Every new tool, product or service needs users.
For our product launch, we tried to use all free marketing channels. We had full pockets of dreams & motivation, but zero cash ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Launching Flawless App on Product Hunt was a part of our marketing-without-budget strategy.
Is Product Hunt For You?
If you don’t know, Product Hunt is the site for discovering new products in tech. You can submit your product there and appear in front of journalists, tech people and fellow makers. After submission, your product will participate in the daily race. The race starts PST 00:00 and finishes PST 23:59. You have to get as many upvotes and comments as you can by the end of the day! 🏆 The most successful products appear on the Homepage and can get feedback, downloads, users and PR buzz.
I often use Product Hunt (PH as it’s referred to by the regulars) to find cool stuff there. The biggest asset to PH is its community. I found that the most frequent PH users are startup founders, marketers, designers, and the PH team. From my point of view, the most upvoted products are oriented to the startup community and developers are the least active group.
That is a problem for us. Our product, Flawless App, is a tool for iOS developers to compare original designs with the real app in the iOS simulator. That doesn’t sound like something the startup community would be clamoring for. We thought Product Hunt would not be the place to get many trial users, sales or traffic, but we could receive honest feedback from the PH community.
😤Anyway, we decided to try.
Our Product Hunt launch was not typical, because
- we didn’t put high expectations;
- we had friendly community to support us.
For the last 2 years, we have been building good relationships with our beta users, the design & iOS communities, the PH community, and local & foreign startup folks. We just tried to be nice to many people and somehow got many friends around the world. We began to prepare by reading all the “how to launch” guides. It became obvious that for succeeding on Product Hunt you must present PH-oriented product and have a huge community to support you. Here are some of the resources that helped us, in the order you should read them:
- Please read the Basic Rules on Posting. It tells you how to post new products & comment, how to ask for support, and how to get featured on the homepage. The read 5 things everyone should know about Product Hunt. These will make most sense if you’ve joined the PH community to figure out how things work before preparing your launch. I promise, you’ll like it!
- Product Hunt 101 from one of the top hunters, Robleh Jama. It’s very useful to listen to the launch algorithm from someone who has submitted lots of products.
- The SaaS Founder’s Guide to Product Hunt from Amplifr team. It’s a nice guide for preparing your product for all the PH folks trying your product (how to onboard, check language, writing emails and other non-obvious things).
- Master Checklist for Launching on Product Hunt (spreadsheet) by SpreadShare team.
- Launching on Product Hunt: What Works and What Doesn’t by 3D modeling app launched on PH in December 2016. Similar to us, these folks didn’t have typical “sweet product for startup audience”. Their launch was “so-so” good.
I encourage you to think about resources you will invest in PH launch versus possible outcome!
Now that you’ve read the articles, you should be able to start with your PH launch strategy, submission details and promo materials. This does not happen overnight! It took us a week to think about our launch strategy, 4 days to prepare all materials and 2 years to build the community. These are our simple PH launch plan:
9:30 Ukrainian time (11:30pm PST time)
Make a lot of tea & prepare cookies ☕️ ☕️ ☕️.
Check visual promo materials, all texts and PH submission details. Look over Product Hunt launch plan once again.
11:00–11:30 (1:00–1:30am PST time)
Submit Flawless App to PH. Write the first two comments from the founders.
11:30 (1:30am PST time)
Announce PH launch in Flawless App Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Change profile cover pictures to the promo materials.
11:40 (1:40am PST time)
Write PH launch posts in the founder’s personal accounts: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Change personal cover pictures.
12:00 (2am PST time)
Ask 10 Facebook friends & teams to support us on Product Hunt.
* All these people are our friends or teams, whom we helped. Not random people.
12:30 (2:30am PST time)
Announce our PH launch in Ukrainian & CIS Facebook startup groups. Ask for support and love 💛 💙.
13:00 (3am PST time)
Inform personal Twitter followers about our PH launch: people whom we know and who’re using Product Hunt. * It’s Lisa & Ahmed followers
15:00 (5am PST time)
💌 Send an email to Flawless App users.
* We hope, that our lovely users will support our PH launch.
17:00 (7am PST time)
Ask Ukrainian opinion leaders to make public posts about Flawless App PH launch on Facebook (3 people). Ask USA & Europe opinion leaders to make posts. * We weren’t able to get the latter, although we asked people whom we knew.
18:00–21:00 (8:00–11am PST time)
Announce our PH launch in targeted iOS & macOS groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Slack. Ask for product feedback and support.
* We contributed to all these groups before.
20:00 (10am PST time)
Ask our incubation programs to support us: Startup Sauna & Lisbon Challenge. Ask startup competitions for support. * We’re part of all these communities.
21:00 (11am PST time)
Ask for support in marketing Slack groups: shameless promotion 🙈.
* I check those groups sometimes, but it wasn’t relevant activity.
21:00–22:00 (11am-12pm PST time)
Add Flawless App to the collections on Product Hunt: ask collections owners over the Twitter.
22:00–8:00 next day (12pm-10pm PST time)
Write “thank yous” to all people who supported us on Product Hunt (via Twitter). Provide support in the live chat, PH, and other channels.
* I wrote personal “thank you” messages to as many people as I could.
Answer on the feedback storm in PH, live chat, social groups, email, DMs.
Post promo materials with “100 upvotes”, “200 upvotes”, “500 upvotes”.
Our plan was executed with a small delay and some minor changes along the way. Feel free to copy & adapt it for your launch. Many of the tasks above were inspired by the additional resources below. I encourage you to bookmark these tools & sites:
- All-time Leaderboard and Top 500 Hunters.
- A dynamic list of the 100 least upvoted projects on PH. It’s good to check failed Product Hunt launch cases.
- Daily Top 5 products on PH in one chart, which can show you dynamics of upvote growth on a daily basis.
- Product Hunt Analytics: Daily, monthly, and yearly analytics with PH data.
- MakerTools allows you to create a Twitter list of all the wonderful folks who upvoted your product. It’s a good practice to thank those people for supporting your PH launch via Twitter, but don’t spam them! Also MakerTools shows PH users between your followers.
- Crisp Live Chat is very useful during your launch campaign when people ask things in real time. Such communication can increase conversion at your site and give you a lot of insights. We use their free version and it has been awesome so far.
Respect Product Hunt Rules & Community
I’m not new to Product Hunt marketing. To be totally honest, there are many ways to cheat and game the system. My co-founder, Ahmed, and I had long discussions. We decided it was not in our best interest to use all the shady hacks, which we had read online or saw on PH.
🙏Please, don’t spam the whole world.
In many guides you will see advice to “make the list of all people you know” and “ask them to support you”. That’s fine telling about your PH launch to your friends & community and potential users. But it’s not cool to ask all your Facebook & Twitter contacts to upvote or write fake comments. Avoid posting your PH promotions at random startup groups or Slack channels. Spamming active PH users over the Twitter is not good either!
I asked 10 Facebook friends to support Flawless App on PH. Also, I asked 3 friends to make public posts about our launch. Luckily, many people supported us because they wanted to do so and not because I spammed them.
🙏 Please, don’t spam PH team & all popular Hunters.
They’re getting dozens of asks from fellow founders to hunt their super products. By sending all of them the same messages you will ruin your reputation.
In our case, we wrote to one relevant PH user\hunter, who was iOS developer. That person didn’t reply, so we wrote to another PH developer, to whom I had reported some bugs before. He advised us to hunt Flawless App by ourselves and the PH team would review it for featuring on the main page. We had some time to write to other popular hunters, but decided not to do so. Why?
Because none of the popular hunters had our target audience (iOS developers). So why spam them with the product, that will not be relevant for their followers?
🙏Please, give back to community
I upvote many cool products, wrote feedback and offer help, because I enjoy it. It also didn’t take me much time. I also try to support founders who asked me via Twitter of Facebook to give them some love on Product Hunt. We contribute to all the groups and communities where we asked for support during our PH launch. Even now, we want to share our learnings.
Please, don’t use groups, your friends or followers as a free source for upvotes. Firstly, it will hurt your relationships. Then you will be blacklisted. And the most important, you will not get real traction to PH. What’s the point of being #1 and not getting real feedback?
