The SaaS founder’s guide to Product Hunt

The SaaS founder’s guide to Product Hunt

Hey! I’m Nate. My team and I are building Amplifr, a social media publication and analytics app.

Back in April we got featured on Product Hunt. That was probably the first time someone this side of the globe heard of Amplifr.

There’s a ton of “How to ProductHunt” articles out there. What makes this one different is that we’re an international company.

Amplifr started as a Russian company in 2014. We have around $11k of MRR on the market, and we’re extending the to US and Europe. Here’s how Product Hunt worked for us and what I think we could’ve done better.

During our launch, we’ve had about 14K sessions which resulted in about 400 signups and 10 paying users.

We had a good launch, but I’ve made several mistakes on the way. Here’s our process, our results and my thoughts on how we could make this even better. Tell me what you think on twitter or drop me a line.

Product Hunt

All in all, I spent nearly three weeks to get Amplifr ready for Product Hunt. We already had an English version of the app, but there still was a ton of things to iron out.

It makes no sense to hunt if you don’t have a decent trial communications funnel

If, like us, you run an international app, here’s what to do before you go hunting:

  1. The app itself. Go through the onboarding process once again to make sure your app onboarding flow works, and analytics events are set up correctly. Our onboarding was a year behind, and it slapped hard when we launched. We had to rewrite it from scratch.
  2. Emails. Double check that everything you send to your users is in the correct language and looks great. Sending an English email to a French or a Russian user might be OK, sometimes. Sending a Cyrillic email to someone in the US would be a show stopper, period. Newsletters, triggered emails, notifications — everything counts.
  3. Support team. You need people who feel comfortable speaking English and don’t mind doing it non-stop for two days. Not saying you can’t launch alone — you sure can. You should, actually, and it would be a great experience. However, if there’s a team to support you, brief them in and explicitly tell them why is the Product Hunt launch important.
  4. Time zones. If you’re a European company and your app stores date and time data, it is not without use checking how your app works with time and time zones. In our case, it was a huge thing to fix, since Amplifr has a time suggestion feature. It learns from customers and suggests them the best time slots to share updates on their social media.

Minimal huntable product is the one you’re not embarrassed to talk about for 30 hours

I don’t mean you should never go hunting unless you’ve developed your product to be the best thing in your niche. Just be sure you have a solid answer to the simple question: “What makes you different from alternative A?”

Make sure your product doesn’t suck

What makes Amplifr different from Buffer? Why would anyone prefer it over Buffer?

Other things to fix in your product and landing page: a promo chat, an in-app chat, and triggered messages are a must.

We’re using Chatra for our promo page and Intercom in the app itself. Even if your app has an onboarding triggered email sequence (i.e. you send an email to a user after the first week of use), do write another sequence for Product Hunt referrals. They require a different approach. A bit later, we will talk about how many users you will have probably and how they will convert.

Find and get to know the right hunter

There are things to take into account when choosing your hunter. One of them is how many followers they’ve got. Bear in mind, when you get hunted, your hunter’s followers receive an invitation to your product page. So, the more followers, the better.

However, it is not the number of the hunter’s followers but the hunter-hunted relationship that is fundamental. Imagine there is somebody you want to be introduced to. The only person you can turn to is just an acquaintance of yours, almost a stranger. Asking for an introduction won’t necessarily result in getting one. Asking for an intro is one thing, asking for a person to hunt you is somewhat bigger. Your hunter stakes their name and reputation, so you better be worth it and prove it upfront.

When a person hunts your product, they are saying that your product is awesome: it deserves to be on Product Hunt, it deserves the time and attention of the community. They say that you, the founder, are a good person and belong to the Product Hunt community. You won’t abuse anyone or use the community for your own good without giving back. So, please, don’t screw it up.

Make up a list of your niche products and see who hunted them. Find the best person — in terms of their followers, their mentality, and your possibilities. If it is your first hunt ever, I don’t think rushing straight to Eric Willis is the best idea.

I liked what Kiki had hunted before, and I read her twitter for a while. So I reached out to her. We talked about Amplifr, why we had built it, what our team tried to achieve with it and, then she agreed to hunt us.

Generally, it’s wise to get in touch with your hunter 2-3 weeks before the hunt as it gives you room for maneuver.

Outline the list of communities and people who can help

A typical how-to-hunt article says you need to have a list of your supporters, maybe a newsletter, a list of people to reach out to on Twitter and so on.

The truth is — yes, the lists are indeed important. However, it’s much more important how you engage people and use your friend network to get them to take a look at your product.

Here’s my checklist:

  1. List of people you will personally ask to check your product out on Product Hunt. These are people with small networks, mostly your friends, who are active on Product Hunt.
  2. List of people you will ask to share the info about your product. These are people who might not be on Product Hunt themselves, but who have a major following base.
  3. If you can get your local media to publish an article about your hunt — do it.
  4. People who are doing well on Twitter. Twitter was the only auth Product Hunt had for a long time — that’s why Twitter is a good place to contact people.
  5. List of people who made and hunted products like yours. Introduce them to your product, and, if possible, have them share the information.

