Five Tips For The “Small Startups” From Our Launch On Product Hunt

Product Hunt is the holy grail for new tech products and startups. A successful launch can bring you a ton of web traffic, users, and even press coverage.

But get it wrong and you won’t get another chance. But how do you ensure Product Hunt success if you are not already an influencer on the platform?

A little over a week ago my startup Task Pigeon was “Hunted”, by one of Product Hunts original employees, Bram Kranstein. Here’s what I learnt in the process, and how you too can make Product Hunt a success for your startup.

Lesson One — You Need An Audience

Eighteen to twenty four months ago I knew no one in the local tech ecosystem. Even if I managed to find an “influencer” to hunt a product or service back then it would have come to nothing.

Product Hunt is a community. And all communities require networks and relationships to be successful.

Getting your product, service or startup hunted is just part of the equation you then need a team of people who you have developed relationships with to help support your campaign.

You can’t ask for upvotes, but by making people aware that you are on Product Hunt they will hopefully come and check out your product, leave a comment (and perhaps an upvote if they like what they see).

Here’s how I did it:

  • Build a network — A little over a year ago I created a free product for the Australian startup community, called Startup Soda. It’s a daily newsletter covering the best news, blog posts and tactical resources from the Australian startup ecosystem. This gave me a list of 700 people I could email once my listing went live on Product Hunt.
  • Build one to one relationships — In addition to my newsletter I make myself freely available to startup founders and entrepreneurs. I have had two successful businesses in the past and am happy to share lessons I have learnt in the past. This gave me a group of contacts to reach out to directly. I found 1:1 Facebook messages to be most effective.
  • Reach out to your Linkedin connections — I used Mailshake to reach out to all of my connections on Linkedin. I filtered the list to only focus on those in the tech ecosystem and managed to get 69% open rates, and 11 direct replies (10 from people saying they had voted for Task Pigeon.)
  • Leverage social — I could have probably done a better job on social, but I did the best I could. I am a member of a large number of startup groups on Facebook and reached out to the audience there. Again, it’s important not to ask for upvotes. It’s against the platform rules, plus people will shoot you down on Facebook as well. Letting people know you are live and asking for feedback on your product is fine.
  • Contact Your Beta Users — Across my Task Pigeon blog subscribers and beta list users I had a group of around 300 or so people. Chances are if these people are interested in testing your beta, they are also likely to know what Product Hunt is. Again let them know you are live and encourage them to ask you a question or two.

Lesson Two — Find Someone Influential to Hunt You

Not everyone can “hunt” or list products or services on Product Hunt. In fact, even if you can you are probably not the right person to “hunt” your own product.

Around 6 months ago I got commenting and posting rights on Product Hunt. That means I could have “hunted” Task Pigeon myself.

But I knew that wasn’t the best approach.

So I started reaching out to influencers on the platform.

The best way to find an influencer is to use a leaderboard like this to find top hunters. After that you also want to make sure there is a fit with the types of products the person normally lists on Product Hunt.

For example, if you are a hardware startup there is no point reaching out to someone who only ever shares consumer apps. It won’t interest them, and they will be unlikely to reply.

Once you have your list of Product Hunt influencers, it’s normally pretty simple to get in touch.

Here’s how I did it:

  • Visit their Product Hunt page
  • Check if they have a personal website listed. If they do chances are they have a contact form so that you can email them. Some even have a specific page on their site talking about Product Hunt and what they will list.
  • If they don’t have a personal website listed, they will have a Twitter account. Follow the link over there and see if there are any other clues on how to reach out in their bio.
  • Worse come to worse connect on Twitter and send them a message.

Lesson Three — Make Your Pitch Compelling

Much like pitching an angel investor, a new customer or potential user you have to make your story compelling.

In the past I have suffered from writing too much, trying to go into too much detail and over explaining things. So I decided to keep it simple and also went with a “catchy” subject heading:

Product Hunt — I Know My Chances Are Slim….. But

Now, I’m not sure if it was my email or just the fact that Bram is an awesome and supportive guy, but he wrote back.

Bram has also previously put together a list of top tips on his blog that are extremely helpful as well. In summary:

  • First off, show enthusiasm and make your pitch personal!
  • Tell about the problem you’re solving
  • Show your solution
  • Show early results if you have them
  • Why are you the man/woman/team that’s going to take this to the moon?
  • How can I help you? Asking for specific feedback is also good. It’s difficult to help when your question is simply: “what do you think?”

Lesson Four — Choosing The Right Time

Product Hunt starts at 12:01am Pacific Standard Time.

Most Influencers recommend going onto the platform at around 3 or 4am. This gives you a good chance of staying on the front page (assuming you get upvotes) for most of the day and also puts you in the best position to get higher up the rankings.

I originally agreed with Bram that it would be best to go online at 4am. But ran into a few issues.

It turns out someone had “hunted” Task Pigeon when we were just a landing page. I was never tagged on Twitter and because Task Pigeon didn’t make it to the front page at the time we didn’t show up in the search results (you have to go to advanced search to find the wider list of products).

Luckily Bram was a champ and said to redirect www.taskpigeon.co/ph to our home page given the product was now live and significantly different enough from the initial vision outlined on our landing page 5 months ago.

We eventually went live at around 6am PST time or 12 midnight here in Sydney. Then it was time to hustle.

My experience showed me that listing early is important. By the time morning came around (local time in Sydney) it was hard to move the dial too much more. We bounced around 14th to 16th position for the rest of the day.

All the action really does happen in the morning.

Lesson Five — Engage

Product Hunt really is a community. As a result you need to engage. I strongly recommend you create an account now (months before you will potentially need it), upvote some products you like, create a few collections, and largely get your head around how the platform works and what types of products are regularly hunted.

Once your listing is live you also want to kick start the conversation by leaving a comment on your products page. Introduce yourself, write about why you choose to build that particular product or service and try and prompt some questions.

I also made a point of responding to every question or comment that was left by Product Hunt users and encouraged anyone who left a comment in Facebook groups or via return email to also ask the same question on PH so others could see my answer.

Product Hunt — The Results

Going into this process I knew how hard it would be to stand out on Product Hunt. It’s part work, part luck.

I really hoped that I would be on the front page for part of the day and pick up some subscribers. I was however blown away with where we ended up.

To start with we got 181 upvotes (of which around ~140–150 came through on the day we listed on Product Hunt. In addition to this we had a good amount of engagement with a total of 42 comments left (including my own).

Product Hunt also drop a decent amount of traffic to our website. We had 1,444 visitors on the day, and another 334 the day after. Well above the average of the weeks that preceded our listing.

More importantly though we were exposed to a bunch of new users. More than I initially expected, with a total of 138 new users trying Task Pigeon out across Thursday (the day we were hunted), Friday and Saturday.

I know we still have a lot more work to do, but it is nice to celebrate these little wins every now and then. At the end of the day we finished up in 14th position on Product Hunt. This kept us on the front page for the entire day which gave us a good amount of exposure.

I’m happy with the results we achieved and certainly know how I could improve for the future if I even get the opportunity to launch another product on Product Hunt.

If you are able to be “hunted” yourself feel free to reach out. I am happy to assist where I can.

This post originally appeared on the Task Pigeon Blog. You can read the original here.