Zero to Featured: How Ferris Cracked The “Launch Day” Code
The past week, since we announced Ferris, has been one of the most rewarding and exhausting weeks ever for our small team. We have been completely humbled by the overwhelming response we’ve received since Ferris “got big” last week and this post is a gathering of our thoughts after the storm.
Within 24 hours of announcing our iOS app, Ferris was Featured by Apple as one of the Best New Apps, climbed into the Top 50 list of Photo and Video apps, and saw an incredible buzz and response surrounding it. All of which A) we did not truthfully expect to happen or knew beforehand and B) has deeply humbled us.
So let us start this post by simply stating, THANK YOU!
The post below provides some of our insight into we believe has led to this success.
Here are the 3 things we attribute Ferris’s success to over the last week:
1 ) Having a great product
This may seem obvious to some but is non-trivial and is something EVERY startup should test and focus on long before they decide to launch their product.
Just like every mother thinks their child is the cutest, every startup thinks their product is “revolutionary and going to change the world”. More than likely though your product is an ugly child. Ferris definitely was in the beginning but we’ve blossomed in our teen years☺
To know, to really know, that you have a good product you need to go out into the real world and have 10 people who are in your target market actually use your product and
- Watch what they do
- And listen, listen, and then listen some more.
Even if they are an immediate supporter, it is guaranteed that you will walk away with something to fix or a way to make your product better.
The bigger chance is that you realize the child you thought was the cutest really doesn’t solve a problem or doesn’t led to habitual use. Don’t give up though! No product fully survives its first encounter with the market. Hone and fix your product as fast as possible and then go out to 10 more people. Repeat this a few more times and your product will be exponentially better than it was at the beginning.
Watching and listening to real people use your product is invaluable and should be the thing that companies focus on first. If you haven’t done this yet with your product, get out and do it now!
Some of you may be screaming “No! Launch and Learn! Don’t waste time testing!” and you are partially right, we’ll admit. Time is of the essence and there is nothing more satisfying than actually launching a product but there can be a fine balance struck between getting to market as fast as possible while also doing some quick learning before launching to improve your product.
We call this “speedy but smart” ☺
With Ferris, we ran Alpha and Beta testing for 2 whole months before we even thought about launching. We feel strongly that this time spent testing directly correlates to the success potential we had at launch.
Not only was Ferris more stable and streamlined after testing, but we understood our audience better which makes everything, from development to marketing, more efficient.
Even after all this testing, we didn’t “launch” right away. When we did push to the App Store in mid-March, we did so quietly and as an “invite-only” app. We did this (modeling after what we had seen other apps like Inbox by Google, Mailbox, and Spotify do) because no matter how much testing you do there will always be issues that come up from your product being used in the wild for the first time.
By launching as “invite-only” , where each person using Ferris had a set number of invites they could give to others, we could control the organic growth of Ferris and fix any issues quickly. We controlled the invite number from our backend and could throttle it whenever we needed to. By doing this, we were able to fix issues while keeping the “blast radius” to only a handful of people.
This effort to test, iterate, and hone Ferris before we “went loud”, led to only a handful of issues being reported since launch day!
By focusing on people and product first while still iterating and moving quickly, Ferris was able to provide a positive first experience for everyone coming in on launch day. This also helped us immediately resonate with the audience we are going after because Ferris solved their issues specifically.
Ferris helps people, like parents, who have a lot of video trapped on their phone. The main benefit that those people get from using Ferris is remembering and enjoying those stories again instead of losing them to “folder purgatory” (this is what we call it when someone says, “Oh yea..I put all my videos in the cloud but I have no idea where anything is, haven’t revisited them since, and probably never will because I don’t have the time.”)
