week and landed a hair over 950 upvotes.
I’m going to divide this post into three main sections: (1) Planning the ProductHunt launch, (2) how Flatbook executed the launch, and (3) the results of the launch in numbers and graphs. Let’s get to it!
Before discussing the plan for getting featured on ProductHunt, it’s really important that we dig deeper into why ProductHunt was such a great avenue for Flatbook. Products fail to gain traction on ProductHunt for a variety of reasons, and one of these reasons is both one of the most powerful and most basic.
Flatbook’s current focus lies in generating leads for its Summer Sublet Program. This means that our marketing planning is extremely conscious of the people we are targeting and, by extension, the avenues we choose to spend energy on must take this into account.
The core value proposition at Flatbook is that we deal with the pain of subletting so you can pursue your summer dreams. What kind of people would benefit from such a message? Where can we situate Flatbook to meet these people?
And that’s when we thought of ProductHunt. The advent of the digital nomad lifestyle has created a huge opportunity for a company such as Flatbook. What better place to reach these folks than on ProductHunt?
Of course, we could have approached our friends at NomadList, or any other channel where digital nomads hang out. But ProductHunt provided an extra layer of value: consumer feedback and scale. Thing is, feedback is great — but adding the opportunity to generate conversions on top of generating valuable feedback made it a no-brainer.
Flatbook grew at a rate of over 800% last year.
To beat last year’s numbers required launching something special this year and the stars were aligning to do so with ProductHunt.
Our goal with the ProductHunt feature was to lock in 200 upvotes and 20 conversions, each with an approximate Lifetime Value (LTV) of $2,500. In other words, my goal was to add $50,000 to our sales pipeline.
Being successful on ProductHunt depends entirely on your product, your distribution ability, and last but not least, timing.
Flatbook pays your rent while you’re away, guaranteed. Our value proposition is easy to understand and solves a tangible pain for a large portion of the population: students, young professionals, digital nomads, seniors, etc.
Just last year, our properties saw 1,250 bookings from over 5,000 guests. In other words, we’re solving a big problem for a lot of people. And that number is expected to keep skyrocketing.
This is the quintessential cornerstone to a successful product launch: a good product with huge demand potential. Seems obvious — but scan popular startup listing websites and you’ll see this ignored firsthand.
Ryan, Erik, Bram, and the whole ProductHunt team do a stellar job at providing a high standard of consideration for the products they feature.
This consistency is what makes ProductHunt so compelling. Great new products — every day. Just like McDonald’s: the same great fries — every time.
See, a good product will get you on ProductHunt. A great product will be successful on ProductHunt. An amazing product will create a distribution velocity that is equal to or greater than the quality of the product. We demonstrate and explain this effect further below.
“Build It And They Will Come” — the Dot Com era taught us that this approach is no longer feasible. Expending resources to build something — anything — without market certainty is a framework for disaster.
Yet, this exact approach is employed by the majority of products making it on ProductHunt:
“If only I could make it to ProductHunt. It would be smooth sailing from there.”
We knew this approach wouldn’t work — being on ProductHunt in of itself wouldn’t be enough to accomplish our objectives: an effective distribution bursting schedule was needed to ensure steady up-vote velocity.
As an aside, velocity matters because the rate at which your ranking will rise is directly correlated with how quickly it is gaining traction.
In other words, we needed to aim for the top — and get there fast. Knowing what kind of products hit the top of the list day in and day out, our work was cut out for us. But we prepared. Flatbook put together the perfect distribution cocktail to create the tsunami wave needed to reach #1.
Our first preparation item was to assess our resources and figure out what we could utilize. The first item that came to mind was the FounderFuel Alumni Network, a collection of over 50 startups and more than 350 entrepreneurs — including Flatbook.
We prepared an email which would be sent out in the morning, in Eastern time (you’ll see why this matters below). That email essentially let our investors and alumni friends know that Flatbook had been launched on ProductHunt and was featured.
With the FounderFuel network locked in and ready to go, I needed to find my next 100 immediate upvotes. The thought process was that the product would probably accrue some organic upvotes and would really kick it up a notch as soon as our email to the Alumni Network would be sent. But, I needed to somehow follow up this massive surge in upvotes with another of at least equal velocity.
This is where the Flatbook staff came into action. While Flatbook HQ counts close to 30 employees, Flatbook’s distribution power comes from its network of Regional Managers, dedicated point of contacts to provide both local insight as well as a person on the ground to meet and greet our guests.
