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.
‘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.
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.
When you’re faced with being buried in the Newest section, you really only have two options:
1. Find a badass Hunter
2. Have an army of friends
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.
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.
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)
4. Media assets
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.
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.
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.
Adding custom visuals to your social channels increases awareness on launch day. We always prepare them beforehand.
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.
‘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:
Designer News is also a great site to gain traction. Just make sure you have a friend with posting rights on the site.
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:
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.
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.
Congrats, you are prepared, and the day has finally come!
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.
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.
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: