How we got 4 top-ranking start-ups on Product Hunt

A stage-by-stage guide based on four successful product launches with 350-550 upvotes

Product Hunt is a great platform for getting your first customers. It gives you access to a community of early adopters, those who build and break the startup scene.

This playbook provides actionable insights into how to launch products on Product Hunt based on our experiences launching four products (Son of a Tailor, Duuoo, Lurchr and Walkie) that all landed in lists of the top-ranked products. Later we’ll talk about why that’s so important.

Before launching

‘In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.’ - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower’s quote couldn’t be more true for launching on Product Hunt. The process takes time. You should start preparing at least one week in advance.

Finding a Hunter

Popular vs. Newest tabs

Before we talk about actually choosing a Hunter, we have to talk about the Popular and Newest tabs on the site. For this, we have to go back to the beginnings of Product Hunt. In the beginning, Ryan Hoover, the founder of PH, decided to give special rights to a limited number of influential people in Silicon Valley. Lately, Product Hunt has been trying to make the system more democratic, but an air of elitism still exists. These selected few have the right to place products right on the front page in the Popular section.

Mere mortals first have to earn commenting rights; then, after a while, they have the option to hunt products but only in the Newest section.

If there’s one thing you want to avoid on Product Hunt, it’s being stuck in the Newest section. The reality is, only a few people ever look through that section. If you want to see results from your Product Hunt launch, you have to be in the Popular section—and that’s why having a good Hunter is so important.

Friends in high places vs. an army of friends

When you’re faced with being buried in the Newest section, you really only have two options:

1. Find a badass Hunter

  • As mentioned before, some Hunters have more rights than others. These early users of the platform have the ability to put your product right at the top of the Popular page. This is a huge advantage.
  • Several sites can help you find a hunter, such as WhoHunt, Hunter Data and Uberhunters.
  • If you take this road, be prepared for a week of tweeting and emailing until you pair up with your chosen Hunter.
  • Try finding someone who has hunted similar products before. That will help you convince them to hunt you.
  • Reaching out into startup-oriented Slack groups like the Startup Study Group is also a great way to find Hunters!

2. Have an army of friends

  • Another option is to have a big network that you can mobilise.
  • Reach out to them before your launch date and prepare them to act because time is of essence: The faster you get your upvotes, the easier it is to land in the Popular section.
  • In our experience, you need 30–35 upvotes fast at the beginning to propel yourself up to the Popular section.

Collect ALL your contacts

Even if you decide to find a Hunter with rights to hunt you into the Popular section, your network will still be essential. So reach out to your contacts.

Systematically look through all the communities you are a part of and create lists of email addresses segmented into separate CSVs so you can send them emails on the launch date with copy they’ll respond to.

Pro Tip: We find it especially fruitful to reach out to the LinkedIn contacts of companies’ CEOs (you can do that here).

Product Hunt explicitly warns you not to ask for upvotes, so don’t. Only write to people that you are in contact with and who you are sure will be interested in your Product Hunt launch. That way, you don’t have to ask for upvotes anyway. If people like your product, they will upvote it and comment on it. So why break the rules?

You can use several products to send out these emails. We normally use Reply. But you can also do it by hand. You can also use short URLs to track the amount of traffic driven to Product Hunt.

Prepare ALL your assets

Now that you have collected and segmented your contacts, it’s time to write all your copy and create all your visuals. Before we dig deeper into each of these topics, here’s a general rule of thumb: All the assets you create should be optimised for desktop. Although Product Hunt has been trying to drive people through the mobile experience, around 80% of all the traffic we receive is still on desktop.

When it comes to copy, hitting the right voice with your audience is always the top priority. This is true for a Product Hunt launch too. Just take that extra hour to write separate emails for each of the mailing lists you created—your results will be way better.

Create a Hunter Pack

The last thing you want to do on launch day is waste time, so it’s essential that you prepare as much as possible in advance. The Hunter Pack contains all the assets you and your Hunter need to upload your product to Product Hunt::

1. Name of product (max. 60 characters)

2. URL for product

3. Tagline (max. 60 characters)

  • This is possibly the most important asset. Make it as catchy and descriptive as you can since it’s the only copy people will see on Product Hunt before they click on your product.

4. Media assets

  • Thumbnail: 600 x 600 pixels or bigger. A gif works great because it draws more attention.
  • Gallery of pictures, videos and gifs. All ratios are good, but play around with different ones to ensure that your assets are diverse. Just make sure your gifs are under 3MBs.
  • Also, we’ve had some problems uploading gifs. If you run into any issues, just export your gif using different export options.

Educate your contacts with a White Paper

A lot of our contacts—especially CEOs’ Linkedin contacts—have never heard of Product Hunt before. To help them, we created White Papers and sent them out with our emails. These papers describe what PH is, talk about why it’s important to launch there and tell the reader how to sign up.

Write a Medium post

Since the information you can provide on Product Hunt is rather limited, we normally write a Medium post alongside it. If you choose to write one of these posts, address key issues like what drove you to build the product, how you built it and why you built it.

Draft your first comment

At Founders, we always prepare the first comment the day before. In that comment you can thank the Hunter for hunting you, describe your product and call on the community to give you feedback. You can also add the Medium post here.