From our own research, the main reasons why people didn’t do anything with all those videos before was that:
- It was shaky video that they didn’t think was “social media worthy” (we heard countless times, “I just have videos of my kids. Nobody finds that interesting!” but the actual truth was that they were sharing that with a small group through text message and those people watched and re-watched that content over and over again)
- There wasn’t an easy way to simply “do something” with all this content. Most video editing apps were way too complicated to fit their needs (“Which filter? Add soundtrack? Re-order here…Trim there…now only 42 more steps before you’re finished!”) and also their video content was spread across lots of mediums (Square Vine videos, Portrait SnapChat Stories or Meerkat/Periscope videos, GoPro, just iPhone video, etc.).
We set about to build Ferris simply to meet their needs of making use of ALL of this video just on their phone instead of just a few.
We knew from the beginning that people were going to want to share their Ferris stories with those close to them. Almost every test that we did, the person using Ferris would immediately turn the phone to us and smile and laugh as they told us “Watch here! Watch here!” as they rediscovered their lost memories with Ferris.
Being able to quickly share Ferris content with close family and friends led to a lot of our growth on launch day. People were sharing these memories with that small, but highly engaged audience around them in a way they couldn’t before. Funny thing was that those small circles of people overlapped other small circles of people. This has led to a very steady, and engaged growth rate due to people using Ferris now referring others.
There have been over 670 people invites from the app and over 1400 “story shares” since we launched last week!
This word-of-mouth growth among our target audience has led to really steady, underlying growth since launch. We’ll be doing cohort analyses to monitor and study this growth over time but it’s been extremely helpful to our success since launch day.
3) Product Hunt
The day that we launched, April 23, Ferris was also posted to Product Hunt. For those people that are not familiar with Product Hunt, it’s a great site where people can post about new products that are coming out and have great discussions around them. Overall, Product Hunt ended up driving the most amount of traffic and downloads for Ferris. It performed better than any of our other efforts on launch day!
We knew that Product Hunt was something we wanted to do for a while so we set about making a strategy to “do it the right way”.
On Product Hunt, not everyone can post a product or comment. Only certain people who have been invited are able to post and comment. First thing we needed to do was find someone that could actually post for us, luckily we didn’t have to look too far.
Ferris’s lead investor, Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures, had over 20,000 followers on Product Hunt and had the ability to post. Having Mark post Ferris to Product Hunt on launch day, immediately emailed the 20,000+ people following him that he had posted something. This gave us immediately more of a chance of people looking at our post than if someone posted it that had only 5 followers on Product Hunt.
Product Hunt Tip#1 : Get someone with a lot of Product Hunt followers to post your product if at all possible. That said, your product has to be good to rise up in Product Hunt. Their algorithm and community is built entirely around only good products rising up. So doing this doesn’t guarantee success but it can help if your product is good as well. If your product isn’t good, it won’t rise up no matter what you do.
Next thing we did was post to Product Hunt on a Thursday. “Why Thursday?”, you may be asking. Product Hunt, like other link-based communities, has a lot of posts coming in every day and either you can be a signal or lost in all that noise.
From our research, Monday through Wednesday were the most competitive days on Product Hunt (where Ferris would have a smaller chance of rising above the noise) with Tuesday being the most competitive of all.
Product Hunt Tip#2: Post on a lower competitive day like Thursday through Sunday if possible. If Instagram or Google post something the same day as you, even if you post on a lower competitive day there is almost no shot of beating them. Posting to Product Hunt is a roll of the dice and we ended up lucky when we did ours. Posting around 6–7 AM PST seemed to be the better time to post from our research as you are still early enough to get eyes on your post from the East Coast and you have the full day (Product Hunt rolls over each night) to gather comments and upvotes.
We posted Ferris to Product Hunt on a Thursday (April 23rd) and also worked to get our press to come out on Thursday as well. We figured that it was better to have a concerted effort all at once.
Overall Ferris got 300+ upvotes on Product Hunt and ended up as the 4th top post for the day!
This was doubly great because Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt and super nice guy, sends out an email newsletter to Product Hunt users the next day with a link to the top 10 posts from the day before. Not only did we get a lot of downloads from Product Hunt the day we posted but we also got another burst the day after by being in the Top 10.
