Launching on Product Hunt is one of the most exciting things you can do as a startup. Even though I’ve consulted for tech startups for years–optimizing their websites with SEO, developing paid media campaigns to promote events, and building social media campaigns to generate buzz around new products–going to market with your own team that works day-in and day-out on their prized project is a whole different beast. It was like planning your own wedding, and you want the day to be perfect.
So we had all hands on deck. In the weeks leading up to the launch, we mapped out new pages we wanted to build for the website, created an animated video to showcase our product, started engaging with various online communities, and planned out different social media and paid advertising campaigns. After all, this was our debut into the world of adoption. Our startup is nearly two years old, but this seemed like the first time we had really focused on growth, rather than creating new features and plugins for our product.
Product Hunt can be a way to break into the market, disrupt current technologies, and deploy new ideas that change the way consumers think about their current products. It’s no easy feat though–every single day there are dozens of startups doing the same thing, hoping to shout over the roaring waterfall to reach potential customers and get feedback on their unique solution. There is a highly engaged community of tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and investors on Product Hunt, but especially in the current world of Artificial Intelligence, it takes deliberate preparation to rise above the noise and get the support that you’ve worked so hard to receive.
Today, I want to share my experience with you. Pieces for Developers ended our launch at product #5 of the day, after intense preparation, collaboration, and hoping. Although we may not have achieved our overarching goal of being #1 (what startup doesn’t dream big?), we earned a huge amount of feedback, support, and partnership opportunities from our launch, and we couldn’t be more excited about the momentum we have going into Q3 this year.
I aim to take you through the entire process from the pre-launch preparations, building a community, the intricacies of day-of Product Hunt launch strategy, post-launch follow-ups, and even how to interpret and apply feedback effectively. I’ll also share what we did right, and where we went wrong! By the end of this Product Hunt checklist, my hope is that you'll not only be equipped with a roadmap to your Product Hunt success but that you'll also gain a better understanding of how to engage with potential customers and the broader community to get their invaluable support and feedback.
Wait… What is Product Hunt?
Before we dive into the specifics of launching your product on this platform, it's crucial to understand the essence of Product Hunt. Initially conceived as an email list by Ryan Hoover in 2013, Product Hunt quickly evolved into a popular platform that serves as a springboard for new and innovative tech products.
Put simply, Product Hunt is a community-based platform where makers and enthusiasts come together. Every day, new products are 'hunted' and presented to the community, who then engages in discussions, gives feedback, and upvotes their favorites. The products that resonate the most with the community climb to the top of the daily list, thereby getting the most visibility.
A successful launch on Product Hunt can give you access to a broad network of investors, early adopters, tech enthusiasts, and potential customers. Furthermore, the feedback you receive here can be instrumental in refining your product, eliminating bugs, and discovering unique use-cases you might not have thought of yourself. In a nutshell, Product Hunt is a platform that can put you in front of an engaged, tech-savvy audience eager to test, discuss and share new products.
How to Prepare for a Launch
Before your product takes the center stage, there are a few essential steps you need to complete to ensure it shines under the spotlight.
First and foremost, focus on your product presentation. This includes your product's name, tagline, and description, along with captivating images and a clear, concise demo video. Remember, your tagline should be catchy but descriptive – it's often the first thing people see. Meanwhile, your product description should give people a clear understanding of what your product does and why it's useful. Images should be high-quality and relevant, and if possible, include screenshots or graphics that visually explain your product. A demo video can be a powerful tool to showcase your product in action, helping potential users visualize its benefits.
We hired an animator to help make our demo video, and it took a lot longer than we anticipated to finalize it. So unless you have plenty of resources at your disposal, plan ahead on this one!
Selecting your launch day is another important step. Historically, Tuesdays and Wednesdays see higher activity levels on Product Hunt. However, choosing the right day also depends on your specific product, your target audience, and other Product Hunt marketing activities you've planned. We launched on Friday, simply because we wanted to showcase our new homepage design, and that ended up being a lot more work than we initially thought it would as well. But the community was still very active!
Next, create a landing page for your Product Hunt visitors. This page should explain your product in more detail, showcase its features, and provide a way for interested visitors to sign up or try your product. Personally, I think the homepage makes the most sense in this case. You want to put your best foot forward and show your entire solution, which is a story likely told best on your homepage.
