Most successful Product Hunt launches are apps
We all have heard incredible success stories that happened to startups because of the mysterious Product Hunt effect (just like here, here and here). Motivated by their success, we just had to put our Indiegogo campaign for MicroBot Push robotic finger on Product Hunt. Here’s what happened.
First, let’s try to understand what sort of projects get traction on Product Hunt. If we break down the list of successful projects by Eric Willis into four categories we can immediately see a trend there. There are very few thriving hardware products on Product Hunt and even less of them are pre-order products (essentially all crowdfunding campaigns would fall under this category). These statistics immediately imply that if you are a hardware startup, your changes on Product Hunt are a lot lower. Moreover, this also reflects in Product Hunt guidelines — they do not under no circumstances accept crowdfunding projects as exclusives.
Product Hunt is a good medium to activate your supporters
(if you have them)
The second thing that you can learn by just looking at successful campaigns is how important is to have a critical mass of supporters before you launch. As an example lets take Lrn app. The team boasted how they got 1,000 upvotes on Product Hunt and, as a result, got tens of thousands of downloads, became #1 app for Education in 3 countries and even could “eat that week”, which is not bad for a startup. However, here are a few things that many might have ignored. First, Lrn team had a strong list of more than 20,000 email subscribers, they had a strong community of supporters and testers who have been accumulated through years spent in other startups, and finally they put significant effort to put their name on top tech press worldwide. On top of that was Product Hunt, which worked well perfectly as a medium where they could activate their supporters potential.
Our story: the short version
Problem: We are not an app startup, we could not offer any instant gratification, plus we didn’t have a strong presence and tens of thousands of supporters that we could activate on Product Hunt. So how do we pull this off?
Solution: Get submitted by a famous hunter who also likes our product.
Time spent: 23 days.
Results: After 23 days, we submitted ourselves. Very unexpectedly and after multiple rejections we got featured after we posted ourselves! Website traffic from Product Hunt matched that of a TechCruch article! Though surprisingly the engagement was lower. On average one hunter spent around 16s on your campaign page which was a little disappointing.
Our story: the long version
1. Sending an email to email@example.com went South fast.
You should know that hunters like the F word (not that word.. Come on guys!). The one they like is “Free“. Depending on your product you can suggest a free subscription, a free gift and so on. We offered free shipping in addition to what was already a generous discount.
On the plus side, our proposal has been heard and Product Hunt replied quickly! On the adverse, we learned that hunters don’t like pre-orders. This means that essentially all crowdfunding projects, regardless what they are about, will get rejected by firstname.lastname@example.org. Even having a CES Award as an assurance that we have a real product and that we are a serious company didn’t help us to overrule their decision.
Just to be fair, there are exceptions (e.g. Nebia Shower). But again, Nebia already had a HUGE number of supporters.
2. Tweets to famous hunters went straight into the void…
Hunters tweet a lot. After all, you must have a Twitter account to access Product Hunt in the first place. So naturally we thought that the best and the fastest way to reach out and get our product submitted by famous hunters will be to tweet them. We sent 23 tweets to people who we already followed and expected that at least some of them will reach back to us, but seems like all our tweets went into a void.
Just our guess, but as the number of products submitted to Product Hunt ever increases, the attention span of famous hunters stays the same, so you don’t have much chance of getting their attention by cold tweeting. Be sure to establish relationships early in advance.
4. “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” We were allowed to submit ourselves.
Follow-up emails are the best way to show that you’re putting in more effort than everyone else. So we decided to send another email to email@example.com trying to address each of their concerns regarding crowdfunding campaign.
The answer was still no, but to be fair following up got us somewhere. Product Hunt team was kind enough to give us 3 invites so we can submit ourselves!
Submitting a project yourself is not as glamours and powerful as being featured as an exclusive or being uploaded by a power hunter but after so many trials and errors we just had to do it. Behold, here it is.
6. Yet, to our surprise, even submitting ourselves didn’t go as smooth as expected.
The 4 most important success factors when you are submitting yourself are:
- Crowned thumbnail image
- First comment
- Time (you should at 00:01!)
Why are these important? First, as we didn’t have a follower based that would automatically see and upvote our product, instead we had to rely on a compelling tagline that would drive random hunter’s curiosity. Needless to say, the featured thumbnail image is as important to generate interest as the tagline. Finally, the first comment serves a discussion starter and a friendly personal introduction.
Imagine our astonishment when we ran into a few problems again…
Uploading GIF as a thumbnail image didn’t work… We tried many different sizes, changing the file name, changing hosting server.. everything failed, so we reported a bug.
After exchanging emails back and forth with PH, we found the problem and the solution. FYI, make sure to remove the alpha channel (transparency) from your GIFs
7. Totally unexpected we got featured!
After reporting several bugs and interacting with Product Hunt once again, we somehow got featured!!!
Not sure, maybe it was our persistence, maybe after seeing our project so many times Product Hunt staff just decided that they actually like it. What matters is the fact that we got featured. And trust us, being featured means a lot!
A few days before submitting our main project, we uploaded two of our site projects to see how Product Hunt works in practice. These two uploads weren’t featured and received just 5 and 6 upvotes respectively.
On the contrary, featured MicroBot Push received more than 200 upvotes! Also in terms of traffic, being featured on Product Hunt entirely matched some of the top tech media sites such as TechCrunch or CNET, but the engagement level was low. On average Hunters spent only 16.3 s on our Indiegogo campaign page.
8. Final thoughts: good traffic, but disappointing engagement. Startups should cater Hunters as they cater their mobile users.
Product Hunt traffic vs. time spent on site is somewhat comparable with we get from mobile Facebook users. Should startups cater Product Hunt users as if they are “snacking” stays an open question. Perhaps that would be a correct strategy.
On the bright side, we had a meaningful and insightful discussion with hunters and we truly appreciate that. Would we submit a crowdfunding project on Product Hunt again? Yes, but instead of sending hunters directly to our crowdfunding campaign, next time we would build a mobile-friendly landing page where interested people could leave their Twitter handles. This way we could interact them directly when time to talk would be appropriate for both parties.