🙏Please, don’t cheat
If you carefully read preparation guides, you will know that PH algorithms are very smart. Don’t buy upvotes from freelance sites, don’t use bots, don’t propose hunters money for hunting you. That will not give you the result you’re looking for.
Our Results & Insights
As you probably understand, we expected a modest Product Hunt launch. We wanted to respect all the rules, play fair and get the real feedback on Flawless App. By some lucky chance, the universe liked our approach. These are our results:
#1 for 24 hours 🏆
We were #1 the whole day and also had the most upvotes. Unexpectedly we got 1300+ upvotes, which was a huge surprise for us. When Ahmed was drawing our promo pictures, he was joking that “thanks for 1000 upvotes” picture is a waste of time. Most of upvotes came from PH community, from people we didn’t know personally. As a result, we were featured in the daily and weekly PH newsletters.
We got really a lot of feedback in the live chat, PH comments, Twitter, email. Unexpectedly, iOS developers appeared on PH and started writing us very long comments. We were bombed with messages in live chat! During that non-stop support we found out minor bugs in the product, missing features, problems with our website, got interesting feature ideas and tons of positive emotions.
Site Sessions: 3.2K visitors on the launch day.
Sales: 3 sales on the PH launch day. Next day, we got 6 more sales.
Trials: 35 trial users on the PH launch day. Next day, we got 62 more trial installations. So, 97 new active users in total.
Our initial feelings about Product Hunt were not correct. We got much better results than we expected. We think that designers and startup founders somehow recommended Flawless App to their mobile teams. Maybe people from target iOS communities, where we shared our PH launch news, looked again at our tool.
😤 Non-stop work for 23 hours.
All main launch activities were done by 2 people — Ahmed & me. I woke up at 8am and kept working until 7am next day. This was the longest “workout” I’ve had since I was a student. Ahmed worked for 17 hours that day. It was more difficult than we expected.
The most valuable of our promo activities was done with our target communities (iOS & macOS developers and mobile designers). Also, we focused on our Twitter followers’ base and got a huge response rate.
We shared direct link.
Some people think that sharing a direct link will hurt your PH ranking. This is a myth. We shared direct links to Flawless App on PH in almost all communities. Why? Because it’s easy for people :) As you already know, we were not “banned” or “downgraded” for this. If you don’t believe me, listen to active PH users:
It is a myth that directly linking to your Product Hunt page will hurt your ranking for the day. The Product Hunt team has dispelled that myth and even directly link to their own products on launch day! Just be sure to liberally use cat emoji 🐈 next to your direct link for maximum effectiveness.
Kunal Bhatia, Co-founder & Design Lead at SlidesUp
We spent $0 on our PH launch.
Yeah, you can calculate our work hours, but we didn’t pay for promotion.
We didn’t get PR-explosion (for now).
There is a myth that after you get into TOP-1 you will become super popular. We didn’t get emails from cool journalists or big tech media. Instead we got many sponsorships proposal or other “buy-from-us” proposals. To get some perspective, I asked my friend, who had more than 30 PH launched campaigns to share his thoughts:
You won’t get the media coverage just by being number 1 at ProductHunt. But (!) as a startup, you have to collect social proofs. Being featured by big media, like TechCrunch, is a good way to do so. When you come to the media guys and show, that you were #1 at PH, you have clients from huge companies, and you were born a few weeks ago — this sounds interesting! It means that you’re doing something cool and not only putting buzzwords on your slides.
#1 at PH doesn’t bring you to the front page of CNN, but it is one of proof badges in your pocket.
Ruslan Nazarenko, Brand Ambassador at Branch.io
Do what you think is right
Was Product Hunt useful for us? Yes.
Does it mean that any other dev-oriented product will repeat our results? No.
Should you try to launch your product on Product Hunt?
Yes. When you do so, feel free to ask me and Ahmed for the feedback!
We wish good luck to all founders and creators who want to change the world and stay good people.
Huge thanks to Kunal Bhatia for proofreading my non-native English 🙈