Product Hunt is one of my favorite marketing channels for generating leads, signups, and purchasers to a SaaS product.
No other channel I know can offer quick results with a massive audience (millions of users) for no cost.
And, any SaaS product — following a specific plan — can get great results from Product Hunt.
Today, I’m going to show you how we launched TidyCal 3.0 on Product Hunt… and reached #1 product of the day and week. We even beat out Notion — a company that has 100x resources — for the top spot. A big win for the underdogs!
It’s not just a one-hit wonder either: We’ve had multiple top five products over the years happen by following a repeatable framework that you can do, too.
In this post, I’ll show you our playbook to be the top product on Product Hunt. Plus, I’ll share our results.
The advantage to getting the top product on Product Hunt is that you get lots of eyeballs — and their resulting downstream actions (leads, signups, customers).
We strategically approached the launch to hit the #1 product for both the day and week because this milestone unlocks additional free promotion on the Product Hunt homepage and in Product Hunt newsletters sent to 500,000+ subscribers:
Here’s the three-step process we used to be the top on Product Hunt:
1) Use a Top Hunter to post your launch
We used Chief Sumo Noah Kagan’s Product Hunt account to post. With 21,000+ followers, there’s a huge advantage to recruiting a Top Hunter to “hunt” (or post) your product. All of Noah’s followers got alerted with push notifications and/or emails that he hunted TidyCal 3.0.
Like a snowball rolling down a mountain, the beginning of any launch is critical to grow bigger.
When you get to the top early, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: More people see your product, engage with your product, and keep you at the top.
Compare our most recent TidyCal 3.0 launch to our TidyCal (1.0) launch a few years ago below. Because of poor planning in the original launch, a random Product Hunt user with only 1,000 followers hunted our new product before we could do it ourselves. And the difference is staggering.
The original launch didn’t come close to the top of the day, and was a wasted marketing opportunity.
Finding a Product Hunt user with 15,000+ followers is critical to stand above the competition and increase your chances of a successful launch. To find a popular Hunter, you can use this website or search around on the Product Hunt for the top Hunters recently.
The short-term solution to get a top Hunter is simple: Pay them. As the old adage goes, you can have something fast, inexpensive, or good… but you can only pick two of the three. If you want a good Hunter to launch fast in the coming days/week, it’ll cost money.
If you have more time, a longer-term solution is to find a few Hunters you like and form relationships with them. Find out what would be a “win” for them, and they might even do it for free.
2) Set your launch plan and schedule
Preparation is the key to success. Give yourself a few weeks to prepare for launch. That will give you time to organize marketing activities, create designs, and get everything planned.
There are a few basic settings I recommend for all Product Hunt launches:
- Set the scheduled time for 12:01 am PT (aka the minute the new day opens), preferably on Wednesday or Thursday. You’re competing against a lot of products on Monday and Tuesday… and on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the site has less visitors.
- Record a simple video walkthrough. Don’t over-edit this one, otherwise it will feel inauthentic. Have the founder/CEO record the video to share the community that you value them (vs. pawing it off to your lowest-level team member). You can see the video I recorded here. It has 285 views after a few days, and it’s helped convince people to sign up and purchase TidyCal.
- Use a gif for the main “teaser” image, and make sure to attach multiple images showing off product features in an easy-to-understand way. You can see design examples in our launch. Our in-house Senior Designer, Henrique, did an awesome job creating our designs.
3) Promote the launch (in the right way)
With the foundation set for the launch (strong Hunter and strong scheduling and visuals), the next step is about getting the marketing wheels in motion for your launch.
Here are the key activities we did:
- At 2 am PT (+2 hours from launch), we scheduled an email to our existing user base asking for their support. You can’t explicitly ask for upvotes or comments, but you can more generally ask for “support”. There’s more info on what you can ask for in this Product Hunt FAQ. As part of the email, we told our audience that we’d pick five random people who supported us and responded to the email to get $50 in AppSumo credits. This email drove the majority of upvotes/comments for us. Incentivize your current users who already love and know your product.
- At 7 am PT (+7 hours from launch), the AppSumo team included a link to the Product Hunt launch page in their daily scheduled email. It was a small shout-out towards the bottom, but it helped.
- At noon PT (+12 hours from launch), I posted on LinkedIn to drive my LinkedIn followers to Product Hunt (with another AppSumo credit incentive). Notice how I provided value in the post by giving general business tips. Any business can read and get value from this post, which helped provide boost traffic and shares (3,000+ impressions).
- At 3 pm PT (+15 hours from launch), we sent an unopened resend email to the first group we emailed. Because we emailed so early, 55%+ of our audience never opened our first email. We were able to capture another 21%+ with our second email. In total, these two emails resulted in 76%+ of our total email base reading the email.
- Throughout the day, we did social media promotion (on Twitter and Facebook) for the launch. Both on our TidyCal accounts and the general AppSumo accounts.
Maybe you don’t have the same marketing channels that we do — but don’t let that be an excuse. Use the framework to ideate marketing channels that you can use. For example:
- Ask your friends, top beta customers, or your product partners to email about you. A lot of people will do this for free or low cost (i.e. $50 for an email).
- Put a Product Hunt banner on your website to capture organic traffic that day and turn them into supporters for the day.
- Run paid Facebook ads on the day of your launch to drive people to the Product Hunt store (make sure to build your ads/get them Facebook-approved ahead of time).
- Buy newsletter sponsorships for the day of your launch.
Because Product Hunt ranking is not only based on upvotes — but uses an engagement metric that includes a few things — we made sure our entire team were marked as “Makers” on the product, and multiple team members were responding and interacting throughout the day.
With a big influx at the beginning of the launch, and a secondary influx when the unopened email was sent, here’s how the launch upvotes came in during the day:
Once the launch happened, that didn’t end our responsibility. With any launch, there are three aspects:
- Pre-launch planning
- Post-launch analysis
Too many entrepreneurs and founders forget about the post-launch. They think their job is over when the product launches. But the post-launch is where you get a good understanding on two things:
- Did this help my KPI? We do our best to make every marketing launch at AppSumo Originals tied to a specific KPI/lever related to our larger goal. For example, our goal for 2024 is the number of new buyers that purchase an Originals product (like TidyCal). And one of the key upstream levers/KPIs we track towards that goal is signups. We can objectively look at the number of signups for our Product Hunt launch and say if it was a success or not.
- What did I learn from this launch? There are a few other marketing actions we can take the next time we launch on Product Hunt. Launches give us the opportunity to learn and iterate for even more success in the future.
With our launch, here are the actual results we saw:
The blue line is signups — and there was a nice spike on launch day, but it was still within the top range we’ve seen so far this year.
And the orange-ish brown line is buyers — which seemed normal compared to a typical day. Further analysis shows that our free-to-paid CVR was lower than normal. It’ll be interesting to watch the results over time to see if more of these free users convert to paid. We have email automations set up to help push paid conversions.
Overall, the launch was a success using the three-part framework that we’ve devised over the years:
- Find a top Hunter
- Schedule your post using the critical settings (launch time, day, assets/media)
- Market it like crazy using some targeted and specific marketing channels
If you do these three things, you stand a good chance of being a top Product Hunt product of the day.