Product Hunt is a popular site that curates new products from all over the globe. It started on Listserv and transformed into a multi-million dollar company. It has big name investors, such as Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian. These investors believe the site can compete with TechCrunch one day.
Gary Gaspar is a savvy Product Hunt veteran and a young entrepreneur from Belgium. He is also the CEO of Marker, a SaaS company that helps businesses annotate screenshots on Trello, Slack, Github, and other places. Gary experienced highs and lows on Product Hunt. During his first rendezvous, he had 60 visitors from Product Hunt. His second attempt netted him 1600 free trial signups.
Gary agreed to share 12 tips for success in an exclusive interview.
1. Don’t Incentivize People to Upvote
Product Hunt is built on upvotes. The more upvotes you get, the more success you have. Gary adds:
“The whole idea of Product Hunt is to have the community give you credit for your product. If the community likes it, your product will bubble up to the top. If they don’t, you don’t deserve to be on the front page.”
However, don’t keep your launch to yourself. You should tell your friends, family, and customers about your launch on Product Hunt. It’s true that Product Hunt bans users who pressure or incentivize people to vote. Still, there’s nothing wrong with letting people know about your launch, and asking them to upvote if they like your product. Gary says:
“I don’t think it has to be an all black or white decision. You can ask a few friends or family, or even your own customers to give you an upvote, if they think you deserve it. I don’t think you should sit on your [butt] and wait for upvotes to come. You can help by getting the ball rolling a little bit. 10% should be absolute maximum of votes coming from [personal requests].”
2. Expected the Unexpected
Product Hunt has a special system. You can launch your own product, or someone else can submit your product for you. If they do, you need to be ready. Gary wasn’t, and his first launch was unsuccessful. Gary wistfully recalls,
“We did two launches. The first one wasn’t done by us and it was a big failure. We only got 20 upvotes and 60 unique visitors coming from Product Hunt.”
Basically, someone launched Marker before Gary was ready, and it was a disaster. This wasn’t malicious, it was just a fan who wanted to share Marker with the world. Yet, it didn’t do Gary any favors. Products on Product Hunt have 24 hours to strike it big. Gary wasn’t ready, and it appeared he lost his chance. You’re not allowed to submit the same product twice.
3. You Can Relaunch on Product Hunt
Gary believed he didn’t get what he could have out of Product Hunt. That’s why he decided to pursue a second launch — Marker 2.0. He also saw a silver lining. This time, he would have full control over the timing of the launch.
“You’re not allowed to submit [products] twice. We knew we had 100% of control for our [second] launch.”
Hopefully, you won’t have to launch twice. Yet, it’s always a possibility someone will submit you to Product Hunt early. If you can revamp your product, it’s worth considering a second launch.
4. Relaunching Isn’t for Everyone
When Gary relaunched on Product, Ben Tossell, the community manager, was skeptical. He asked Gary about the big updates. Gary was unfazed. He had a list ready.
- A complete redesign of the tool as well as the UX
- A new onboarding flow
- New integrations with Jira
- A new screenshot editor
As you can see, there were major updates. Relaunching products is a system ripe for abuse. That’s why Product Hunt makes sure every relaunch has substantial improvements over the original. Relaunching is a major investment. In a perfect world, you want to get it right the first time.
5. Product Hunt Users Convert Differently than Regular Users
After the free trials expired, Gary found that customers from Product Hunt didn’t convert as well as typical customers. They were interested, yet they didn’t fit his buyer persona. Gary explains more:
“Maybe you will discover that [only a few Product Hunt Sign-ups] will really stick. Then you have to figure out why this subset of users is successful. Agency owners are the best customers we have and most users from PH weren’t agency owners.”
All exposure is not created equal. Gary got over 6,000 signups, but his success rate with non-agency customers was poor. After he analyzed this data, he was able to better serve his target market.
6. The Product Hunt Algorithm Prioritizes Speed
This quote from Medium explains the ever-changing tide of Product Hunt.
“At the stroke of midnight (PST), the Product Hunt day begins again, the product slate is wiped clean, and new products begin to be hunted.”
That’s why speed is essential.
“You want to get as many upvotes as you can in a 24 hour window. If you were going to get 500 upvotes, you would rather get the vast majority of them during the first day,” says Gary.
Exposure on Product Hunt is time sensitive. In that sense, it’s closer to Facebook then email. Once something disappears from the Facebook feed, it’s gone. Out of sight, out of mind. The same is true of Product Hunt, but unlike Facebook, you can’t post again.
7. Effective Taglines Are Useful
Coming up with a catchy tagline is far from trival. It’s a task that takes a lot of work. Gary spent an entire week with his team to craft a tagline. Here’s an Excel sheet of some of the ideas.