Lastly, draft an engaging introductory comment for your launch. This comment should provide more context about your product, its origins, and its intended impact. Tell your story, share your vision, and invite people to engage, ask questions, and provide feedback. Make it casual, but don’t include too many emojis if you can. Here’s what our Founder posted:
Remember, the pre-launch phase is all about setting the stage for your big day. The more you prepare, the smoother your launch will be. In the next section, we'll talk about the importance of building a community before your launch.
Build a Community Before You Launch
Launch day can feel a lot like stepping onto a stage. The more fans you see in the audience, the better your performance. So, before you step into the Product Hunt limelight, spend some time getting your fans together.
Start with your inner circle. Reach out to your current users with an email blast and let them know about your upcoming launch. Post on all of your social media accounts, and even your personal accounts if you’re okay with that. Text your old coworkers and colleagues too–this is a big moment for you! Remember, your goal is to build up excitement for your upcoming launch, so make sure your message is upbeat and invigorating.
Next, venture out into the wild – or in this case, the Product Hunt community. Hang out on the platform, upvote and comment on other products, and share genuine feedback. Not only will you get a feel for the community and what they dig, but you'll also start to become a familiar face around there. Product Hunt actually gives a weight to each upvote, favoring those that are more active on the platform. So it’s a good idea to build up your account with consistent activity in the months leading up to launch.
Don’t forget about other community advocacy in your Product Hunt launch checklist! Pieces is a tool for developers, and in this technical space, writing technical documentation and engaging in developer advocacy is an extremely important channel for growth. We made sure to mention our Product Hunt launch in various Discord servers, Reddit threads, and LinkedIn groups that we have been active in. Don’t join a new community just to plug your launch though, that may rub people the wrong way.
Hunt a Hunter
Think of Hunters on Product Hunt as your tour guides. They know the landscape, have the crowd's attention, and can navigate the complexity of the platform. Having the right Hunter on your side can be a game-changer for your launch.
First off, you need to find a Hunter who's the right fit for your product. Look for Hunters who are active, have a substantial following, and have previously hunted similar products. A Hunter who is passionate about your product category can give your launch an added boost.
Once you've found a few potential Hunters, it's time to make contact. Remember to keep your message friendly and professional. Give them a brief overview of your product and why you believe it's a good fit for Product Hunt. If they agree to hunt your product, that's fantastic! If not, no worries. This is a process, and sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find the perfect match.
You can hunt your own product of course, and Product Hunt seems to have actually begun incentivizing this since they recently stopped sending notifications to followers of hunters upon launch. You may be able to get around this by asking your hunter to ask a question in the comments of your launch post, but we didn’t bother him since it was a free partnership to begin with. We sent over 20 emails to hunters we found throughout Product Hunt, and only one responded. He seemed very enthusiastic about helping us, so we had that covered, and we simply sent our launch info to him so he could schedule our post a couple weeks in advance.
How to Advertise on Product Hunt – or Not
This is where we went wrong. Once you schedule your launch, you have access to a ‘Coming Soon’ page that community members can follow in order to be notified upon your launch. The platform doesn’t explicitly say that you can’t run ad campaigns to promote your Coming Soon page, so we went ahead and published a Product Hunt LinkedIn ads campaign to build hype around the upcoming launch. It may have been great ad targeting, it may have been that people on LinkedIn love Product Hunt, but we received an insane click through rate for this campaign and it made us really excited about the pre-launch engagement. Even though we got 300+ clicks to the Coming Soon page from the campaign, we didn’t receive a single follow…
Then came our launch day, and we carried over this same approach to drive paid traffic to our launch page. Again, amazing interactions with the ads, but we couldn’t even find our launch page posted on the homepage of Product Hunt.
It turns out, they don’t want you to do this. Our listing was shadow banned for nearly six hours, where we didn’t receive a single upvote from organic traffic on the platform. The first few hours are critical for a successful launch, and by the time we were able to get a response on Product Hunt support, other startups had far surpassed us in the rankings. From there, it was a snowball effect, leading to more and more upvotes for products listed above-the-fold.
We nailed every other aspect of our debut, but this mistake may have cost us a few rankings on the leaderboard. So maybe leave this step out of your Product Hunt checklist, and focus on organic engagement with your top communities!
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk a little bit more about the big day.
Showtime - Launch Day!
