In late 2015, our team launched Marker, a visual communication tool for digital teams. A month later, we got featured on Product hunt.
This was going to be huge.
Our servers were ready to handle hundreds of requests per second and our team ready to answer as many question as possible.
Instead, this happened:
The PH campaign resulted in 23 upvotes, 2 comments (included mine) and a few signups. Not exactly what I had going through in my mind.
With our best marketing opportunity gone, we went back to work and focused on making the product as badass as possible.
When the product was finally ready, we launched a new Product Hunt campaign.
Except this time, we did better:
We attracted 635 upvotes, 57 comments and around 3000 new signups.
Here’s 8 things we did differently.
1. Improve Your Product.
Product makers all know the famous quote:
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late
Well, our first version definitely qualified as an embarrassment.
Do you see how unstructured, unresponsive and unintuitive the whole design is?
Now, look at how version 2 is somewhat more elegant :)
Yet, we still managed to sign up 400 users and convert a few into paying customers. Besides the validation we had built something of value, we knew we could do better.
Making a product better is not only great for business, but it’s also a requirement if you want to be featured on Product hunt again. In fact, a slight improvement isn’t going to cut it. The Product Hunt guidelines state that your update needs to be substantial.
And you can’t fool them.
Ben Tossell, a community manager at Product Hunt was the first to comment on the thread. He wanted to make sure we did respect the guidelines.
Thanks to his comment, I was able to add more context which gave me a chance to explain the update more thoroughly .
2. Make an Action Plan
Mike Tyson once said in his infinite wisdom:
Everybody has a plan, until you get punch in the mouth
I actually agree with his quote but I still see the value of having a plan. Mike’s point is to emphasize the importance of flexibility, not undermine preparation.
I wanted to be prepared so I made a quick plan around 3 main steps:
- Before launch
- Right after launch
- Few days after launch.
You can see the details of our plan on this public Trello Board.
Competition on Product Hunt is fierce. You’re competing for attention with tens of new products everyday. If you believe that your product will bubble up to Product Hunt’s top page just by submitting it, you’re fooling yourself.
Product Hunt naturally rewards the best products but you can choose to make it easier for the community to reward you.
3. Prepare Assets for Journalists
Product Hunt is a great place to attract new users like designers, product managers, developers and any tech enthusiast.
However, if getting new users is your only objective, you are missing out on a big opportunity.
If you were a journalist/blogger, especially covering tech-related news, where you would you hang out?
Product Hunt is flooded with people wanting to cover new and exciting products. Make their lives easier by preparing everything they need to cover your company. Most journalists work against short deadlines so any struggle you can save them increases your likelihood of being covered.
I wanted to increase my chances too so I set up a landing page with all Marker’s marketing assets around this structure:
- Short Intro
- Demo Video
- Team & History
If you want more examples, Balsmiq has a great press kit which severed as an inspiration in setup my structure
4. Make a Demo Video
The whole premise of Marker is to help teams communicate better by communicating visually. Making a video seemed to be the right thing to do to help first time visitors understand what our product is about.
Knowing you need a video is one thing. Actually making the video is a whole different deal.
Here are the steps I followed to make this demo video.
- Map out your storyline. I used Lucidchart to draw each steps of the script before recording.
- Start recording. I used Screenflow, a video software for mac. It’s a small money investment but if you’re working on a web product, video is going to be a big part of how your communicate to your users and customers so don’t be afraid to invest. I really recommend it.
- Start editing. Figure out and stick to the basic stuff like splitting shots, speeding them up and zooming in and out.
- Add music. Save yourself the struggle of using music with proprietary rights. Find a good enough soundtrack under the common creatives label and use it. I found mine at: http://www.bensound.com/
- Get feedback! When I first showed the video to my team, they almost had a panic attack. I got so bored of watching the video over and over again that I had unconsciously increased the speed of the video too much. You could barely see the mouse moving or the text being entered. Which leads me to…
- Slow everything down. You will obviously need to do it.
