This playbook will hand you actionable tactics, tips, tricks and hacks to get you on top of Product Hunt — Silicon Valley’s favorite little playground.
This won’t work if you have a shitty product. Good thing Product Hunt will tell you why your product is shitty, so you can make it into a good one. This won’t work if you’re not willing to put in the work. This guide is long for a reason. Launching your product on Product Hunt is a one-time opportunity that can turn out pivotal for your business. You’ll only get one shot at this and I will tell you exactly what you need to do to make the most out of it. This is me giving you a head start. It’s up to you to hit it out of the park. I’ve included TL;DRs (Too Long; Didn’t Read) at the end of every section so you can get a quick recap before you move on.
If you’ve never heard of Product Hunt, I’m gonna guess you’ve been exploring Mars in search of alternative fuels. In that case: could you slip me Elon’s number real quick? ???? Don’t worry about the Product Hunt thing, I got you covered ????. Product Hunt is the little baby of Ryan Hoover. Ryan is one of those guys that just friggin’ loves everything that’s new and cool. Not just for fun. For Ryan, new products are an opportunity to learn and, most of all, a way of connecting with like-minded people. Back in 2013, Ryan was looking for a one-stop-shop to discover the hottest new tech products. As he didn’t find anything, he did the entrepreneurial thing and started it himself. In its cute early days as an MVP, Product Hunt was a mailing list, build on this one question:
It’s a question we all ask and it turned out to be one hell of a community builder. Within two weeks, Ryan’s little mailing list had 170 subscribers devouring discoveries from 30 hand-picked contributors, consisting of startup founders, VCs, and prominent bloggers. Ryan was on to something.
Today, Product Hunt is Silicon Valley’s favourite little playground. A tightly-knit community of like-minded geeks who bond over anything hot ???? and the new ✨. Not just tech, but also books, podcasts and games — you name it. The site kind of works like reddit, with users posting products and the community making or breaking them with comments and upvotes. More upvotes will get your product higher on Product Hunt’s frontpage, getting you some solid street cred with a community packed with early adopters, curious investors and avid entrepreneurs. It is the ultimate startup launchpad ????. TL;DR
Ever heard of the Product Adoption Curve? It’s one of those gazillion frameworks they show you in marketing class you then instantly forget about. I did anyway. The reason you should care is that you want people to start using your product. You want this because, well, everyone building a product wants this. To get there, you need to understand how a new product finds its way in the market and makes its way to new users. The Product Adoption Curve is something all new kids on the block have to go through. Facebook, Slack, Uber and DVDs (still ring a bell?) — heck, even underwear at some point must have gone through it (hope those do ring a bell?). Some go faster, some go slower. Others just die along the way because they fail to understand how it works. The people you need to get on board first are innovators.
Because these are the ones willing to take your product for a spin when it’s still a baby. They‘re okay with it still shitting the bed from time to time ????. They look beyond the bugs and spartan features to see if your product deserves to exist. They’ll share their findings with the world and, if they like what they see, may even end up promoting your product. Innovators will get you across the chasm, which is the big wide gap sitting between you and your target masses. Or push you in. Whatever happens, you’ll be smarter than you were yesterday. It’s make or break. Sink or swim. This is how Facebook, Uber and Slack became big fellas. Think about it. All three started out targeting a small group of users and ended up leading their markets. Facebook grew from popular-hungry Harvard, Uber from open-minded San Francisco and Slack from tech-savvy companies wanting to beta-test.
Now for the good part.
It’s a rocketship waiting to take your product to the stars ✨. If you want to launch a tech product or service, launch it on Product Hunt. Oh, did I mention Product Hunt was acquired by AngelList back in december? You know, the world’s biggest network of angel investors ????. Doesn’t hurt to get into their attention space. TL;DR
Your product can be posted once. Once. You get one shot at getting this right. Make it count.
I’m your man on the inside. I’ve been to the Product Hunt. I’ve seen things. I survived and I thrived. And now I’m here to help you do the same and better. Do you remember when Luke Skywalker and his rebels had one shot at destroying the Death Star? This is exactly like that. With the difference that Product Hunt doesn’t do sequels like Star Wars does. You don’t get to destroy the Death Star twice like Luke did.
Now, Product Hunt doesn’t do sequels. But it does do spin-offs. You can in fact launch a new feature of your product if it’s cool enough to be marketed on its own and provides real value to the early adopters. In the end, it all comes down to how you sell it (as always). A full-blown launch of your product is more complicated. You can’t launch your product twice unless its essence is so new and/or improved that it can be considered a new product. Think of it as a reboot of a franchise.
Know your audience. Before you even think of launching on Product Hunt, you should first experience first-hand what it is all about. What makes these early adopters tick? Sign up, immerse yourself and play ball. Dive in headfirst. Get to know the ins and outs of the community by becoming part of it.
Once you got the basics figured out, have your curiosity take the lead. Lurk around, check out similar products to yours and learn about their launch strategies. Spy on titles, taglines, logos, screenshots, comments and general wording. Steal with your eyes ????. TL;DR
No Hunter = No Product Hunt Launch. You already got that. There’s hunters and there’s hunters. What you want is one of the uberhunters. These are the top of the pack. The crème de la crème. The chosen ones among the chosen ones. Things to take into account to finding the Frodo that will take your One Product To Rule Them All all the way up the Product Hunt mountain:
Having a good hunter on your side is like being in pole position on the starting grid of a Formula 1 race. Your chances of finishing first are significantly higher ????.
You choosing a hunter doesn’t mean the hunter chooses you. You may be madly in love with your product, your hunter probably isn’t (yet). It’s up to you to make him/her fall for it. Top hunters get pitched multiple times a day. Don’t waste their time. Make sure yours is on point. Pitching is an art: it takes time to perfect. Good thing you’ve been doing it ever since you got started with your idea, right? Still, I guess it doesn’t hurt to refresh your memory with these 6 golden pointers from top hunter Bram Kanstein ✌️:
These are from Bram’s killer article 5 ways not to pitch your product — a must-read if you’re looking to get your pitch right. Bram is not just any hunter, he is the hunter who launched the #1 most upvoted product of all time on Product Hunt. This product, Startup Stash — a carefully curated directory of startup tools and resources — also happened to be his own product. Bram was #1 on my list to hunt Salesflare and reading through his articles was part of my strategy to get through to him. Rules like this don’t mean you can’t get creative with your pitch. My idea to hook him was to pitch Salesflare in the exact ways Bram tells you not to in his article. Something like this:
This was just to get his attention. I believe in standing out. I also tend to do the opposite of what people tell me to. I would have gone on and pitched Salesflare the right way after. Thing is I never needed to. You see, Bram had just pinned this on his Twitter wall: I guess he was kind of sick of emails like the one I was going to send him. Tweets are something else. We decided to just send him our video. (This one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LD3XkOtCpFk)
Remember to show your solution and be voilà? ???? Well, nothing is more voilà than a video. We had a video in the making for about 2 months and it was one of the crucial factors in deciding when to go full-in on our Product Hunt Launch. Not only does it help you pitch to hunters — it’s also kind of a must for your Product Hunt page once you actually get hunted. TL;DR
Now that you’ve found yourself an experienced general, it’s time to gear up for battle.
Pretty straightforward. But you can still make a difference here. We made it Salesflare CRM to make sure people could easily find us when searching for a CRM on Product Hunt afterward.
Throw them all in there. If you don’t have a website yet, you can just create a landing page with general information on your product and a download link if possible.
Catchy and clear. We went for Intelligent sales CRM for startups who thrive on technology. Sales CRM to clearly define our position within the CRM space, intelligent as our main differentiator and startups who thrive on technology to indicate who we built it for. Resist the urge to be overly creative here, you don’t want to confuse people.
Sure, you can just put your logo. But this won’t exactly get you points with the Product Hunt cool kids. Make it move. Like Jagger. We had a Salesflare Product Hunt cat pop up in our logo and combined this with some conceptual animations. It doesn’t have to the next Star Wars movie, just make it move. People are attracted by moving things. Especially when they’re quickly scanning a front page filled with all kinds of stuff.
Make sure team members considered to be makers of the product are all on Product Hunt prior to the launch so your Hunter can list everyone as Makers. This is not just to make you look good. Being listed as a Maker will get you commenting rights, crucial for engaging in conversation with the community.
Your chance to be voilà. Don’t just stop at the video (yes, it autoplays) — your screenshots should be equally engaging. We put up animated GIFs showcasing different Salesflare features. You don’t have to put GIFs. I’ve seen great Product Hunt pages with static screenshots. Thing is GIFs just provide more value because… well, because they move and people love stuff that moves.
It’s up to you to kick off the conversation on your product once it’s live. You don’t want to be putting something together in a rush at the very last minute, so make sure you write something beforehand you can just copy-paste when the time is right. Start off with why you built the product and lay out some of its core functionalities. Specify what kind of feedback you’re looking for. Mention the special promotion you have in store for the community (more on that later) and don’t forget to give your hunter a shootout for hunting you. This was ours:
Make your product easy to find by adding relevant tags. Some examples of tags we chose for Salesflare include tech, sales, customer communication, chrome extension and web. Don’t worry if you don’t get them right from the start, you can make changes afterwards. Product Hunt does closely watch these tags and may remove them they don’t agree. Feel free to chat with them if you think they made a mistake. We had a few tags removed and then put back again after we explained why we thought they were relevant for Salesflare.
As a rule of thumb, Product Hunt’s busiest days of the week range from Tuesday until Thursday (I guess early adopters in California party from Friday till Sunday and then die on Monday — fair enough). Busy means more competition, but busy also means more people to upvote, try your product and leave you with valuable feedback. Ending up on top may be very exciting, quantity of users getting in touch with you is probably more valuable for your business on the long-term. Tuesday is arguably better than Wednesday because you’ll have 24 hours more to be upvoted and make it into Product Hunt’s weekly digest. With all this in mind, we chose Tuesday and took about one and a half week to prepare our launch as soon as we got the green light from our hunter. You could easily do with less, but gathering support pre-launch while continuing to attend to every-day business stuff is no walk in the park. You don’t want to skip any of your shuteye time prior to your launch either— it’ll get kind of crazy once you’re live.
A new hunt is launched every day at 12am PST. People typically say to post immediately after midnight, but this is probably not the best way to go. Product Hunt’s secret algorithm is said to penalize age in ranking products, so you’re probably better off waiting a few hours as the US’ awakening comes closer. This is if you’re confident your own network can help you get initial traction in the first hours, so you’ll be pretty high as soon as first New York and then San Francisco crawls out of bed. For Salesflare we initially proposed to be posted around midnight to our hunter but he said he found posting around 3–4am PST (12–1am local time here in Antwerp) to be the most effective. This gives you enough time to push yourself up in the first hour and be right where you should be as Product Hunt’s core members start checking their smartphones hanging over their morning coffees. Once you’re done, send everything over to your hunter in a nice email, well in time before D-Day. Use a Google Drive folder to share your screenshots and other media so you can still make last-minute changes if needed.
The secret formula to a successful Product Hunt launch is made up of two things:
Both things you can control. If your product is not great, stop reading now and come back once it is. Don’t worry too much about some features not being entirely on point yet. Remember, these are early adopters — they’re okay with your product still being an infant and will happily help you find and kill early bugs as long as they see some real value. You may have the greatest product the world has ever seen— if people don’t have it in front of them, they won’t upvote it. Don’t make yourself any illusions: even early adopters won’t scroll endlessly to find your product. It has to be right there as soon as the site or app loads. Slap ‘m in the face with it. This means you’ll need a fair amount of upvotes as soon as Product Hunt rush hour kicks in. Having a top hunter on your side will get you a long way already, but remember that battles are won by soldiers, not by generals. Now, you cannot just ask all of your friends and family to upvote you. Product Hunt was built to make it easy to discover the world’s greatest new products, not to force-feed your own stuff to whoever. It is precisely this that makes Product Hunt so great at showcasing the best things out there. Not only should you respect that, Product Hunt’s algorithm will also increasingly push down your product if too many votes from brand new accounts come rolling in.
Chances are you already have some friends on Product Hunt. Product Hunt syncs the people you follow on Twitter so your first move should be to check who of them could be willing to show some support and notify them of your upcoming launch.
