Who follows startup news and is engaged with the startup community probably heard about Product Hunt.
It’s a community where people go to discover cool startups. It’s also a way to get cool people to learn about your own business.
But only if you make to their Featured list… and we made it!
Being featured was something we were counting on to attract people that we believe can benefit from our platform: startup professionals that need to optimize and scale the communication with their leads and users.
It’s the equivalent of attending an event with people from the industry you’re trying to sell to… even if Product Hunt is not an event and you don’t need to be physically there.
The point is: being featured on Product Hunt put Route among other cool products and surrounded by people we were targeting.
It’s well known that the business world like good stories. We all heard about that small garage business becoming an enterprise generating millions in revenue. And no one seems to care if the storyline is accurate. In the end it doesn’t matter, because what sticks is the good story.
You must have read those cool stories about founders going insane when noticing that their product was featured. Founders waking up their teams trying to create last minute landing pages or offers. Marketers losing their hair because there were a lot of people visiting the website with an unfinished product being offered.
Can’t say that others embellish how they were featured, but I can tell you how it all went for us: a mix of luck and sending emails/tweets to a lot of people (those things people consider boring and that don’t scale).
Before I get started, just a quick reminder: I won’t refer to people involved by their names because I don’t want them to start getting emails from people trying to be featured there. They were kind enough to help us but I’m sure you’ll find the right people to help you.
How it all started
Last year (2014) we launched our beta for our subscribers. We knew that appearing in some specific website could be an opportunity for us as company. We had a list that included two main websites: Betalist and Product Hunt (since then we added other sites to our list, we are working to be on them too).
By then we were in beta, putting our software to test on the market. Previous to opening up Route for our subscribers we were testing it with a few partners. As we weren’t sure that Route would work 100% free of bugs we didn’t want to submit it to Product Hunt, as we knew a lot of products there were solid ones.
But we made a mistake. We didn’t know that to submit a startup to Betalist it couldn’t be on an open beta. And we were. So, we missed one of the opportunities we felt were interesting to the development of Route.
The next step was trying to be on Product Hunt. After some more weeks of tests with our betas we decided it was time to be hunted.
I knew that everyone could submit a product there, but I didn’t know that not all products get featured. I also didn’t know that someone else had already submitted us on Product Hunt. I found out about it when after submitting Route, I was redirected to Route’s page there that other person had created.
First I was happy to know that someone had thought we were good enough to be Product Hunt material. Then my excitement was over when I learned that it doesn’t matter if your product was submitted, what matters is if the same product is featured.
Two different things.
At that time our situation was like this: Route was in posted by someone we didn’t know, none of us were set as Makers of the product and we couldn’t comment nor add information about our product. Not good.
All I had was a name – Romain Dardour and the Twitter username – @rdardour – for the person who submitted us. On the internet this is enough to be able to get in touch with someone, but I could easily be ignored.
But I ended up getting a reply just a few moments after tweeting him.
He suggested me as a Maker, and I thought this would at least let me comment on my own product. I didn’t know how long it would take to be accepted as Maker on Product Hunt.
Route was still a page not appearing on searches on Product Hunt and I couldn’t comment and engage with people if needed.
I thought that was not much to do but I kept trying to find more about launching on Product Hunt and the steps to take in order to be successful with it.
Reading dozens of blog posts proved my effort was right.
Reading the right post at the right time
I read dozens of blog posts on a daily basis. Some I just save to read it later. Fortunately I didn’t save for later the article That Week We Didn’t Get On Product Hunt written by the Marketing Manager of Noblebrewer about her experience in launching on Product Hunt.
Her article had a lot of insights on how do launch a product and I decided to email her telling my story about my Route + Product Hunt issue.
I wasn’t expecting a reply. But see did reply and the good part about it: she was kind enough to put me in contact with someone she knew from Product Hunt.
When Lauralynn forwarded my email to someone she knew on Product Hunt, she told me that she didn’t know if her contact would ever reach out to me.
Fortunately, her contact did.
We all know that being referred to someone is way better to start a conversation than sending a cold email. And that’s when I started the conversation with people involved with Product Hunt.
Turning into one of Route’s Maker
The first thing the person from Product Hunt’s support did was adding me and my coworkers as Makers of Route so we could be able to comment and be ready for any inquiry we might get. It didn’t change much our status there because we weren’t featured but at least we got more control over our own product’s page.
After being added as a Maker we decided to include on our emails the link to our product page so people could take a look at it and upvote us. We didn’t ask for votes because this is against their rules, but we were making it available that we were there so maybe one day we would get an expressive amount of upvotes in order to call Product Hunt’s staff attention and finally become featured on their website.
