A Guide for Internet Marketers, and Everyone Else
The response to How to Product Hunt has been great. But almost as soon as I hit Publish I got a dozen emails on a similar theme:
In other words: “How/when/where/what/why do I incorporate Product Hunt into my overall launch strategy?”
Let’s get this out of the way: You could just roll the dice and post right now. It’s possible your product already has great fit with Product Hunt’s community and you’ll get hundreds of upvotes. But statistically speaking that is not the case. That’s why I wrote this.
I am a firm believer in tying actions to goals. Lots of upvotes and comments on Product Hunt means nothing if that doesn’t translate into sign-ups. Your job is to make something people want, so that when they see it on Product Hunt that will translate into value to your business. My job is to help you navigate a new and unfamiliar marketing channel.
So. This guide is about how to maximize your outcome on Product Hunt, when you’re at an already-fragile point in your product’s life: launch.
Everything in this guide can be summed up as Marketing 101:
Find people who want what you make. Tell them you exist. Repeat.
Product Hunt is a market. Like any market, just go find people on Product Hunt who’d want what you make, and tell them you made it. (As in email them, not post on Product Hunt and hope they notice.) Repeat until you have customers and they’re bursting at the seams for you to “post to Product Hunt already!” Then post to Product Hunt.
You do it this way instead of the other way around because the #1 potential killer for success on Product Hunt, again just like any market, is not having fit with the market. Your goal is to increase the chances you product will fit.
If you do nothing else, just do this. Everything else will fall into place.
Now. Here’s a more nuanced take…
An Example Launch Strategy Template
There are a million launch strategies out there. Every product is different. B2B SaaS products are all the rage these days so I’ve written this as if you’re launching one of those. In broad strokes, a SaaS B2B launch strategy might look like:
- Find 5 customers.
- Build an alpha product for those customers.
- Iterate to beta based on their feedback, get to 25 customers. Charge $.
- Post to BetaList, get 25 more customers.
- Iterate based on their feedback.
- Post to Product Hunt. Tout the fact that you already have a) product-market fit with b) a great product that c) 50 customers love and pay for and d) hey today we’re coming out of beta and PHers get a discount!
I’m opining a bit on what a good launch strategy is here, but I’m right.
Now let’s get into the step you care about: Step 6 — Product Hunt.
Preface: This is all happening after you have early traction
Notice that in the template above I put Product Hunt last. I recommend doing PH after your product has real traction. This may mean after launch.
Product Hunt is now a marketing channel in its own right. It has millions of visitors. It directs massive traffic. Its audience is dense with early adopters.
You are creating a fire. It’s all about momentum. There are many strategies to a successful launch already. Use those to start the fire, make it big. Throwing PH on the fire while it’s still growing on its own is a waste.
You are telling a story. Instead of having to say “Hey PH, give us upvotes please” you have a powerful story to tell: “Hey PH, we launched to Kickstarter just 30 days ago, and the response has been unreal. You may have already heard of us via TechCrunch — we’re happy to answer any questions!”
Wait until the fire is just about to stagnate, just after after your launch and people stop paying attention to you, then throw more fuel on it by posting to PH. Then you’re able to go to PH with a ton of attention already, which greatly amplifies your ability to command big upvotes.
That said, things change. Be adaptable. Again, it’s all about momentum. If your launch starts puttering, consider PH. But remember it’s just one of many channels.
Step 0: Post to other communities first
If you’re actually serious about online marketing, I recommend posting to forums, Slack chats, BetaList—whatever niche communities make sense for your product—for initial feedback and traction before PH. Anything that can help you get early fans who will talk you up in your PH post.
Step 1: Find potential fans
In a spreadsheet, list hunterswho would want your product + collection curators. For example, if you’re making a product for parents:
- Add everyone who upvoted Owlet, Airbear, Kinsights, and other parent products. Then rank them by # of parent products upvoted; now you’ve got a list of people who have a natural affinity towards parent products.
- Add the curators of Products for Parents and Rick Kelly’s Parenting Tools collections. (NB: As of publishing, it’s not possible to deduce who follows a collection. If PH adds that, that would be another great resource.)
Here’s an example spreadsheet:
Step 2: Make fans out of them
This is the hardest part. Making spreadsheets is easy. Making a product people love is hard. Not magic, just hard. Fortunately you did all that work in Step 1 to increase the chances you’re reaching out to the right people.
Get them to sign up. Iterate until they love it.
Make sure to tell them not to share to PH yet. That comes later. Your goal here is to build a base of Product Hunt-using fans of your product, so when you go to PH they’ll give you momentum.
Here’s an email template I use across many marketing channels, not just PH:
Step 3: Launch to PH with your new fans
- Get your best new user to post to Product Hunt for you. Make sure they can post to the Featured section. Coordinate with them, they’ll love this.
- Email fans (hunters and collection curators) 1 day before you post, so you’ll have a thunderclap of attention when it matters most.
- Help them help you! Prep shareable content like Click-To-Tweet.
What if none of your best users can post to the Featured section?
Then you need to find a hunter who can. If it’s totally cold intro, make sure to email them at least a few days in advance. Longer than that isn’t necessary. Look at Yvo Schaap’s Product Hunt Leaderboard, find someone who’d resonate, then pitch them straight-up.
Criteria to evaluate good hunters:
- They can post to the Featured section.
- Past success doesn’t matter. Even being posted by Ryan Hoover himself doesn’t guarantee hundreds of upvotes; what matters is your product’s fit with the PH community.
- Understanding of your product doesn’t matter. Again, it’s about fit.
- I’ve never heard of compensation. It’s all just good karma.
Don’t be nervous. The best hunters are just as interested in posting your product as you are.
- The key is timing. Your launch is a fire. Only throw PH on the fire when it will make it bigger. The order is important and I swear to god if you post to PH before you get customers I will turn this car around.
- Build a base of Product Hunt users who love your product first, then post to Product Hunt. Not the other way around. This will help you learn whether & how your product fits with the PH market.
- Again, Product Hunt is not for getting your first customers. Unless you are a master of product launches and you know that PH is pinpointedly your target market, do not launch to the PH market first.
- You’re always creating your story.
- Don’t just post to PH on a whim.
- Don’t post to PH yourself if you’re a new user. (See #5 Best Practice.)
Or you could just roll the dice and post right now. (Don’t do that 😉
Good luck, have fun!
A Few Other Frequently Asked Questions
Is [My Great Product] interesting to the Product Hunt community? Should I include Product Hunt in my launch?
Personally I think almost any product is interesting to the PH community. The question is: how interesting?
Product Hunt is never not worth it. You should never not post to PH. It’s just a matter of when. Consider the two following scenarios:
- If your product isn’t anytime soon going to have a better fit with the PH market than it is now, post now. You’ll at least get 100 visitors to your site you wouldn’t have otherwise. Better than nothing.
- If, on the other hand, there’s a sufficient chance that in the future you’ll have better fit with the PH market, wait to post. The value then will be much greater to your product vs. now. Read this post and put together a launch calendar.
You get one bullet; use it wisely.
What if my product is already posted to PH but only in Upcoming?
If you see someone post your product before you want it listed, contact the PH team directly. They can advise on what’s still possible/recommended.
Will you try/like/post my product?
Of course! I love trying new products. Even if I don’t emotionally relate to the problem you’re trying to solve, I’ll still give it a shot for sure. Email me.
Thanks Jason Hitchcock and Ryan Hoover for reviewing early drafts.