With the Regional Managers (and their Brand Ambassadors) on board, it was safe to say another 100 upvotes would come from there. That placed us in the hypothetical 500 upvote range.
This was the extent of control I could exert on our network for direct outreach. But we needed something else. Something clever.
When we first reached out to ProductHunt with the opportunity, their first reply after being interested was a request for additional information, including the name of the startup, its tagline and the timing for launch.
That got me thinking.
If I could cascade my launch to start during Europe’s morning hours, I would be able to trigger a short organic burst before we even started our day. If that was anywhere close to 50 upvotes, we stood a real chance to hit our 200 upvote goal.
So we set our launch time to 1AM PST — knowing that Europe would have probably already accrued some traction by the time North America woke up. We made this guess because we were confident our product value proposition could garner some interest on its own — while being aware of how naturally limited that interest might be.
Our timing looked like this:
- Launch at 1AM PST (Europe Morning) — 50 organic upvotes (0)
- America wakes up 4 hours later — 50 organic upvotes (100)
- Trigger FounderFuel Alumni email — 100 direct upvotes (200)
- Trigger Flatbook Staff email — 30 direct upvotes (230)
- Trigger Flatbook Regional Manager / Brand Ambassador email — 100 upvotes (330)
- Social Channels & Email Blast — 70 direct upvotes (400).
With a goal of 200 upvotes and a plan delivering 400, we felt prepared to handle the day and hit our objectives. But what happened next surprised everyone, even us!
Flatbook runs on Google Apps and Asana. Everything was pre-planned and pre-assigned; from campaign links to email copy to social media management, the whole team was in sync as to what was going to happen.
All hands on deck, we are ready for lift-off.
The actual execution day went on without a hitch. Our two marketing guys locked themselves into our board room, appropriately renaming it “The War Room” for the day. Initiatives were triggered at the scheduled times and everyone was on point as to the next steps. Roger was running Twitter at all times while Eyal, Flatbook’s Digital Marketing Director, held the helm on ProductHunt (answering user questions and feedback).
By 8AM EST on launch day, Flatbook already counted over 100 (organic) upvotes — in other words, the European morning timing strategy worked out perfectly, generating double the expected return.
This is a good time to go over the actual makeup of our ProductHunt post.
Other than the actual name and tagline of the post, there are three elements that we paid special attention to:
1. Star Icon:
This icon is provided on all products which offer a ProductHunt-exclusive deal. Flatbook provided a $100 Cash Bonus for anyone whose application is accepted by May 1st. Given the amount of visibility it provides on the first-page — we attribute a large portion of the organic upvotes we initially accrued to the visual attraction created by the star icon.
2. Maker Badges
We initially included three people as makers: the two marketing people at Flatbook and one chief (our COO, Lucas) but gradually included more (our CEO, CTO, developers and more) to reflect our policy of being transparent. If we weren’t sure about a question, our first reflex was to add the relevant person as a maker and to have them answer personally. This would create a larger minimum comment volume (a positive upvote ranking signal) and increase the quality of our replies.
Comments are an extremely important portion of the launch — in fact, the entire point of launching on ProductHunt is to leverage this burst of interest by speaking to as many people as possible. We learned a lot from the feedback received on ProductHunt.
3. First Comment
Finally, ProductHunt asked that the makers/founders of a product post its first comment. The goal of that request is to welcome ProductHunters, describe briefly the product and the exclusive ProductHunt offer. You can check it out here.
In the interest of keeping it short and sweet, we decided to create a Medium post to dive a little deeper into details, knowing full well that most of the feedback we’d receive would revolve around specific details.
The Medium post ended up generating over 2,000 views and 1K+ reads.
All said and done, Flatbook aggregated over 950 upvotes and more than 75 comments, placing it at #30 on ProductHunt’s All-Time Most Upvoted.
- Over 10,000 visitors came from ProductHunt;
- Over 60 conversions (adding $150,000 to our sales pipeline);
- 1 Biz Dev deal;
- 1,000+ tweets;
Smart positioning, clever planning and focused execution created triple the effect we hoped and prepared to achieve. I attribute this multiplier to Flatbook’s phenomenal value proposition. As referenced earlier in this article, being successful on ProductHunt depends entirely on your product, your ability to create distribution bursts and last but not least, timing.
All in all, ProductHunt allowed Flatbook to absolutely shatter its goals. We are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to present our company to such an engaged community of makers, doers and digital nomads.
We’re extending the ProductHunt special for another 72 hours, which provides accepted offers with an additional $100 CASH Bonus on top of up to 100% of your rent paid. Please make sure to use promo code: