This is the story of our product launch & how, as a growth marketer, not being on Product Hunt was the best thing that could’ve happened. It’s a tale of angst, ennui, exhilaration, and winning.
But before we get there I’ll share our Product Hunt stats (since that’s probably the meat of what you really want to know).
Traction From Being On Product Hunt
We stayed in the top 10 for those crucial 3 days. Which resulted in :
Now, on to the story for those want to hear an epic tale of fail & win.
Chapter 1 Product Hunt Epic Fail
Chapter 2 Product Hunt FTW
Chapter 3 Learnings
Chapter 4 The Aftermath : our actual launch goals and results
Chapter 1 : Product Hunt Epic Fail
It’s startup land. Pre-seed and pre-product. Two months overdue to launch and unexpected hurdles keep popping up. We’re scrambling to lay a strategic growth foundation while managing tactical marketing channels on a shoestring budget.
Our team of 4 is working furiously. So close, so close.
I’m taking a break from some number crunching with a walk down by the waterfront. 7 minutes after I leave the office the CEO calls. He never calls me on a break.
“Hey! What’s up?”
“Remember how you said not to worry about being submitted to Product Hunt too early?”
“Fuck. I’ll be right back.”
My stomach drops. My brain snaps into fight/flight. I dash back to the office.
By the time I fly through the door I have a bunch of different solves. So did the team. The room was electrified as we started launching emails, tweeting Ryan Hoover, calling peers and doing anything we could to find out how to get off Product Hunt.
An hour later we were ‘hidden’ on Product Hunt and we were all able to get back to work. I had no idea what that meant but it sounded good. In that short time we had 117 click throughs.
TWO MONTHS LATER ….
We’ve got a solid product launch strategy around generating buzz, making some sales, and capturing a shit ton of newsletter signups. (see goals/results at the bottom)
I asked my Tradecraft mentor, Graham Hunter, to (re)post us on Product Hunt (PH) at midnight and I settled in for a sleepless night of answering emails, replying to comments, and monitoring our launch goals.
12:20a I get a message from Graham saying he’s submitted us, good luck.
12:21a I check Product Hunt — nope, not there yet
12:25a I check Product Hunt — nope, not there yet
12:35a I check Product Hunt — nope, not there yet
12:40a Inquisitive email from the CEO— nope, we’re still not on PH yet
I set an alarm to wake every 30 minutes so I know the second we’re on PH.
6:00a We still weren’t on Product Hunt. I sent PH support an inquiry and received unhelpful information around reasons why some companies don’t appear on Product Hunt.
8:00a I’m tweeting Product Hunt asking to be ‘unhid’ and our network is pushing the tweet around.
9:00a Slack is blowing up with messages from our off-site teammates asking if they can send their launch announcements yet and I have to say ‘no’. I’m also shooting off ‘abort! abort!’ messages to people who had automated their outreach.
You get the picture. That was a horrible day. The office was eerily quiet. We never showed up on Product Hunt, and had no idea why. I vacillated between FML and Desk Flip.
STEP BACK, A LITTLE BACKGROUND
I’m the Director of Marketing for Noble Brewer. We’re a platform for craft beer lovers to connect with the best artesian homebrewers and bring their beers to life.
I had really only promised one thing about our launch. That I could deliver on Product Hunt.
The launch strategy I created leveraged Product Hunt as the catalyst for generating buzz and social shares. While I’d normally never recommend this, I had a compelling reason to do so this time.
I’m part of a strong startup network full of eager Product Hunters. A few months ago I helped my boyfriend’s startup by rallying our network around their release and being posted on Product Hunt. We drove over 4 thousand downloads on the first day, and the numbers didn’t trail off for days after that. The amount of overall traffic was amazing — especially when compared to their expensive PR firm, which drove about 1/16th as much traffic.
And, we’d already been submitted. Sooo … there’s that.
Now, back to the time I’ll always remember as That Week We Didn’t Get On Product Hunt.
WEDNESDAY Day 1 of not being on Product Hunt
By Wednesday, I was generating ideas on how to leverage not being on Product Hunt. I mean, there is a story there, right?
“How could we gain some traction by NOT being on Product Hunt?”
I had a paltry list put together, but I could make one of them work. Still though, pretty bleak.
THURSDAY Day 2 of not being on Product Hunt
I’m reworking our launch strategy, starting with quantifying the missed opportunity. Once we understood exactly what we needed to recover, we churned out a bunch of ideas, I went home early, and climbed into bed before 10p. I curled up in a ball. I was dreading the next day.
FRIDAY Day 3 of not being on Product Hunt
I woke having reached the fifth stage of grief — acceptance. What it really boiled down to was I wanted to have a good reason to blast our network about launching — better than ‘hey everyone, we have beer!’. If we didn’t have the excitement around being hunted, there had to be something else we could crow about.