Now, the communities you can go to:

  1. Product Hunt Global chat might have a channel for your country and/or #prehunt — post there.
  2. Techie Slack chats#startups, #pmhq, and others. Build your list based on your product specific features and post to channels that suit you best.
  3. Facebook groups (VC, Startups, your niche) in your language. Find admins and moderators first.

Don’t ignore the local community

People you already know can help you a ton. If you have a newsletter list with supporters — go ahead and shoot them an email. Ours, however, consists mostly of people who are not on Product Hunt, so inviting them to support us would be irrelevant. However, there’s a plenty of Startup communities in Russia that we’ve asked for support.

We’re a remote team, so this was a major thing for us. The lesson is — plan everything ahead! Schedule the hunting time with your hunter, outline everything you plan. Spoiler alert: don’t plan a lot, you won’t have enough time to do everything. If you’re going to work from a coffeeshop, get a backup internet connection, check the coffeeshop working hours, etc. You will need to stay online for approximately 32 hours.

Make sure you can and will follow up the Product Hunters after they’ve checked your product. If you do an email newsletter, mark people from Product Hunt to a separate segment. Also, create segments in Google Analytics and your product analytics app to see exactly what’s going on. I’m not telling you to delay the launch until everything is perfect, but do spend 15 minutes to set up the segmentation.

Work hard on your product hunt page copy

Another thing everyone is stressing out about Product Hunt is that you are to have all the promotion info ready well in advance. Pay attention to the following:

  1. Make some screenshots and gifs of your app before the hunt. Make a small square gif for the product list and a few gifs to show off the app UI. You will use some of them in comments later on. Small square gif == clickbait (in a good way) in the products list page. 👀
  2. Write down some ideas for the title and the tagline. The hunter will know better, so shut up and listen to them. At the same time, try to guide them to get the tagline feel right.
  3. Prepare the first comment to post on Product Hunt straight after getting hunted. Introduce yourself and your product, offer a discount or a coupon and explain why is your product relevant.
  4. Write a list of questions you want people to ask so that you could tell your story in the replies, and get people to ask these questions. The FAQ should be as handy and easy to understand as possible. Not to mention, you need to get it written before you get hunted. This is crucial and will save you a lot of time.

Focus on staying in top 5 products

To say it was tough would be to say nothing. A 30-hour marathon, 3 hours of sleep and then a 20-hour marathon — all in all, 50 hours of helping people around our product. We answered questions and comments on Product Hunt, in our promo page chat, on Intercom, and everywhere else on the internet — Twitter, Facebook, AND anything. The mission was to give relevant information to as many people as possible.

Answering questions was my first priority, and when I had a spare minute, I would post my answers somewhere or ask someone to share them. I literally didn’t have time to get up from my chair and ask the barista for another cup of coffee, so I just told her to keep it coming.

During our hunt, we had ~7k sessions. The following day brought us about as many.

Usually, the PH-traffic signup conversion is higher than the average level. However, the trial to paying conversion is not, and neither is the retention.

You’re featured. Now, you’re in this crazy score race, beyond driven to become #1 in tech. And you do, not without trouble, but finally, you do become #1. Time to take a screenshot and brag all over the internet. You think it’s done. You are wrong.

First off, the Product Hunt rating algorithm is somewhat more complex than purely upvotes-based. It weighs both the upvotes (votes of long-standing PH community members weigh the most) and the recency and acceleration of vote count, i.e. the first derivative. These are just speculations I’ve made based on what it felt like that day. If you get featured early (1 AM PST) and by 10 AM you have 100 upvotes, and then another product launches and gets 30 upvotes in 30 minutes, it’s going to be rated higher than yours, and that seems fair.

Staying at the top is only possible as long as you ration your voters. However, the great news is you don’t have to stay #1 forever. Being visible on producthunt.com/tech/ is all you need. Aim at staying in the top 5 (on my 13” MBP, I can see half of the fifth product’s image) — it will be enough to keep the traffic steady throughout the day.

If your product stays high enough in the daily chart, you’re going to be featured in the Product Hunt email newsletter. I don’t know how exactly they pick products. We were #5 and still got featured, which resulted in another portion of traffic. However, such traffic does not necessary convert great unless your product is targeted at engineers, product managers, and entrepreneurs. But, it does give you a great start and visibility in the market.

Follow through after you’re hunted

Product Hunt is a great way to start something and go from there, but you have to follow through. This is the part that a lot of founders get wrong, and I did, too.

You’ll have a good trail of activity of all sorts: PR (mentions, tweets, links to your site), from the users (sign ups, questions, etc), partners (a couple companies will reach out to ask if you have an API ready) and weird VC guys.

Your job as a founder is to stay focused on what’s important and follow through. From the list above, I’d say the users are #1 priority. We’ve got about a dozen paying customers from our launch, a dozen of links, a few newsletters and articles about us and hundreds of mentions.

I’m publishing this article in August, not because I didn’t want to publish it earlier, but because we’ve learned so much in our hunt and had so much to do. I didn’t have enough time to reflect and write all this down for you. That, and the fact that I wanted to post this in our new blog, which I’m just rolling out.

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