On July 14th, we published Unstack on Product Hunt. We carefully planned for this, spoke to others who had successful debuts, read the help docs carefully and then executed relentlessly.
- 3,300+ upvotes
- 16,000+ uniques
- 1,600+ new sign-ups
- #1 product of the day
- #5 product of the month
- A nice bump in MRR
- Write ups on half a dozen websites
- Tons of praise we're reusing in our marketing
- Awesome feedback to make our product better
I know what you’re thinking. “Grant, tell us the secret. Give us the magic. How did you do it?”
Ok ok… Take it easy. I’ll tell you what I know...
If you do all of what we layout below, I think you have a real shot of ranking in the top four products for the day you choose. The one caveat: This all assumes that you have a great product ready for people to try and use. You only get one chance, so make sure your product is ready.
Ok let's dive in and get you that top spot...
Setting up your page
Setting up your Product Hunt page is pretty straightforward, but we emphasized a few things based on reviewing lots of #1 products.
I started with a super long explanation of why we're building the platform, all the amazing features, our new pricing model, and so on. I was really proud of it. I reached out to a friend, who happened to know the founder of PH, and asked him for some feedback. He told me straight up it was WAY too long and too markety...
I worked to cut it in half and focused more on keeping it real instead of selling how great our product was to the community. That turned out to be great advice.
We also thought carefully about the few words that we had to explain our product. This is what everyone sees before they even dig in to learn more about your product. Unstack does much more than build websites, but it's our hook, and we thought it was our best shot for drawing attention from the maker community. We also emphasized things we knew makers cared about: speed and free.
The categories were not something we spent too much time thinking about. We simply picked the most obvious choices for our product.
To hunt or to be hunted
A lot of people talk about getting someone big to hunt you. From what we can tell, it doesn't have a major impact one way or another. I hunted our product launch and to me, it felt a bit more grass roots than trying to find someone big to do it. So my thought on this: It doesn't matter, but if you have someone in mind, go for it.
We saw a mix of top products use both video and images. If you have video, great. For us, we felt like a series of story boarded images was a great way to welcome users and very clearly highlight our product and some unique features the PH community would like. I personally like the simplicity of sharing a few key messages rather than a full on video. You lose attention pretty quickly. Video's can say a lot, but sometimes it's better to get just a few key messages in front of your attention deficit audience (which is all of us today). Up to you...
Promoting your launch
Ok, so you've put the time in to build your page and things are looking good. Now you need a plan to promote this.
First things first, set your launch to be 5 am PST. Why so early? Well, you want to come out the gate swinging, and at 5 am PST it's 8 am EST, lunch time in Europe, and early evening in Asia and Australia. Going live with gusto matters for a couple reasons. The more early votes you get, the more early exposure you have at the top of the homepage. The more of that exposure, the more votes. It's multiplicative... So if you get nothing else right, at least nail this piece.
Set up a dedicated Product Hunt page
You should create a landing page dedicated to Product Hunt traffic. This is just smart marketing, enabling you to create consistency, provide special offers, and keep the messaging on point to maximize conversion rates for your product. It's also a good option for setting up a Facebook pixel and re-marketing a specific campaign to PH users on the cheap.
Use the Product Hunt widget
You should embed the Product Hunt widget on your site. It will drive your traffic to your launch and get you some more votes. We don't know exactly how PH's algorithms work, but we have a hunch that net new traffic (that you send them)—which is tagged with UTM params by them—has some value that is rewarded.
The big one: your email list
Hopefully, you have been building your email list since day one of building your new product or company. If not, stop what you are doing and go solve that first.
Email is probably going to be one of the top ways to drive action and engagement on your launch. Product hunt is pretty clear not to shamelessly ask for votes, but there is nothing wrong with promoting your launch and asking your followers to go check it out and engage with the content.