SATURDAY Day 4 of not being on Product Hunt
I’ve decided to generate an email list of 5,000. I know I can convert 1% of that (beer, amiright?!). I reached out to my network and spent the next 24 hours talking to anyone who was unlucky enough to open my email or answer my call. I was feeling the adrenaline rush of creativity. I was going to do something awesome by Monday. Product Hunt be damned.
SUNDAY Day 5 of not being on Product Hunt
I’ve got my hook. We launch a KingSumo contest for A Year Of Beer For $1. For those that don’t know, KingSumo is a super easy WordPress plugin that creates contests with built-in virality. Entrants simply submit their email to enter the contest, then share across all their social platforms and for every person who enters the contest through their personalized URL they get 5 more entries.
So we could expect to see a spike in social media engagement and website traffic, potentially attract media attention, and give our friends something fun to spread the word about. Everything we needed.
MONDAY Day 6 of not being on Product Hunt
We’re gonna hit the button tomorrow morning.
We’ve got something buzz-worthy. All outgoing communication has been updated to replace Product Hunt with the KingSumo contest. We’ve already acquired 1611 email entrants. Just to close the loop, we sent one more email to Product Hunt asking for help.
And they respond. They are super sweet and say they’ll publish us tomorrow.
Ack! Change all the things back! Whooo! Click Send! Click Send! Tell the world!
Chapter 2 : Product Hunt FTW
TUESDAY The day we are on Product Hunt — Punch it Chewie!
By 3p our launch is in full-tornado. Our inboxes are overflowing, sales are flooding in, social engagement is through the roof, and media outlets are reaching out.
A couple days later we’re picked up by Urban Daddy and we get another nice flurry of sales. This carries us into the next week. The KingSumo contest is all over the beer blogs and forums, we’ve got close to 6000 email address and over 25,000 entries.
We had a frantic week keeping up with everything, but it felt good. We launched … and we won doing it. We’ve got the beginnings of something to talk to investors with.
Chapter 3 : Learnings
Today, it’s 3 weeks later. Surprisingly, Product Hunt traffic is still trickling in. As we move on to other things the momentum from our launch push is still carrying us forward.
But the real reason I wanted to publish this article, was to give myself a conduit to focus on what the entire launching-a-startup experience taught me.
GROWTH MARKETER LEARNINGS
- Inspiringly creative moments will happen when you’re backed into a corner. So the quicker we get through those stages of grief the quicker we’re gonna emerge a bad-ass.
- Once we understand the full implications of a missed opportunity we can work our way upstream for insight into how to fill that gap.
- Pictures of cute kittens will only dull the pain so much.
- The obvo. While we may have some sure wins we still need to have a safety net in place. Because we really never know.
- I’m pretty good on my own, but I’m pretty awesome with a team. I’ll bet the same goes for you. Reaching out to get advice and guidance from peers is what network strength is all about. I learned this first from Misha Chellam, co-founder of Tradecraft, but had never really experienced it first-hand until now.
PRODUCT HUNT LEARNINGS
- If you are submitted too early (in our case, we didn’t have beer yet) reach out to Product Hunt immediately.
- Develop a network of avid Product Hunt upvoters. It doesn’t take much to network at startup and entrepreneurial meetups. I took a page from Lyle McKeany on How To Seed Your Email list to generate my friends and family email list, many of which are hunters.
- Don’t be shy, reach out to founders of hunted companies via LinkedIn or email and ask what they wish they’d done better with being on Product Hunt.
- Track your Product Hunt metrics if you plan on having new releases that could get you on PH again. It’s worth knowing what you can get out of being hunted.
CHAPTER 4 : The Aftermath
You’ve read this far, seems only fair to share our actual top-level goals and results rather than just show percentages.
OUR LAUNCH TACTICS
- Reach out to friends and supporters with a short, succinct email asking to push across social media. Include click-to-tweet, share-on-facebook, and link to Product Hunt so the ask is only a few seconds for someone.
- Unhide ourselves on Product Hunt and stay in a top 10 position for all 3 days.
- Create a PH exclusive offer and link from PH to a co-branded landing page.
- Boost on our social media channels.
- Capture emails via KingSumo contest.
- Create a referral program to encourage friends and family to share.
OUR LAUNCH RESULTS
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like any information around any of the techniques used here or if you’d like to chat growth marketing over a beer sometime.
A huge shout out to Tye Degrange of Round Barn Labs for his expert user acquisition advice on how to recover, Connor Riley of Mistobox for responding to my cold email with some awesome advice from a fellow-hunted, and Tradecraft for being the most bad-ass-iest teachers every growth marketer needs.
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