Now for those numbers that make us think that Product Hunt was a big part of Ferris’s success on launch day.
Here is the traffic to our website (ferris.tv) the day of our launch:
We used traffic to our website as a proxy for App Store download referrals because Apple doesn’t provide this information directly. We know that this isn’t a perfect method to account for ROI but we made the best with what we had at hand and what we saw others doing. If someone knows of a better way, please let us know.
As you can see, Product Hunt drove the most traffic to our website on our launch day. We were able to secure some great articles about Ferris on launch day from the awesome Ryan Lawler at TechCrunch and Andrew Wallenstein at Variety but as you can see from the numbers Product Hunt drove more traffic than any of our press coverage on launch day.
When we dug in further, Product Hunt also had a really high conversion rate. We have buttons on our website that take people to Ferris on the App Store and we use these “button clicks” to help measure conversion rate of people that visit our website to actually what we want them to do which is download our app. Again, not a method to get your “real download numbers by referrer” but we were looking at the overall trend instead of the actual numbers.
Here are the numbers for clicks based on referral sources:
293 people of the 1,455 that came from Product Hunt went on to the App Store or roughly a ~20% conversion rate. TechCrunch did have a higher conversion rate with ~35% but had much lower traffic numbers so had a lower impact on our numbers overall.
Remember that this is not a true indication of how many downloads happened because of a particular source. This doesn’t capture the people that went directly from Product Hunt to the App Store to download (which our Product Hunt post had a direct link) or people that read an article and went directly to the App Store to search, find, and download Ferris. Measuring mobile download ROI isn’t a perfect science at the moment but we felt confident enough in these numbers to judge overall trends we saw on launch day.
These numbers along with the large social buzz that specifically called out “We saw you on Product Hunt!” makes us believe that Product Hunt was THE LARGEST DRIVER of our initial download success on launch day. We are definitely not saying that it will work for everyone but it did work for us.
Ferris launch by the numbers…
Over the 48 hours after launching, we saw:
- 7,290 downloads from the App Store
- 3,765 new people signed up and using Ferris
- 2,993 stories created in Ferris
- 9, 548 videos uploaded to Ferris totaling 93 GB of video
- 111 hours of videos watched in Ferris
- Featured by Apple as one of the Best New Apps on launch day
- Ferris jumping into the Top 5o apps list for Photo and Video in the App Store
As you can imagine, we were beside ourselves. We weren’t alerted to being Featured by Apple either. We just saw that by sheer luck of looking at the App Store on our own phones and going “Hey! That’s our icon!”. We’ve tried reaching out to Apple to thank them for this but haven’t got a response yet. It’s absolutely humbling to be mentioned with the other great app developers on that list. If you are the one who featured Ferris, you have a lot of high-fives and a six pack waiting for you at our office ☺
Thank you all for making this possible!
Ferris would not be anywhere without all the people who have helped us along the way and that are using and loving the product right now. This is just the beginning (we have loads lined up to keep learning and improving!) and we’ll keep everyone posted as things progress.
Some may look at our numbers and say that they aren’t that impressive or doubt the insights we’ve drawn from our launch strategy and that’s okay. All we can do is be transparent and tell it from our perspective. For us, a small team who has been exhaustingly working on Ferris for multiple years, this was more than we ever dreamed or planned.
The overwhelmingly positive feedback from the people that we set out to help, people with a whole lot of video trapped on their phones, is enough to let us know we are on the right path. We’ll continue to learn and grow in the days and months ahead.
As we continue through this week and spend even more time digging into the data and insights, we’ll post up anything else that we think could be useful to someone out there trying to do the same thing as us.
If you are already using and loving Ferris, Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Words can’t express our gratitude for all the feedback and support you’ve given us over this past week and beyond!
If you know someone who might enjoy Ferris, tell them to give it a try. It’s free so there’s nothing to lose ☺
In closing, here’s one of our favorite quotes:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” - Ferris Bueller