- Email number one (5 am PST): Let people know about your launch and why it's important. Keep it focused with two links. One to your PH page and another to share to social media (you should tee this up for them). I also encourage your email to be plain text. Make it as 1:1 feeling as possible. This should be a personal appeal.
- Email number two (11 am PST): One audible we made that ended up helping a ton was sending a mid-day update. At this point you've got some momentum. Most people let up here. "Great job everyone! Let's pack it up" - but you are not most people! Instead, send a mid day email. "Wow, we're at XX votes, but we're not quite there. We need some help spreading the word!" This drove an additional 10-15 shares and we saw a lift of about 100-150 upvotes.
Managing your page through the day
We know you're doing a bunch of things (see above☝️) but managing your page and driving engagement is key, especially as the maker.
- Respond to every comment, big and small.
- Keep the dialog going. Comments will help you.
- Get people to review your product (green, smiley faces)
- We're pretty sure existing PH users are more valuable than first time voters
Why do these things matter if you're getting tons of votes? We believe there are two reasons:
- Signaling the overall health of your launch.
- Giving you the edge if you're tied on votes but have more comments and reviews from the community.
Making the most of the traffic.
Alright. You've done everything. You're ready, you're the master of your domain, and the launch is going great. How are you going to make the most of the traffic? Here is what we did.
We wrote 50+ help articles before our launch, trying to illuminate and explain every CMS feature of the product clearly in human-friendly terms to offset customer support strain on launch day.
Secondly, we prepared ourselves by fully supporting live-chat, having team members ready to take on the overflow of support inquiries, and working quickly to delight customers.
On the other hand, we could have gated support, made it only available to paying users. However, that would have stalled “hunters” explorations and most likely driven them away. So, rather than gating, we invested in support.
Follow up emails / offers
Our sales and marketing team send exclusive offers to all users who signed up from Product Hunt (see above where we recommended the custom landing page). This resulted in a huge spike of paid activations on the platform.
Building community is central to our company vision, so we pushed our users to join the free Slack community where they could share feedback, ask questions, and connect with other users. This was a win because we saw our community almost double in size and many of those users have remained engaged and interested in our platform and content.
Post mortem on initial results
It's been a couple months, so what have we learned?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, churn rates from the Product Hunt cohort are double that of all other users. Even though we think the PH audience is a great fit, the context is also around test driving new products and tinkering with new tools. It was also helpful to give us some time to see what the economics looked like for these users. We wanted to run some paid promotion with PH after the fact, but they charge quite a bit. We didn't move forward in the end because the customer quality wasn't there (compared to other user segments and campaigns).
Note, this could have also been unique to us, so do the analysis yourself. My point is just wait a bit before you rush to stroke a $10k check for paid placement.
Blog write ups
We had a number of people reach out to introduce themselves and write up reviews of Unstack in blog posts as well as founder interviews and comparisons with other platforms. All good stuff with some great backlinks.
Venture capitalists are on Product Hunt
Honestly, the last thing we were thinking about when launching on product hunt was fundraising (unless you count revenue as funding!). We probably had 12-15 funds reach out to us after our #1 debut. Some really great (and helpful) funds. So, if you're thinking about the VC route, something to keep in mind. It's a social signal if you do well, and the downside risk is null if you don't (since no one will see it anyways).
We saw a huge jump—what I refer to as a "traffic spike of hope"—when we launched. Surprisingly, we saw continued traffic for a week or two after the launch, which was awesome. After that we saw considerable drop off and reverted back closer to pre-launch levels but overall we're still seeing more traffic on a daily basis, even a couple months later! Here is a lead from a few minutes ago that found us from Product Hunt.
If you're building a digital product, I strongly recommend you take the time to build a campaign around your Product Hunt launch. If you do it right, it can be worth its weight in gold, if for nothing else, some bragging rights. I hope this guide is helpful. You can also create a free Unstack account to create your product hunt landing page or join our Slack community (link in the Unstack app) to share your launch. I'll be sure to check it out and give you an upvote (and comment, and review!).