You’d be surprised how many people know about Product Hunt without having an account. Maybe they’ve been peeking from time to time without really getting into upvoting. Or maybe they know about it but didn’t take the time to take a proper look yet. Your launch may very well be the perfect occasion for these people to sign up. I know it says friends but what I really mean is network: friends, family, customers, business contacts, your dog,… Anyone you have a direct line with. We went through our contact lists and started asking people we thought of as early adopters if they had a Product Hunt account. If they did, we told them about our launch. If they didn’t, we told them about the community and how awesome it is. If it’s their jam, they’ll make an account and you have them onboard. If it’s not, you’ll leave them be. While Product Hunt is not just a marketing channel for you to exploit, you can still tell people about it. In fact, Product Hunt needs this kind of visibility to keep on growing. Many of my friends have been active users since we introduced them to the community. Just make sure to do so ahead of your launch and not the day itself.
Now you’ll have tens or even hundreds of people lined up to support your launch and it’s your responsibility to make sure they come through. Keep track of the people you contacted so you can effectively follow up on the big day. Include name, channel (Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter,…) and status (did they vote already?).
Hunt down people who upvoted products similar to yours and make sure they know you. You can actually scrape upvoters of products posted on PH by using this little tool. Just put in the URL of the product and your Developer Token (head over to API Dashboard under your Product Hunt profile to get this) and you’ll get the Twitter handles of all the upvoters for that given products. There’s tons of things you can do with this. For starters, you can follow them on both Product Hunt and Twitter. You can also tweet them or even target them with emails or Facebook Ads (you’ll need to do some data enriching first though).
Give special attention to people with a lot of followers and try to get them to share your Product Hunt launch with their network.
The magical word at this stage is chatting. Remember you need these people to commit twice: you need them to sign up beforehand and you need them to upvote you on the big day. This is why a channel like email will be far less effective here: it doesn’t allow for a direct, engaging dialogue. Sure, you can send an email a week beforehand and another one on launch day but you’ll have zero control over people really making accounts and being active on Product Hunt prior to your launch. This may negatively affect your page ranking. We chose not to take that chance. You can think of Product Hunt’s frontpage as a Google Search Results page — only the top gets clicked and visibility goes downhill fast as you go down the page. It’s like a snowball effect — make sure you have a big ball already once the heavy snow starts falling down. If your product really is great, the community will take over and make sure you stay on top. We did all the chatting manually. That means asking them three-four days up front if they were willing to give us a vote and telling them about Product Hunt in the process. If they said yes, we would add them to the Google Sheet and follow up with them on Launch Day. If only we would have had this tool to automate Facebook Messages that day...
Thunderclap is a platform you can use to create social media campaigns built on the strength of your network. You’ll basically have your friends and followers support a purpose of your choosing by means of Facebook or Twitter posts. Write up a message, set a date and invite your friends. As soon as the campaign starts (once you’re live on PH) — tweets or Facebook status updates will go out from all the people who joined your campaign. At the same time. Needless to say, this will seriously amplify your reach. I’m going to be straight with you guys here: we didn’t do Thunderclap. Why not? We forgot. We just forgot. TL;DR
Make the Product Hunters feel special. Why? We’ve been over this. Because they’re innovators and because you need their help to cross the chasm. Besides, as you are in the early stages of your product, their feedback will be invaluable. The more, the merrier. It’s common courtesy to offer Product Hunt members special deals. If done right, Product Hunt will be a gift that keeps on giving. It’s only right you give something back. For Salesflare, we gave the club 3 users for the price of 1 — 3FOR1MEOW. TL;DR
In case you haven’t noticed: Product Hunt loves cats. One day Product Hunt fan Jesse Thomas offered to design a t-shirt. The Glasshole Kitty was one of the ideas he sent in. The Product Hunt team liked it so much they ordered a bunch of t-shirts and stickers and started sending them to early community members. These, in turn, would share their Kitty gifts on social media, sparking the idea of the Kitty mascotte. While Product Hunt never really changed their logo, the kitty is everywhere. It’s big in social media posts and has been adapted to launch several Product Hunt projects like books, podcasts and their Snapchat account. So if you’re looking to get that meowntain of upvotes from the community, you’ll better put turn into a crazy cat lady for the day. TL;DR
Your Product Hunt launch is a day of celebration so it’s only right your website looks all nice and pretty for the occasion, don’t you think? It’s also a great chance to once again highlight that special Product Hunt deal you prepared for your fans. Shine bright like a diamond! ???? You can use IntroBar (yes, it’s free) to put up a nice-looking welcome bar on top of your website when people click through via your PH-link (this will end in /?ref=product hunt). Here’s what Salesflare’s website looked like on her big day. TL;DR
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