Guide: how to nail the Product Hunt release of your SaaS startup

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  • Guide: how to nail the Product Hunt release of your SaaS startup

How do you get hunted and have great success in your Product Hunt release?

You have an awesome product. Your analytics is properly set up. Your on-boarding is top-notch. Now is the time to get hunted! How to make sure it will be a big success? Well, this is how we did it (twice), which isn’t a guarantee for success, but will improve the chances of your SaaS startup significantly.

Basic Preparation: Make sure you are ready

You can get featured on Product Hunt more than once but for your first time, you should make sure you are ready. It would be a pity to blow this great chance, right? Here’s a checklist to make sure you are ready:

  • You have product/market fit.
  • You have active (and happy) users.
  • Your homepage explains your product within 10 seconds (hallway test this!).
  • You integrated analytics (GA or Mixpanel).
  • Your onboarding flow is properly set up and connected to a drip campaign.

get ready

If you don’t meet these minimum requirements, you are probably not ready yet. If you don’t have users, you are not ready. To get the most out of the release, make sure everything is set up correctly. If you lack one of the first three points, you will most likely attract the wrong kind of visitors who will never convert into active users. The last two points are needed to analyze what happened after the hunt. Analyze where people dropped off or what triggered them into signing up. Don’t launch on Product Hunt to get users, launch to get data so you can improve.

Advanced Preparation: Building your network

Before you do anything else, find people with a strong network who will help you — especially if you don’t have a big network yourself. With Instant, we were lucky to be part of the Rockstart Accelerator program in Amsterdam, which really helped us with building our network. Here are some channels we joined to connect to interesting people:

  • The Startupfoundation Slack group. This is a fantastic Slack channel with lots of great people who are willing to help fellow entrepreneurs.
  • FEDs on Slack. Since we have a front-end tool, this is a niche channel covering all kinds of front-end tech.
  • Amsterdam Startups on Facebook. After all, we are from Amsterdam :-)
  • LinkedIn groups: “On Startups” and “A Startup specialist group”.
  • Maker Hunt on Slack. This is an invite-only Slack community for Product Hunt Makers. They do accept first-time makers.
  • Product Hunt group on Facebook. It’s occasionally a bit spammy but if you have an interesting product the community will listen.

Preparation Fail: Thunderclap

thunderclap

As soon as you are on Product Hunt, you better make the world know about it. The more people visit your Product Hunt page, the higher you rank and the bigger your chances of getting upvotes.

Thunderclap amplifies your message with the power of the crowd.

For our first hunt (back then we were operating under the name ‘Teletext.io’), Thunderclap helped us create some buzz. To set it up you create a project, compose the message you want to spread, and pick an end date. Now you can point people toward your thunderclap campaign page and they can support your campaign by connecting their social media profiles. At the end date of your campaign Thunderclap will send your predefined message as a Tweet, Facebook status message or Tumblr post on behalf of all your supporters— dramatically expanding the reach of your message. Our message looked like this:

teletext thunderclap

After one day of spamming our network we got around 50 supporters with a combined 19.963 reach. After the full two weeks we ended up with 91 supporters with a combined reach of 115.513 people. As you can see by the increased reach, it really paid off to contact influencers and our extended network.

We also created a Thunderclap campaign for our second launch. It was even more successful, helping us reach over 515.000 people.

instant thunderclap

However, Product Hunt discovered our sneaky attempt at creating some pre-launch buzz and made us pay for it.

On the day of the launch, we collected the first 50 upvotes within less than an hour. With this number of supporters, we should have been #1 on the front page but instead we were nowhere to be found. Only after we reached out to Product Hunt via Twitter, they informed us that Thunderclap was being frowned upon. We apologized, they turned the switch, and finally we appeared on the front page.

ph twitter

Preparation: The day of the launch

For your product to be featured, first it needs to be hunted. In earlier days it was all about finding a hunter with a lot of followers, hoping that this would help you reach more people. Nowadays, Product Hunt is actually encouraging you to become a hunter yourself and they have made this process very easy. If you decide on this strategy, make sure you get really active the next couple of weeks and try to gather as many followers as possible.

The Hunter

We would still recommend to find a hunter who is a very active community member. After all, the more followers, the more people will get notified when he or she hunts your product. In our case, the hunter was Bram, who has a whopping 7200+ followers and created the most upvoted product of all times. If you don’t know such a person, go find someone on Product Hunt that hunts a lot of products similar to yours, follow them and then approach them to ask if they want to hunt you. Finding the right person takes some time, but will be incredibly important. The more followers, the more people will get notified when he or she hunts your product.

