9 Biggest Drivers of Product Hunt Launch Success That Are Not Your Product

 In Research & Insight

We had a great Product Hunt launch last week and I want to share details about the experience as well as some learnings with the community. I am the CTO of Nudge.ai, a modern sales platform that uses artificial intelligence to provide sales teams with actionable insights on their target customers.

If you’re not familiar with it, ProductHunt.com is a great launch vehicle for early stage startups. It’s a community full of product-loving geeks and early adopters. They’re keen to check out what you’ve got and are happy to engage directly with you to provide support, ask good questions, and provide useful feedback. The benefits of a strong Product Hunt launch include major publicity, new users, and a continuous online asset that engages prospective users with social proof.

We had a successful launch with some great metrics:

  • We were on the front page of Product Hunt. Nudge for Chrome ranked at #1 in the AI category and #3 overall worldwide. Being on the front page and highly ranked exposed us to the whole community and which got us even more upvotes. It also ensured that we were included in Product Hunt’s daily newsletter the next dayProduct Hunt Launch Nudge.ai Front Page
  • We had a lot of engagement. Nearly 700 upvotes and almost 100 comments. We were added to the 500 Club! We actually beat out other listings with more upvotes because of the number of comments that we had. So, make sure to start a dialogue with those who are on your page, and encourage friends and peers to provide feedback and ask questions, not just give you the thumbs-up.
  • We had our biggest week for sign-ups ever and also the highest number of conversions (a user who successfully sets up their account and uses Nudge.ai).

So, how can you do this too?  First, the obvious, from any of the great Product Hunt launch guides out there (we’ve posted links to several below) you need:

  1. A great product.
  2. Lots of upvotes and comments.
  3. Make it happen in one day.

But there’s way more to this. While you must make sure that you can sufficiently prepare, and are ready to hustle on the day of… you need to think about the people you are engaging. You need to think about your community, your relationships, your identity, and the strength of the ties in your network.

So how do you do that?  Here’s what we learned, and a hopeful roadmap for success:

1) A Product Hunt Launch Is All About Individual Outreach

More than 85% of upvotes and comments that we believe we influenced came from people where someone on our team *directly* reached out. One to one. Personal. To be able to do this at scale means you have to have a broad network of connections, one that you have actively built relationships with over the long term. Much of that outreach was done over email, text, and Facebook messenger.

Jill Rowley (@Jill_Rowley), an international social selling influencer and an advisor of Nudge.ai, is an advocate of the “give-to-give” vs. “give-to-get” mindset. She’s an exemplar of this method and, through all of it has built a network and community of thousands of followers. So has Gary Vaynerchuk (@GaryVee), especially in his article Giving Without Expectation. We’ve aspired to learn from their examples in our own community building.

Something we tried was setting up an Upwork job to find 200 online communities: mostly LinkedIn and Facebook groups with startup keywords and/or sales professionals. But even though we posted in many of these groups (we filtered out the less relevant ones, to a total list of about 50-75) we found it had limited impact. This was despite many of those groups having as many as 150,000 members. Perhaps this speaks to the fact that many LinkedIn group posts don’t show up in your actual news feed. Though, we took it to mean that you will get zero traction in communities without an active set of relationships. We were new joiners of these groups, and came into share something with good intentions -– but we hadn’t yet built a reputation or following there.

And even though we were providing value, in some ways, you are asking a favour. You want people to support you. But if you haven’t yet put time into that relationship, it won’t happen.

Ultimately, the most effective action that drove 85% of our upvotes was for us (a team of 19 people, with the biggest push coming from two founders and two marketers) to email and message about 50-100 people each via email, Facebook, and Linkedin.

Preparing your network is the name of the game.

2) Don’t Underestimate Your Neighbourhood

At Nudge, we’re thrilled to be part of the OneEleven community. It’s a fantastic co-working space for seed stage ventures that is highly supportive. It was easy and fun to rally the community for friendly votes. We did a floor walk and asked different people, friends, and companies to help vote for us and posted on the community Slack channel.

If you’re going to do a launch, it’s always best to start small – with low-hanging fruit – to build your momentum. A big-shout to OneEleven Community Manager Nora Bieberstein (@NoraVBieber) for the help in coordinating, and maintaining such a great community.

3) Identity Matters

Nudge is part of the thriving Toronto tech community and, specifically, part of a major surge in AI within the Toronto scene.  This common identity was crucial in getting the broader community rallied behind our launch. They were happy to help with our Product Hunt launch. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.

A few tips on how to engage: personalize your post based on the audience, offer value, and be genuine. Most of our posts in community channels and groups – as a Toronto-based company – were focussed on ‘rallying the Canadian tech community’. We meant this rallying cry genuinely and knew that self-promotional posts wouldn’t work anyways.

Also, we shared the Product Hunt launch news in numerous groups (100+ on LinkedIn and Facebook) not related to tech (or necessarily Canadian). We genuinely believe that that app can be helpful for many of the people in these groups. For example, a member of our marketing team posted in international groups of young leaders, and said it would be great opportunity for them to improve their professional networks.

4) Loose Ties Are Powerful

It wasn’t just our close contacts that helped us –– it was people on the fringes of our networks, with close ties to networks other than our own. Malcolm Gladwell, popularized the idea of ‘loose ties’ in his book The Tipping Point. He references sociologist Mark Granovetter “whose classic 1974 study, Getting a Job, surveyed 282 Boston workers and found that 56% got jobs through a personal connection. Of those connections, most were weak ties. Only 16.7% saw the contact often, 55.6% saw them occasionally, and 28% saw them rarely.”

Success means having access to many interconnected webs of relationships, and knowing someone in each one (or different ones) who can rally a group.  For example, someone with connections in Europe or Asia who can get an early boost on the product to start it on the path to success. For example, Adriano Basso rallied a network for us from London to get things started early. People with connections in different communities and geographies are able to grow more awareness.

We had several influencers who we aren’t frequently in touch with promote us. For example, Anand Thaker (@AnandThaker), CEO at IntelliPhi, in the Atlanta tech community, and Travis Wright (@teedubya), a Kansas-based author and B2B influencer. We retweeted and reached out to thank them! Keep those looser ties in mind and don’t forget to engage them.

5) Seniority Doesn’t Matter

You might think of a person with a “strong network” as someone who has been in an industry for a long time and knows lots of senior decision makers.  That might be true in sales, but on Product Hunt it is far from true.  Knowing a large number of active movers and shakers in the technology scene is far more important than knowing a few people with impressive titles.

The top two drivers of Nudge.ai’s successful Product Hunt launch were both under 30. Our two young marketers, Kevin Hurley (@iamkevinhurley) and Jaxson Khan (@jaxson), demonstrated that there is a huge opportunity for young A-players to make a noticeable, measurable impact on their company. That impact is possible because the name of this game is now network-based success rather than hierarchy and seniority. In the social world, where every vote counts for the same, we see a flattening of the hierarchy. There is also a democratization of production because everyone has access to the same tools. So, it becomes about your creativity and how you can hustle for success.  Regardless of age, if you have an active network that you can galvanize, you can to achieve your goals. Thereby, a major opportunity exists for ‘young-gun’, high-energy people to succeed.

6) Know Your Team

There are plenty of questions that float around on the day of a launch of such as: “who knows this person” or “who knows this company”. You need to be able to answer that quickly and be able to see who has the strongest relationships with key influencers or key companies.