Create social visuals

Adding custom visuals to your social channels increases awareness on launch day. We always prepare them beforehand.

Surprise the community with a freebie

Product Hunt will give you some of your best customers, including early adopters who are not only willing to try you out but also give you great feedback.

Providing them with a gift, like a free trial or some extra features, is a great way to thank them. Figure out what you will give them and prepare a custom banner on your site for traffic coming from Product Hunt.

You can also submit your request before the launch and gain exclusivity on the site. This can be submitted at https://rrhoover.typeform.com/to/ysDOD2.

Preparing for distribution

‘Many entrepreneurs who build great products simply don’t have a good distribution strategy. Even worse is when they insist that they don’t need one, or call no distribution strategy a ‘viral marketing strategy.’ - Mark Andreessen

You have a great product launching on Product Hunt, and you’ve done all the preparation you can—congrats! But you also need to figure out how you will maximise the effect by creating a distribution strategy. We use Fieldnote for this.

Define all the channels where you will be distributing. Find relevant Facebook groups and Slack channels where you can share the great news that you launched. At Founders, we always use the Product Hunt Facebook group. When we’re launching bots, we use the Bots Facebook group and the Online Geniuses Slack group.

Hackernews (HN) also gives you significant traffic throughout launch day, but there are some points to remember:

  • Don’t post the Product Hunt page on HN—it’s unusual for that community. Link directly to your site.
  • Don’t give your friends direct links to the HN post since they’ll get penalised by HN’s algorithm.
  • HN also penalises traffic from the same IP on its site, so make sure that when you direct your friends to the post you are not on the same wifi or you’re using a VPN.
  • If you can, find a friend with a lot of karma to post for you on HN.

Designer News is also a great site to gain traction. Just make sure you have a friend with posting rights on the site.

PR

Many startups also prepare for a PR push at the same time that they launch on Product Hunt. Although this might be a great idea for some, we advise you to reach out to journalists after your Product Hunt launch is a success. If journalists see that your product landed in the top 5, they might feel more inclined to writing about you.

The basic rules for PR still apply:

  • Carefully select the journalists you pitch to. Don’t spam people with pitches outside their focus.
  • Take the time to write personalised emails.
  • Be short—like, really short.
  • Use bullet points to pitch some angles that might be interesting for their readers.
  • Only go into detailed descriptions after the first email exchange, when they’ve already expressed interest.

Listen into chatter on social media

Before launch day, set up a social listening tool. We recommend Hootsuite, Buffer or Mention. These tools will help you keep an eye on what’s going on with your social media. Respond to all questions.

When to launch?

According to the data we’ve collected from our launches, it is best to launch right after midnight San Francisco time. This gives startups in the EU an advantage. Launching at 9 a.m. CET will give you two waves of visitors: one when EU is active and the second one when the United States wakes up.

We saw the same thing with all our launches: We trended on Product Hunt from 10–12 a.m. CET and then again from 4 p.m. CET when people started to check Product Hunt on the East Coast.

At Founders, we also created a checklist to make sure we didn’t miss anything while we were preparing for the big day. You can download it here.

Launch day

Congrats, you are prepared, and the day has finally come!

Heads up

Make sure to remind your team to keep an eye on your traffic on launch day. Product Hunt can drive extensive traffic, so make sure your site can handle it.

Before you hit the button, check Product Hunt to make sure no big players have launched that day. Don’t launch if a new Google feature is out, for example.

On Product Hunt

  1. Get hunted.
  2. Claim as the Maker.
  3. Post the first comment (you have it ready, right?).
  4. Respond to comments throughout the day as quickly as possible. Ask commenters additional questions to gain feedback.
  5. Have Google Analytics on a screen to see your traffic in real time. This boosts morale and helps you ensure that you have the volume under control.
  6. Have your social media listening tool open at all times for quick responses.

Mobilise

Send out all those emails, tweet your friends, and call your family. Now is not the time to be shy—reach out to anyone you can! Do you know some influencers who might be interested? Tweet them!

Tweet every two or three hours to keep the buzz going! Retweet relevant tweets! At some point during the day Product Hunt will also tweet about your product. For us, that normally meant we started trending again on the site. Make sure to keep out an eye for it.

Post on all the social media channels you own. Ask your team to do so (normally they will do it automatically). You might also want to share your Medium article natively on LinkedIn and Facebook for better reach. After the first hour, you will have time to start spreading the word in the Facebook and Slack groups you identified beforehand.

It’ll be a long day. Make sure to take breaks.

Post-launch

Good job on your launch! Hopefully, you ended up on the top of Product Hunt. But the battle doesn’t end there.

If you ended up in the top 7, you’ll land a spot in the Product Hunt daily email. Product Hunt sends out this email to its large subscriber list every day, and it can drive some pretty nice traffic all by itself. Make sure you are prepared for extra traffic even after your launch day.

Also, it’s time to:

  • Thank all your contacts.
  • Look through the upvoters/commenters list and identify influencers and people of interest.
  • Some great brand ambassadors could be in that list.
  • Analyse the outcome. Crunch those numbers. Thanks to that extra traffic, you might be able to identify more touchstones where users drop out. Make sure to document all your findings.
  • Onboard all those new customers.