Product Hunt: How to Avoid Disaster When Launching in a Hurry
I started to sweat. What was going on? Was the quality of our upvotes that much lower than these other products? Did I screw something up by hunting the product myself? Why were we nowhere to be found in the top 10 products despite having the most upvotes?
I was not about to let two days of non-stop preparation go to waste. Yes, we had rushed the launch, but 48 hours seemed like enough time. After all, we needed to get back to working on our product.
We had read 20+ articles about launching on Product Hunt, but we were not anticipating this. We began googling ferociously to find out what was happening, but there was no information about this anywhere. As a last resort, we emailed one of our advisors informing them of the situation and waited anxiously for their reply.
Deciding to Launch
Two weeks ago, we launched Hyperbeam on Product Hunt. We made a split decision to do so 48 hours before, and within that window, we created all of the required assets, conducted a decent amount of outreach, and managed to become the #2 Product of the Day. Here’s how (and why) we decided to launch in only 48 hours, and how we narrowly avoided a disaster in the process.
Not all companies should launch on Product Hunt
We decided to launch on Product Hunt primarily because we wanted to get it out of the way. While some companies spend weeks and even months preparing for a launch, we believed that the benefits of thorough preparation did not outweigh the costs.
Some companies benefit more than others from a Product Hunt launch. Before deciding to launch on the platform, the first thing to consider is how beneficial a Product Hunt launch will be for your company. After all, the time spent working on the launch could potentially be spent improving your product.
We chose to spend 72 hours on our launch (48 hours of prep + 24 hours live), and we can confidently say it was a great decision. After deciding on the short timeframe, we needed to adjust our expectations and define our goals.
Success is what you choose it to be
A successful Product Hunt launch for your company may very well mean becoming the Product of the Year. However, it could also mean getting one thousand additional user signups or collecting valuable feedback from the Product Hunt community.
For us, a successful launch meant increasing our brand awareness and acquiring a few additional backlinks for SEO. Of course, we wanted to be Product of the Week. But achieving this was far from necessary.
Think about your end goal and how “successful” your Product Hunt launch needs to be for you to achieve that. If being Product of the Week/Month/Year is a requirement for what you deem to be a “successful” launch, then consider extending the time you have to prepare.
Product Hunt is biased
Productivity apps perform better than cookbooks on Product Hunt. Dev tools perform better than fashion apps. Product Hunt’s users consist primarily of tech entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, investors, and journalists. As such, you should think about how much you have to gain from marketing to these types of individuals.
As a young, B2C SaaS company with >100K MAUs, we felt that our target audience wouldn’t care about using a product that was the #1 Product of the Month on some website they had never heard of. So why spend weeks or months preparing?
Know why you’re launching on Product Hunt, what success looks like to you, and if a rushed launch is the right decision.
The 48-Hour Game Plan
Not all upvotes are created equal
Upvotes from Product Hunt users that regularly engage with the platform have more weight than those from new users. This is why you’ll often see products that have significantly more upvotes and comments than those ranked above them.
Many people recommend building relationships with the Product Hunt community before launching to increase the chances that you’ll receive high-quality upvotes. Unfortunately, we did not have this luxury due to the short timeframe we decided on. As such, we prioritized reaching out to our connections that already had accounts on Product Hunt. Only after reaching out to these individuals did we begin reaching out to contacts who had not yet signed up.
To hunt or not to hunt
There is a ton of conflicting information online debating whether you should hunt your product yourself or get a “reputable” hunter to do it for you. Most online articles say that hunters were only beneficial when their followers got emails about what products they hunted. Let me make this clear:
As long as you know how products get to the featured page, feel free to hunt it yourself. If you are not 100% sure and do not understand the scarcely talked about “homepage privilege” that some hunters have, then get a hunter (or keep reading).
At the time of our launch, we had read 20+ articles about launching on Product Hunt and only came across this concept once—thus resulting in us brushing it off. I hunted our product, and while the flexibility of updating the post was great, the impending bombshell was far from it.
Videos are for the prepared
A high-quality video is great but not required. Whether you should post a video or not depends on what kind of product you have and what media assets you already have prepared. We skipped creating a video and opted for static and animated images for the sake of time. We didn’t want to throw together a low-quality video of us explaining the product via webcam + screencap. However, for some products, this could very well be the right choice. In the end, videos perform very well on Product Hunt, so try to make one if you can. If not, then focus on getting static or animated images completed.
Midnight PST came around and we submitted it—let the games begin.
We started plowing through our outreach lists and the likes slowly started pouring in. The first few people we reached out to couldn’t find us from the homepage so we sent them the direct link to our post (unsure if it even makes a difference). We figured it might just take a few minutes to catch up, but as another 10 minutes went by, we began to notice that all of the top posts on the homepage had fewer upvotes than us.
Uh-oh. What was going on? Was the quality of our upvotes that much lower than these products? What worried us even more, was that we were nowhere in the top 10 products despite having the most upvotes.
Okay, panic mode. We urgently tried to find information online regarding this issue but found nothing. As a last resort, we reached out to an advisor of ours who had done a couple of product hunt launches before and he told us to email product hunt directly to ask for permission to be on the featured page. We did so and within 15 minutes, we were there.
What. The. Hell.
Did we need to email them to get permission to be on the featured page? Why was there no information about this? Retrospectively it turns out that information on this critical aspect of Product Hunt launches is incredibly sparse. Still, others have indeed experienced it, and some have failed miserably because of it. Apparently, some reputable Hunters have the ability to post directly to the home page, but the average user doesn’t.
Maybe I’m missing something, but why the hell isn’t anyone else talking about this?
My advice is this:
If you are launching on Product Hunt and hunting yourself, make sure to email Product Hunt to let them know you launched and would like to be on the featured/home page. After all, products on the featured page get more upvotes organically than those that are absent.
We spent the following 24 hours responding to comments, posting every few hours to social media, and reaching out to personal connections to have them “check out” our Product Hunt page.
In comparison to the first hour, the rest of the day was relatively tame. We likely could have hustled more and (possibly) ranked first, but it wasn’t worth it to us. As long as we made it into the weekly Product Hunt newsletter (i.e., ranked top 5 of the day), we deemed it a success.
Twenty-four hours after launching, Hyperbeam was named the #2 Product of the Day.
Our main goal was to increase brand awareness, and considering we had high-profile VC firms such as a16z and the Head of Growth at Discord reach out afterward to set up meetings, we felt that we had achieved that. We also came out with some awesome media assets to reuse in our marketing, and a few backlinks to help us with SEO.
In our opinion, 48 hours for all of that was a pretty damn effective use of time. However, it was also draining and probably resulted in decreased productivity over the next day or so. Overall, for a young, fast-moving B2C SaaS startup like ours, we think there would be diminishing returns from spending any more than three days on a product hunt launch. #1 Product of the Day was our goal, but achieving that is more important for B2B companies. We were more than happy with silver considering we got to spend the extra time working on what really matters—our product.