The launch day is here, and it's time to put all your preparations into action! The minute your product goes live on Product Hunt, it's all systems go. It is recommended that you schedule your launch for 12:01am PDT, since that is the start of the 24 hour period and will give you the maximum exposure to users.
Kick things off by sending out a message to your network. Shoot off that newsletter, post on your social channels, or text your buddies. But remember - this isn't a one-time thing. Keep the updates flowing throughout the day. Reached a milestone? Share it. Climbing up the rankings? Share it. The more you keep people in the loop, the more engaged they'll be. We scheduled our email newsletter to blast out to 15% of the list every hour, so all morning we could receive steady support. Product Hunt definitely factors prolonged engagement into their ranking algorithm! Remember, it’s not all about the quantity of upvotes.
Now, onto the real MVP of launch day - engagement. Here's where you pull up a chair, get comfy, and chat with the Product Hunt community. Respond to every comment, thank each upvoter, and be as detailed as possible when answering questions. Make it a conversation - the more engaging you are, the more interest your product generates.
Our whole team turned into upvoting machines. Every comment that came through was answered in the next 10 minutes, upvoted, and followed up by another person on the team. Make sure you loop in your engineering team for any technical support questions that might pop up. And don’t forget to celebrate with your team!
We stayed up all night in the office tightening up our new homepage, writing marketing material, and playing Mario Kart. Then we spent some more time after the launch fixing some broken links that came up on the new homepage. Startup life is full of surprises, and things are never as smooth as they should be. But being prepared is always a bonus!
The After-Party: Post Launch
Alright, you did it. The launch day is over. But that doesn't mean the work is done. In fact, post-launch is when some of the most crucial work happens.
Follow up with anyone who expressed interest in your product. Reach out to them personally, thank them for their support, and keep the conversation going.
Next, sit down and sift through the feedback. What worked? What didn't? How can you improve? The Product Hunt community is a goldmine of insights, and this is your chance to learn from them. Implement changes based on this feedback, and your product will be all the better for it.
And remember - just because the launch is over doesn't mean you stop engaging with the community. Keep them updated on new features, improvements, and milestones. A launch might be a one-time event, but building a community is an ongoing process.
My Personal Journey
Although I am a marketer at heart, I’ve spent countless hours trying to put myself in the shoes of a developer. Pieces for Developers is an intelligent code snippet manager that streamlines developer workflows by boosting productivity around the key materials used in browser, IDE, and collaboration tools. This meant nothing to me when I first joined the team, and now it’s all I can think about. Needless to say, I was pretty confident going into this launch after all the work we’ve put in around the clock! The question was, would the developer community feel the same?
The pre-launch phase was intense, to say the least. From fine-tuning the product descriptions, to working with our designer to create visual assets, to developing a multi-channel marketing campaign, every step was a learning experience. The launch day was a whirlwind, filled with constant updates, discussions, and an overwhelming sense of anticipation. It was like being on a rollercoaster without a pause button, especially since we stayed up all night before the launch.
The result? Pieces didn't skyrocket to the top, but it did gather a respectable audience. The feedback, the comments, the suggestions— it was like striking a goldmine of insights. Post-launch, we found ourselves getting mentioned in blog posts, shoutouts on twitter listicles, and growing all of our social media followings.
Lessons learned? Many. But the one that stands out is this: Product Hunt is less about hitting the top of the list and more about engaging with a community that can help you shape and refine your product.
So, there you have it. The most personal Product Hunt checklist you’ll find online. It's important to remember that, while Product Hunt is an amazing platform, it's not a magic wand. It won't instantly turn your product into a sensation. What it will do is give you access to a community that's ready to engage, provide feedback, and help you refine your offering.
My advice to you is this: Dive in, engage, learn, and have fun with it. Launching a product is a journey, and Product Hunt is a fantastic companion to have along the way.
To sum up the Product Hunt launch checklist:
- Understand what Product Hunt is and how it works
- Perfect your product presentation
- Choose the right launch day
- Create a beautiful landing page
- Draft an engaging introductory comment
- Build an audience before the launch
- Select the right Hunter
- Engage with the community on launch day
- Don’t pay for traffic to your post
- Keep the momentum going post-launch
- Implement feedback and continue to evolve your product
Hopefully this guide will help you build a following and initiate some growth momentum, like it did for us. Feel free to check out our Product Hunt launch, and leave us your feedback! Happy hunting 😊