How to Include Product Hunt in Your Launch

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:

  1. Find 5 customers.
  2. Build an alpha product for those customers.
  3. Iterate to beta based on their feedback, get to 25 customers. Charge $.
  4. Post to BetaList, get 25 more customers.
  5. Iterate based on their feedback.
  6. 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.

Step-by-Step Guide

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.

Why?

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 OwletAirbearKinsights, 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.

Lessons

  • 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 😉

As always, feel free to tweet me @thetylerhayes or email me if I can help.

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.

How to Product Hunt

A playbook on how to stay cool and not act a fool.

So. There you are. It’s week 8 of team all-hands meetings. You’ve got the first hundred customers for your new product. After all that continuous deployment, your product is in a good place. Not great, but good. With a cold-pressed juice in your hand — your whole team’s got smiles and juices actually, hey does anyone else think this is like elementary school? — you’re on a high note nearing the end of the meeting. Finally, someone says it:

“Is it time for us to post to Product Hunt?”

I’ve been around Product Hunt for a while. You can find me @thetylerhayes. I wouldn’t consider myself an OG but I really like PH. I like studying products that fit into the category of: built for people who like the Internet. PH fits into that category, along with some of my other favorites Disqus, Reddit, and GitHub.

I know a thing or two about PH — some of my successful hunts:

This is what a Product Hunt post looks like.
  • 942 upvotes: Autopsy, “A collection of post-mortems & lessons from failed startups”
  • 143 upvotes: Thrive, “Manage your SMB from your iPhone”
  • 131 upvotes: Upsie, “Get a warranty for all your cool things”

But I don’t know everything — some of my less successful hunts:

  • 60 upvotes, Patient Portal Finder, “Find where to view your results and doctor’s notes”
  • 23 upvotes, Guestlist, “Gorgeous online event registration & ticket sales”
  • 13 upvotes: Meme Generator, “Meme while you Mac”

All of which is to say: I will attempt to share what I know but don’t come to my house if this post doesn’t automatically bring you a $5m seed round.

What is Product Hunt?

Do not skip this section. (I see you scrolling past.)

Product Hunt is, first and foremost, a community. Do not forget that still even in September 2015 roughly only 3,000 people have the ability to 🎯 post products to PH. And “only” 20,000 have the ability to 💬 comment. (Everyone can participate in LIVE Chats. Thanks Ryan 👊 for clarifying.) This is a tightly-run community with an influential core membership.

Like any community, the core community members tend to share characteristics, preferences, and opinions. This is also why only certain types of products can achieve breakaway success on PH.

Nuances to know about Product Hunt’s community:

  1. Positive, optimistic people. Kind, constructive feedback givers.
  2. Generally skews toward people with an appreciation for craft. They like products and makers who care about the details. They won’t shun you if you don’t sweat the details, but they won’t upvote you.
  3. Along with #2, they have an eye for design. As in: the whole experience of a product. They notice little big details. E.g., nice things like including a text-to-download link on your home page so they don’t have to take their phones out of their pockets. Or gross things like if your site takes over their browser’s scrolling.
  4. Makers who spend a lot of time thinking about making.

If you yourself are similar to the above traits, good on you — you will fit in naturally. If you’re not, that’s ok — just be yourself.

Product Hunt likes when you are yourself.

Best practices for Product Hunt

Besides Product Hunt’s own Pro Tips, what tactics should you abide by?

  1. Never post the same day Apple is announcing something.
  2. Your product description is what your product does, not what it is.
  3. UPDATE: Post around midnight. (Outdated: Post around 6am.) PH’s ranking algorithm is always changing (as it should) but generally speaking it ranks for hotness, not just most upvotes. For example, consider two products: Product X has 20 upvotes that it got right away posted at midnight vs. Product Y has only 10 upvotes but was posted an hour ago — Product Y will likely be ranked higher on the home page because it has more momentum. In other words, you are shooting yourself in the foot by posting too early because you’ll lose momentum by the time most people are awake looking at PH.
  4. Get someone else to hunt you.
  5. Get someone else to hunt you whose submission will be featured. This is an important nuance. There are two sections on the PH home page: Featured and Upcoming. Not all PH hunters are equal; some hunters (as best as I can tell, early and influential users) can post straight to the Featured section.
  6. Get as many upvotes you can as early as possible. The winners are picked by lunch Pacific time, if not breakfast. Cf. PH Trend, a great site that tracks each hunt’s movement.
  7. Your goal is to be Top 5 for the day. That means you’ll get a second traffic boost the next day, because the Top 5 get emailed to all PH users in the daily digest the next day.
  8. Don’t expect to be Top 5, or even get many upvotes, unless your product fits into this category: built for people who like the Internet. PH is​ young and​ Silicon Valley. There’s a reason the main category is called “Tech” and not “Products”. It’s not about what vertical your product is in — plenty of telecom, farming, healthcare, etc. products have done well. The point is your product needs a tech spin.
  9. Unless you have to, do not post on the weekend. Weekends have less competition per day, yes. But weekends are more competitive to make the Top 5 because Friday-Sunday posts are grouped into one Monday digest. Not to mention also less visitors per day. Breakaway hunts do happen on the weekend (Autopsy was posted on a Sunday) but it will give you less eyeballs and you are now dealing with extra digest competition. At the end of the day, your product still has to fit with the PH community to be a breakaway hit, and you’re going to have that (or not) regardless of what day it is.
  10. Consider a PH-specific benefit. You don’t have to, just some people do. E.g., offer a special deal code to PHers or move PHers to front of the line.
  11. Don’t re-hunt a product if it’s already been hunted.
  12. Don’t cheat. Don’t game the system. Don’t buy upvotes. Don’t sign up fake PH accounts.
  13. Don’t mimic hunts from well-known products like Facebook and Slack. Their products will get massively upvoted no matter what simply based off their brand. You do not have that brand, so your goal is to cut through the noise. Be concise, specific, and valuable.
  14. Share with your friends. But tell them to go to PH’s home page and upvote you from there. Don’t link them to your product page directly; like Reddit, upvotes on directly-linked pages may not carry much weight.
  15. Get in the discussion. PH is first and foremost a community. Be yourself.

If there’s anything I want you to walk away with, it’s this:

Plan ahead.

Product Hunt will not make-or-break your company — that’s always on you — but it’s not the little leagues anymore. If you have the right product, at the right time, and plan ahead, PH can deliver you tens of thousands of visitors. You have one bullet; don’t waste your bullet. Email me if you want help.

A final thought: Product Hunt is not for getting your first customers. Unless you are a master of product launches and you know PH is pinpointedly your target market, do not launch to the PH market first. I have more thoughts on Product Hunt as part of an overall sound launch strategy but that is out of the scope of this post. Another day.

That’s all I have for now. Go and do great things.

Thanks Ryan Hoover, Andy Santamaria, and Josiah Austin Gulden for reviewing early drafts.


UPDATE: As promised, I wrote another post on How to Include Product Hunt in Your Launch.


Header image: malaysian trio via photopin (license)