Learn by Practice: 3 Lessons from ProductHunt Launch

Day 11 of 30 Days of Starting Up

Yesterday, which is a Sunday, was a rather eventful day. It is a day in history for apparent reasons, though I am here to document and summarize what happened in my small startup life. I launched my first product on producthunt! There is a lot of learning that I can share with you from the launch.

How does producthunt work?

Product hunt operates on a 24-hour interval. The clock resets at 00:00 pacific time (3 am in New York, where I live). All launched products during the 24 hours will show up under the Newest tab. The highest-voted product will show up in the Popular tab, which is the default tab that brings massive traffic. A note-worthy rule is that every product shares the same 24-hour interval. If your product is launched at 23:59 pacific time, it only has 1 minute of exposure.

Lesson 1: launch with a global mindset.

My original idea was to launch in the morning. I assumed people that I can reach is in a similar timezone as I am. I should promote during my daytime when my audience is active on Twitter or checking their Emails. Launching at 3 am is very counter-intuitive for me. I honestly forget the 3 am in New York would be 9 am somewhere else in the world. I should have had a global mindset when I planned for launch. The cryptocurrency market never closes, so is launching a product.

Lesson 2: producthunt is not a great place to get paying customers.

While producthunt can brings traffic, it doesn’t convert to paying customers. Its visitors are not in the shopping mindset. They are in a discovery or research mindset. While I had sales through producthunt, it all came from direct audiences of my cofounder’s or mine. It didn’t help that my product was the only two that require payment on that day. The majority of launched products are free or offers a free tier. It is better to offer a free option and use producthunt as a channel to get exposure rather than paying customers.

Lesson 3: producthunt weighs “authentic” upvotes more than friends and family votes.

Our product got 34 upvotes in total but didn’t get to the popular tab, while products with fewer votes did. I think that is due to the ranking algorithm. Votes from accounts with a long history are weighed more, while votes from freshly-opened accounts are weighed less or even penalized. If you are planning a producthunt launch, I suggest reaching out to a few producthunt users with a long history and securing their vote upfront to get your product on the Popular tab.

I think this is a good learning experience. I was very fearful to launch on producthunt before because I was overthinking it. This experience debunks many misperceptions about launching on producthunt and gives me some ideas of how to run a successful launch. I need to learn by practicing, be it making sales or launching a product on an unfamiliar platform.

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  1. 1

    I have done a lot of research on how the Product Hunt algorithm works. Lesson 3 is actually a wrong conclusion. Every product is actually reviewed by the PH team, which decide whether to include the product in the front page or not. It has nothing to do with 'authentic' upvotes.

    Ps. I am not saying that non-authentic votes are worth the same, but this has nothing to do with being featured on the front page.

    1. 1

      That could be true. I saw a tweet thread summarizing their learning, it mentions that their post is not on the Popular tab when it has more votes, they contacted PH staff and the staff fixed it for them. So at least some part of it is manually controllable, or even fully manual like you said.

  2. 1

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. 1

    I've always wondered why there is such a cult towards ProductHunt. Yes, it may bring an initial influx of some traffic, but then, everything ends there.

    1. 1

      Actually, for validation purposes the influx of some traffic can be nice.

      Without any traffic, validation according to data is hard (at least it was to me).
      And only traffic from friends & family is biased.

      So to me, for example, getting some data how well your landing page is performing (CTA click rate, e.g.) is useful.

      But at the end, I think it depends who your target audience is for your product.
      If it is really niche specific, a broad audience from PH won't be of any value.

    2. 1

      It is in the same orbit as the Y Combinator. I wish there are more channels for founders to launch a product.

      1. 1

        I'm curious what are you looking from a product launch?

        1. 1

          I was looking to land some customer because my targeted audience is startup founders, I think that overlaps with Producthunt users. But didn't work out that way!

  4. 1

    Thanks for sharing - as someone who has never launched on PH before, really insightful to hear someone's personal experience.

    What's the name of your product, and do you have a link to your launch?

    1. 2

      Wow sorry, I omitted the link by mistake (forgot to add it back in markdown format)! Thanks for reminding me! I fixed the link .

      It is https://www.producthunt.com/posts/brand-personality-workshop-kit

      1. 1

        Wow, I think it's really so cool to see a digital product that has a physical counterpart to it included with the purchase. Awesome work, and congrats on the PH launch!

        1. 1

          Thanks so much Jordin! My cofounder @huashu created the wonderful physical kit. This is the process of using the physical kit, it is lots of fun that I enjoyed myself: https://wentin.substack.com/p/brand-personality-workshop

  5. 0

    Thanks for your thoughts on this @wentin ! I am launching this Thursday and am kinda nervous but we shall see how it goes! I'm happy to say that my product will at least be free so I do have that going for me at least!

    1. 2

      Good luck with your launch Justin!

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