Avoid the overlap problem and crossing streams by investing in a relationship intelligence platform. In our case, we had Nudge.ai (mandatory self plug!) and Nudge for Chrome to run relationship graph searches and display contextual information on conversations:

Product Hunt Launch Nudge.ai Relationships Graph

Nudge.ai Relationships Graph

Product Hunt Launch Nudge.ai Chrome Collaborators and Conversations Panels

Nudge for Chrome Collaborators and Conversations Panels

This was an intense day – we were contacting everyone we knew. But, my advice is still to make sure the person with the best relationship at a certain company or organization is the one reaching out. So, ask yourself: who has ongoing conversations? Who is in what conversations with whom? You’ve got to know that if you are coordinating across a team.

7) Technical Relationships Matter

When you have a successful launch, it puts a lot of pressure on your technology.  For instance, you might break an integration or hit a rate limit on a third party API (we did!), and suddenly need an emergency fix from a technology partner.  Having strong relationships with people who can fix things at any of your technology partners can make or break the momentum of a launch if things break (and they will). For example, we ran into a Google API rate limit during the day. It briefly shut down the onboarding.

So, it’s not just the promotion that will matter day of. Sometimes you have to move mountains, instantaneously. Strong technical relationships are crucial. Indeed, often an inside connection at one of the companies powering your infrastructure can be a lifesaver. Hence, invest in those relationships beforehand, in case something comes up – which it very likely will.

8) Different Messages for Different Clusters

Everyone’s network has many different “clusters” in it. The people you know will come from various parts of your life. You may already maintain lists of different categories of people within your network. If you don’t, start! Ideally, you want to send a different message to each of the clusters of people to maximize engagement. For example, your colleagues from a past job might be intrigued to hear about what you’re now working on. Your colleagues from the marketing meetup you frequent might be more motivated by the fact that they can learn from you about how best to run a ProductHunt launch.

So, keep in mind the formal or informal clusters that your network operates in. You should likely prepare several different templates to make sure you’re hitting various audiences most effectively.

9) Repetition Drives Action

You need to get people to take an action on the day of your launch. It’s all within 24 hours. That’s really hard to do. Sure, your team is going to be up at 5 or 6am. But you’re going to be in a tough spot if that morning is also the first time that your entire network has heard of it.

Having people hear about it 3, 4, 5, or 15 (!) times that day will spur action. So, ensure that you, your team, and your team’s close collaborators are all pushing the same message at the same time in any relevant channels. Those that hear about your launch at least once or twice prior to your ask are better primed to take the action. Thereby, coordinating your team and collaborators will improve the chances of people taking action.

In terms of tactics, we sent out early outreach emails to about 20% of our network a few days before to ask them to vote early in the morning. Don’t email your whole network, just key supporters. Also, check out Mixmax (no affiliation) for drop-dead simple mass emails with Sequences. It’s great for click tracking and templates. The advance outreach email is especially important if your contacts are in different timezones. That’ll give you the necessary buzz to start off the day, with ideally 100+ upvotes.

Bonus: 10) And, of course, build a great product.

In final words: keep your network strong. Keep it strong no matter who you are, no matter what your role is, and regardless of whether or not you have a Product Hunt launch in your immediate future. It’ll make or break the opportunity.

Also, if you have a great Product Hunt launch with lots of sign-ups, buy your team cake and pizza for lunch. Here’s ours:

Product Hunt Launch Nudge.ai Team

That’s me at the back near the cake. Spoiler: I ate all of the leftovers.
Next blog: 9 Drivers of Serial Entrepreneur Heart Attacks Not Related to Financing

Product Hunt Launch Guides and Resources

  1. How I launched the #1 most upvoted product of all time on Product Hunt
  2. Product Hunt 101
  3. How we got +1000 upvotes on Product Hunt by curating a checklist from +50 successful launches
  4. The step-by-step guide to totally blow your startup’s Product Hunt launch
  5. How to crush your startup launch with no budget in 2016
  6. How to monitor your product hunt launch

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Experienced SaaS CTO. Founded and guided the building of Eloqua to a market leading position in Marketing Automation. Now Co-founder and CTO at Nudge. Author of the book “Digital Body Language" with a passion for innovation, cloud computing and software evolution.
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