A good tagline strikes the perfect balance. It’s specific. But, it’s not too specific. Here’s what Gary says, with his typically colorful flair.
“The idea is you want to be as specific as possible and you want to communicate as much value as possible. You don’t want to be over-specific to the point where it’s not even sexy anymore.”
You can look at Gary’s examples and see the struggle.
- Too vague: Speed up your communication today
- Too specific: Send annotated and contextualized screenshots to Slack, Trello, and Github.
- Just Right: Send badass screenshots to Slack, Trello, and Github
As you can see, he decided to curse in his tagline. That’s not for everybody, but it aligns with his personality and his brand.
8. Don’t Skip over Videos and Images
Gary made a colorful and engaging video for Product Hunt. You don’t have to make a video exclusively for your Product Hunt. Gary didn’t; his video is on his website too. Yet, he painstakingly crafted a high quality video. As a matter of fact, Gary spent two business days making it.
“I did it first for the website. Then I thought I could use it for the Product Hunt campaign as well. It took me around two days, because I literally had no skills in that area.”
For the record, Gary doesn’t recommend spending two days making a video. He did it because of budget reasons. Gary states:
“My philosophy is get the best people to do what they could do for you as long as you can afford it. In our case it wasn’t something we wanted to invest money into, so I just did it myself.”
9. You Don’t Need to Rule the Ocean, but You Want to Make a Splash
You don’t necessarily need to be number one on Product Hunt. It’s not a zero-sum game, a quest for a medallion. Yet, you want to do things right and get noticed. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
“You don’t need [to be] number one, but you need to be in the top five or ten. The only two things you can get out of PH are traffic and insight from users,” says Gary.
As Product Hunt grows, those numbers may lose significance. The point is, you want to connect with a healthy amount of people. It’s not enough just to be on Product Hunt. You want to aim for massive exposure.
10. Don’t Demand Perfection of Your Product before You Launch
Product Hunt has a clear policy against releasing Vaporware. So, don’t release that. Yet, your product isn’t going to be perfect. Gary stresses you shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good:
“The first six months of your journey, you want feedback. If you’re going to spend six months tweaking your design, you’re wasting your time. A lot of entrepreneurs work with bad products.”
What does Gary mean? Basically, don’t spend months in a bubble, making small design changes. The first order of business is to provide value. To do that, you need feedback.
“You don’t want to launch a product, if you don’t even know if it solves a pain point,” says Gary.
Use Product Hunt for valuable feedback that will help you delight customers. Even if customers are paying for your product, you can still improve. This was the case with Marker.
11. Product Hunt Improves Products Already Making Sales
Marker solves a pain point. Before Product Hunt, Marker had paying customers from all over the world. After he launched on Product Hunt, Gary realized customers were using Marker in spite of the design, not because of it. Gary remembers the first version of Marker was blasted by many reviewers:
“It was very very challenging to put this version of our product out there. It can even hurt your ego. [People said a lot:] This is ugly. This isn’t functional. This has a million bugs. In the meantime, we had people all over the world using our product and paying for usage.”
Gary was solving a pain point, yet there was lots of room for improvement. Product Hunt sent 6,000 sign-ups to Marker, but it also gave valuable feedback that helps his company better serve his existing customers. Gary adds:
“If you want to reach the mass market, you need something that’s acceptable with design, bugs and user experience.”
Marker has expanded beyond simply solving a pain point. Now Gary wants to delight his customers and expand his business. Product Hunt inspired him to take this route.
12. Grab an Influencer
The first time, a random Product Hunt user launched Marker. Gary weighed his options for Marker 2.0. He realized an influencer is key to explosive success on Product Hunt. Gary explains that launching Marker by himself was a backup plan.
“That was the Plan B for us. It always better to have someone else do it for you and it’s even better if it’s an influencer with a following base. You trust someone else more. If I own a restaurant and I tell you I have to the best restaurant in town, there’s bias in [that statement].”
Gary reached out to an influencer named Bram Kanstein. He has over 5,000 Product Hunt followers, a statistic appealing to Gary. So, how did Gary find and pitch him? He recalls the process:
“Basically a lot of research, and I came across a blog post of his that’s says he happy to be pitched with product ideas. [Bram] said, I think it’s a great product.”
Gary sent Bram a list of info: a tagline, a name, an URL, a description, and screenshots. He wanted to make it easy for him. After that, Bram took care of the rest. The rest is history, a wonderful tale of 6,000 signups.
Product Hunt is something every startup needs to consider. Investors are pouring millions of dollars into it, because they see big potential. Your startup can take advantage of that potential.
Gary learned about Product Hunt the hard way: through trial and error. Use these twelve tips, so you’ll have an easier go of it.