Well, it didn’t quite work out this way.
We started getting some upvotes, but it was nothing memorable. We needed to relaunch Route there.
Preparing the relaunch
We started reading Product Hunt’s FAQ and guidelines to learn how we could launch again our product there. We found some other products that were launching again, using things like “Startup Name 2.0” and pointing to another URL.
That’s when we learned that if we wanted to post Route again we couldn’t use the same URL. We needed something different and that was a problem. Right now we have only 2 URls to send people: our home and landing page at www.route.to and our app at app.route.to.
We needed to send them to our home so people that don’t know us can understand what we do.
But www.route.to was already posted with our product there. We couldn’t use the same one. We had two options: sending our users to app.route.to or changing the other url.
We decided to change the information that was available on Product Hunt. We wanted to change our product name to Route Beta and change our url to beta.route.to. We couldn’t do it manually so I just asked our contact on Product Hunt’s support if she could do it for us.
I send an email explaining our idea of relaunching Route with new information. We had a new tagline. We had a completely different tool. We need something new.
Once again they were great. Our contact there changed the information on our page so we could have a fresh start.
She also gave us a tip:
The best way to be featured was to reach out to the Product Hunt community to find someone that could publish us there. We shouldn’t do it on our own.
This was a valuable tip because I was thinking about posting Route myself. I have 100+ followers there. It’s not much compared to other people but if all of them got a notification about me posting a product, this meant that a lot of people could see it and be interested in Route.
But as I started taking a look at products with a lot of upvotes, I noticed that none of them were posted by one of the makers.
It wasn’t going to be an easy task to find the right person to launch Route. Fortunately, someone used Product Hunt API to create the All-time Leaderboard with the most upvoted products and the Hunters with more hunts (products posted) and upvotes.
This was where my search began.
Finding the right person to launch Route
The All-time Leaderboard features more than 50+ Hunters that perform well on the community. I needed to find a way to select the best ones among the best.
First I excluded the ones that I knew they were too famous (this was totally my idea of famous people) to care about what I was asking. People like Ryan Hoover and Hiten Shah probably get a lot of requestes on a daily basis so my contact would be one in many.
I also excluded the ones that worked for startups that didn’t make sense in asking to take a look at Route because they’d probably never use Marketing Automation.
After this first filter I got the everyone that was left and did a simple math: number of upvotes / number of hunts. I wanted to know the ones with more upvotes per product. This was just a simple way to filter more, as I knew that the average could be affected in cases like one product getting tons of upvotes and a majority of products getting a few.
Anyways, I ended up with a list of 15 interesting people to target.
From that list, there were some people I knew followed me on Twitter. I decided to start from them and started sending tweets and emails. Want to know what happened?
Nothing happened. No response whatsoever.
Then I moved on to other people on my list. Sending tweets. Sending emails. Nothing.
Until I had a lucky break! One of them allowed non-followers to send Direct Messages through Twitter.
I sent a message and got a reply.
Now we were moving forward.
Relaunching Route on Product
When one of the top hunters replied to my Direct Message he asked me a few questions about our product to get to know us better. We gave him some key information about Route and specified the Makers, the tag line to be displayed on our page and the URL to be added on the CTA.
As we knew Product Hunt adds to every URL the parameter ?ref=producthunt we created a special offer for everyone that accessed our site through their URL. It was just a perk to show the Hunters and the community how important was for Route to be there.
One thing that was great is that our launch wasn’t a surprise.
Before being featured we were told to post our comments talking about Route and telling everyone we would be available to answer any inquiry. We could also add images and personalize our product page.
We all read stories of people being caught off-guard during their launch because they didn’t know what was going on. I’m glad we could control it.
Maybe we ended up without those epic stories about how we were launched on Product Hunt, but we had all the time to prepare and offer the best support to those coming from our product page.
It’s too soon for us to talk about solid results from being on Product Hunt, but right now we saw some interesting things.
For a few days after being featured we saw an increase in the number of sign ups to try Route. We also were contacted by some journalists wanting to talk about our company. We are still getting upvotes and this is cool because it’s been more than one week since we appeared there.
We believe that making Route be part of Product Hunt community is something that adds value to our product. For a new startup that still has to prove itself in the market it’s a way to work on our brand.
If you have a product and you believe your customers are the ones interested in technology and new products, go to the Product Hunt community, engage with them and see if you can get featured.
It’s all worth it.