The List

For a good hunt, the hunter needs to be prepared as well. Help them by giving them the information they need:

  • Name of your product
  • URL of your product or company (+ App Store/Google Play URLs)
  • Tagline (under 60 characters) — This has to be a super direct and clear explanation of what your product really does. It also helps to make it funny and catchy.
  • Thumbnail — We live in a visual world so use an image or GIF to catch the attention of viewers and make sure whatever you use, helps you explain the product!
  • Gallery — Like the thumbnail, this is where you impress people with visuals of your product, and as obvious as that may be, don’t put just one photo! You can also upload a Youtube video. Make sure to have at least one item that would do well on social media!
  • Topics — Choose only the most relevant topics for your product.
  • Makers — Here, make sure to give credit to everyone who worked on your product and add all their (personal) accounts. This will lead to a higher reach and more engagement (through all their followers). Link your accounts to your social media channels to ensure reaching your network on launch day.
  • Date and time (PST) when you want the post to go live.

The comment

You will need a good welcome message. As you get hunted, you automatically get commenting rights on your own product, so make sure to add the first comment. Use the comment to first welcome the visitors and thank your hunter. Then introduce yourself and your team, followed by a brief explanation of your product. This was ours.

The discount

Every good Product Hunt needs a nice discount to thank the community for checking out your product. In our case we gave away a 30% lifetime discount on paid plans. To let everyone know about the discount, add it to your welcome comment and secondly use introbar on your website. It is totally free to use and it will add a nice looking welcome message on top of your website.

introbar producthunt Instant’s Product Hunt welcome message

Ask for Feedback

Product Hunt is a tight-knit community of product lovers. So people know products and they know what makes a product bad, good, or better. Ask them for their opinions and suggestions. This creates high quality engagement which is exactly what you want!

Outrank ‘em

There are many theories about this. We believe the best time to post to Product Hunt is about 03.00 PST. This is at noon (12.00 CEST) in Europe. The front page ranking mechanism of Product Hunt is unknown, but a couple of factors are obvious. One of them is the number of upvotes you gather in a small timeframe. If you post too early, there won’t be many people online to upvote your product. If you post too late, the top spots will already be taken and it will be hard to catch up. Launching at noon in Europe will help you get to the top just before the US wakes up. Other ranking factors are probably the number of comments, visits and click-throughs. Many believed that supporters had to go to the homepage of Product Hunt and click-through to your product before upvoting. This myth was debunked by the Product Hunt team. Turns out upvotes from direct links are counted equally.

However, a lot of upvotes from the same ip-address or a small geographical region, will presumably not help much with ranking.

Be active

The Product Hunt game is not only about quantity but also very much about quality. You are not only aiming for upvotes, you are aiming for real engagement. So make sure to answer all questions and feedback on your product page as fast as possible, either with an explanation or just a simple thank you. Product Hunters are usually just asking honest questions, but they can also be pretty harsh if they don’t like what they see. Don’t take any feedback personally, be nice, thank them and in the end see if you can learn something from it. And completely off the record: it won’t hurt to get a good question in by someone with commenting rights that you know personally and then reply with the perfect answer.

Abuse your network

Now is the time to make use of that network you have been building! Don’t spam strangers by asking for upvotes. This is highly frowned upon and nobody likes it. But your own network? Well, they would be happy to help, especially if you ask them nicely and don’t overdo it. It is very important to get a bunch of upvotes as soon as you are hunted. This will trigger the trending status and will propel you to the homepage, so make sure you have enough people to support you. To contact them on the big day, use Slack, LinkedIn, Facebook. Also make sure to reply to all the Tweets about your launch with an honest, heartfelt ‘thank you’ message.

thank you

We wrote about 120 ‘thank you’ tweets to upvoters and about 50% of the users responded to it by replying, liking or retweeting us. This takes some time, but will definitely pay off in the end by extending your reach even more.

Another thing you can do, is to make a list of Product Hunters who have liked products similar to yours. Make sure to follow them before the event. Then, when your product is launched, you can reach out via Twitter and inform them about your product. Make sure to make it personal and add why you think it might be interesting for them.

Finally, we sent out a newsletter to our existing user base to tell them about our new features, the Product Hunt launch and the 30% discount. We also posted to Hacker News, but the chances of getting to the first page are pretty slim — if you are lucky enough to get picked up, the upside is enormous and will probably 10x your website visits, so it is worth the try.

Our results

Instant is a bit of a niche product, still we managed to get 412 upvotes and 58 comments on our 1st hunt and 457 upvotes and 48 comments on our 2nd launch. We didn’t manage to get to number one (which for the 1st hunt was Trello’s new Slack integration that day). Still both hunts generated over 2000 visits to our website and converted into ~150/200 new accounts created. Overall we are pretty pleased with the results and hope this post will help you get the same results — or even better.

product hunt Meow!

Thanks to Yvonne Koleczek for co-writing this article.