Launching on Product Hunt has become kind of an obvious thing for new applications and SaaS products primarily. I still remember the first time I discovered the platform when looking for channels to launch our platform - ApyHub. Our goal back then was fairly simple and straightforward: create awareness, get people to know we are there and the problem we are solving. Since then I have spent quite some time engaging in discussions online about how to make a Product Hunt launch successful, whatever that means for every founder, for every company. I have also read many articles and blogs that discuss how different companies made it to number 1 or how they failed despite their significant efforts and investments. There is no shortage of articles out there, but I did like the insights on this one.
Now, before going to the interesting stuff, let me give you some background on our story with Product Hunt. First of all, this has been our second launch with ApyHub. The result was amazing: We managed to end up #1 product of the day. It was a satisfying feeling, and even though we are aware that the result is an enabler to other stuff (rather than a goal by itself) it still means a lot to me and to the team who worked hard in preparation for the launch, during the launch and also post launching.
So what's the secret to a successful Product Hunt launch? And what is required for one? What steps can you and your team take to make sure you maximize your chances for success? What are some of the risks you can face and what are the paths that can help mitigate them? The bottom line is the following: Successful Product Hunt launches require patience, preparation and paced coordinated effort. Yes, these do sound a bit theoretical and uncertain: But a Product Hunt launch does indeed entail a fair bit of uncertainty. Navigating this uncertainty with determination and drive can be a good start.
Our ph launch page and Product Hunt badges earned
In self reflection mode, I have been re-reading the blog I wrote months ago, after our first launch. This was an attempt to reflect on our first launch, see what we did well, and most importantly, see what we could have done better. What I am happy to see now, months later, is that irrespective of the result (we ended up #4 product of the day then and #3 developer tool of the week) not much has changed in terms of the values or the key points, best practices and the takeaways. Therefore, I will not spend more time with them but simply focus on the things we did (slightly) differently this time.
Setting Realistic Goals
Again, one thing that can not be stressed enough is that the final product ranking at the end of the day does not always reflect the effort and investment spent before the launch. Let me explain: Of course being prepared will certainly help. However, the final ranking will be a result and a combination of different (and some unpredictable) factors, including the competition (what other products are being launched on the same day), the audience interests and so many other things. Therefore, it is important to set real and realistic goals that are not related (solely) on the ranking but in other things like # of visitors, # of subscribers, # of discounts offered, # of meetings closed etc. In the end of the day, what you ultimately want from your launch is eyeballs, users and subscribers on your product. You want your product to appear and be visible to every Product Hunt visitor — and that's why you want it to be on the top 5 products. Set your target, measure against them and move on.
Strategize and prepare in advance
Something we realized during our last launch as well, is that the effort and work for the Product Hunt launch begins much before your actual launch date. In our experience, starting to prepare 4 to 6 weeks before the launch date is usually the ideal amount of time to prepare. During this time, we drafted an entire product hunt game plan, including preparing the messaging and visual collateral for the launch, getting our landing page ready, creating a coming soon page for our launch and most importantly, reaching out across all our networks to start garnering support in advance. We also developed content calendars, and drafted posts for our social media already to announce the launch, so we could focus on engagement and outreach on launch day!
Our launch post on LinkedIn for example
Engage in discussions
Related to the above point, but one of the ways to keep attention and garner support for your upcoming launch, is to engage the Product Hunt community, which is overall quite supportive with sharing feedback and supporting your launch. Keeping this in mind, we posted discussions on Product Hunt regularly, to get useful thoughts and tips from the community.
One of the discussions we posted on Product Hunt
The discussions page can also offer a wealth of other information and insights from fellow makers, in design development, marketing, or even just launch tips.
Pace out your support
Pace, pace, pace. One of the things we corrected this time was our pace. In our first launch, what we did was the following: After the launch, we contacted all the people in our mailing lists, all at once, as soon as possible. We sprinted, we put all our efforts in making sure we had a good start. But guess what: Launching on Product Hunt is not a sprint, it's a marathon. So, what did we change this time? We had a list of people that we wanted to ask for support but we used that list wisely - in a way that it would create a steady flow of support and visitors throughout the day (and night). Last time we went to bed at the 2nd place and woke up at the 4th. So while early upvotes are important, pacing it out seems to be the better strategy. This time, we actually didn't worry at all : the visitors supporting us were coming at a steady pace of around 30-40 upvotes per hour. If you can manage this pace then there is very little to worry about. Where can you measure your pace? We used this tool here.
Monitoring our pace on Product Hunt on Launch Day
Driving engagement and feedback
During our first launch we were lucky enough to understand the value of engagement during the launch. To be honest, we really didn't expect so many comments, people coming to our launch page and writing something. It could be something superficial, such as “Congratulations on your launch” or something more profound, like feedback on the homepage, or even better, feedback on the platform, requests for new features, questions about the roadmap and so on. If I have to be honest though, the amount of comments that were “blank” or without depth was quite high. This time we found the discussions and messages far more engaging.
From our side we supported and encouraged messages that were focused on feedback, suggestions and ideas. If you ask me, one of the key benefits of this launch has been the extremely valuable feedback we got from the community. Users were coming in, trying out the platform and sharing what they thought on the fly. I am sure that creating and maintaining that kind of engagement helped our ranking as well but the most important thing is that it helped organic traffic, meaningful discussions and feedback!
One of the top comments we received on our launch
The Product Hunt leaderboard
Finally, I want to touch quickly on the changes that Product Hunt is introducing. I will not go in details but overall, the Product Hunt team seems to be working towards a “democratization” of launches where more products have the opportunity to get featured, irrespective of their size and “muscle”. So, when creating your gameplan, make sure you read up on what’s new and adjust your strategy accordingly. You should also consult the Product Hunt launch guide available here.
One of the key changes that I think affected our game plan was the fact that during the first hours of the launch, the number of upvotes are not visible in the Product Hunt home page, and that the products are ranked randomly. This means that companies who base their success with fake votes, bits etc are in a disadvantageous position (well, at least for these hours). But what can you do about that? Well, nothing really: Simply make sure that you build up your outreach and your efforts during these first hours. Time your social media posts towards the end of this 4 hour window and don't look at what others are doing during that time.
Many excel sheets later, preparation messages testing of the platform, many slack group messages and many comments replied, we are done! With the team efforts pulled together, not only were we able to rank as #1 Product of the Day, we ranked as #4 Product of the week and #5 Developer Tools Product of the Month. We also garnered over 800 upvotes on the day of the launch, and doubled the amount of traffic/unique visitors we received on the site. Again, it's important to focus on your results, not the results that Product Hunt will award you.
From our Product Hunt launch dashboard
Ok now this is the real actual final point: Trust your team, your instinct and your Product Hunt launch strategy. Launching on Product Hunt is just one element of your overall product success. Continuous hustle, focus and patience will ultimately be the items that lead to success.
Final point - I promise. If you are actively working in preparation for your launch, if you have a page up, then you will get some messages in your linkedin or your email from people that want to help you become #1 product of the day by basically selling you upvotes. Now, repeat after me: Don’t do it. Product Hunt offers a paid service to feature products. If you would like to spend money on that, you are more welcome to do so. But don’t buy upvotes, for so many reasons. Be proud of what you are building, be proud of the way you are launching.
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