- Upload to Youtube. Use relevant keywords if you can. For example, I included keywords like Trello and Slack
5. Work Hard on Your Tagline
A well crafted tagline will play a crucial role in your Product Hunt campaign. You need people’s attention before you can have their interest.
Coming up with a punchy tagline might seem like a trivial task, but I guarantee it’s tough.
We spent an entire week time coming up with one. We created a shared spreadsheet for everyone on the team to add new ideas as they popped up.
As you can see from above, most tagline ideas were too vague. We focused too much on the benefits and not enough on what the product does.
Don’t get me wrong, benefits are important and you should make it clear to users what they’ll get out of using your product. But remember that PH members are smart, educated and tech savvy. Assume they’ll find some sort of benefit if they understand what you product is.
Run away from vague marketing slogans.
6. Get Influencers’ Attention
Getting an influencer to talk about your product is basically building word of mouth at scale. It’s simply the best marketing out there.
When a Product Hunt influencer hunts a new product, all of his followers get a notification.
But how do you get them to submit your product?
First, head over to WhoHunt and make a list of people you’d like to approach based on the interests. Figure out who seems approachable while having a decent amount of followers.
Figure out what interests them and what kind of value you could offer. You don’t want your unsolicited request to turn into pure spam.
For example, I noticed a few influencers liked emojis, which is great since our product supports them. I used our tool to show how it could be useful to them and I tweeted them screenshots like this.
Unfortunately, this approach didn’t work well as Hiten Shah pointed to me in a subtle tweet.
To which he replied:
This approach did not pay off but I’m glad we tried it while making sure to respect anyone we reached out to.
As I was doing my research into each individual on my list, the name of Bram Kanstein caught my attention.
Bram is an ex Product Hunt with over 5k PH followers. He’s also genuinely interested in helping out product makers.
He wrote a medium post on how to pitch your product which I highly recommend to anyone interested in learning how to position a product in people’s mind.
I owe him my previous insight about working hard on your tagline by avoiding vagueness. All credit goes to you Bram!
In his post, Bram says he likes to be pitched and to learn about new products.
I wrote him an email asking for his feedback. I spent a solid hour crafting my email because I didn’t want to spam him.
He liked our product enough and after a couple of back and forth emails, he ended up submitting Marker for us.
Thanks again Bram!
7. Reach out to Anyone You Know
At this point, the hard work is behind you.
Tapping into your network of friends and users will help you get some upvotes but none of that hustle matters if you haven’t done the work up to this point.
Assuming your product is useful and your positioning is clear, the small boost in upvotes from your friends can however help get the ball rolling. At the end of the day, only about 5–7% of upvotes came from people we knew directly. Not a lot, but it’s worth pulling every string you have.
Ask your friends, email your users and customers, share in Facebook groups and in public Slack channels. Do whatever it takes.
8. Build Momentum
If well executed, your Product Hunt campaign will result in a spike in traffic. However, the traffic will fall down dramatically after a couple of days .
But Product Hunt is getting so much better now! You can keep collecting upvotes and getting traffic weeks after your submission. As of this writing, we are still adding roughly 20 new users a day from PH alone.
Product hunt’s collections, tags and topics are making it easier for the community to find products based on their specific needs and interests instead of a random submission date.
Thanks again Jack!
Lastly, to keep to ball rolling with upvotes, we embedded a plugin called Embed Hunt on our landing page to build trust and encourage even more upvotes directly from our site.
This plugin helped us to gain an extra 70 upvotes long after the spike in traffic.
This post recaps up what worked for us, and what didn’t. There is no silver bullet for getting attention to your product.
You need to try many things and get creative. Product Hunt is a wonderful platform to send people your way if you build something valuable.
Steal some ideas from us, add a few more, but most importantly, execute them.
Finally, if you a founder, a product manager, a designer or a support rep, make sure to check out Marker at https://marker.io and try it out