Together with my co-founder Demirhan, we launched a new product called StockHound on June 24th, 2021 on Producthunt.
As with anything done for the first time, this also came along with a lot of learnings. I decided to write this blog post for reflecting on our learnings and share with others launching on Producthunt for the first time.
Setting expectations right in the beginning
We started to discuss the idea of building this product June 1st, exactly 24 days before the launch. We wanted this to be a project with a clear focus and expectations so we put down our notes in a simple Google Doc. Normally we use Clubhouse.io for project management but this time it was only two of us working on the project and we decided to keep things simple and stick to that document for both pre and post launch task.
After an hour of brainstorming around the product idea, we sat down and wrote our expectations from this project. Since StockHound is not intended to be our main product, we had to be careful with the effort that goes into this project. We decided to draw the lines clearly so we don’t over engineer anything which may not generate a significant business value. We were particularly careful about this because we know how excited we get when we are building and shipping new products 🚀 If you are a product person, you know the fallacy I am talking about ;)
We defined our goals around the following points:
- Number of leads generated on the launch day
- Number of meaningful conversations with users from our target segment
- Validation of launching a micro app as an organic acquisition channel
Working backwards, the press release approach
You may have heard about the working backwards approach from Amazon. We try to follow this approach as much as we can do in our product management procedures at Fabrikatör. We particularly love this because
… if the teams can’t tell a compelling story about the product, the problem it solves and how it succeeded in terms that could be published in a newspaper and understood by the majority of the public, then the concepts they’re considering are too complicated.Source: Jeff Gothelf’s post
Both of us wrote our own version of the press release explaining the problem, solution and why someone would need our product. We compared both versions, cross checked and criticised each others press releases. In the end we combined them and finalised the borders of the project. This immensely helped us in aligning expectations within the team and also made it easy to work independently on our tasks without communicating with each other on smaller details.
One of the first drafts which later on helped us to write the real PH launch notes:
Breaking down tasks and responsibilities
We created three buckets for the tasks which will help us reaching our launch goals:
- Marketing: Brand, messaging, creative content, logo, domain etc.
- Communication: Channels to share the launch, communities to get feedback from, template messages to be sent on each channel
- Product – tech: Anything related to the product we are building including the software development and UX
We split these buckets between us; I took the marketing and communication while Demirhan led the product-tech side of it until the launch day.
Here are some of the tasks that we placed in these buckets.
- Setup a new domain: Make it easy to remember and relevant. After coming up with couple of alternatives I shared them with my international friends. The most useful feedback came from the native English speakers and they saved us from launching with a brand name which might have some weird connotations that we could have never thought of 🙃 (~ 1 hour)
- Design a landing page: Keep it simple and useful, no need for CMS or anything fancy. We used a static HTML page and focused on the content. Again I took 2-3 rounds of feedback by sharing with native speaking friends and iterated the design & content. Here’s the result. (~3-4 hours)
- Design a logo: If you are unsure about your design skills or if it will take you too long to make one, you should ask someone from Fiverr or try a tool like Hipster Logo Generator. I designed our logo on Figma because I enjoy playing around with visuals (~ 1 hour)
- Design an animated GIF: This is not essential but it makes your listing more catchy on PH. I haven’t designed animations since 2010 I guess so this was an interesting opportunity to brush up my skills. After watching a couple of tutorials on YouTube, I designed our GIF on Figma with the help of Figmotion plugin. Alternatively you can also consider working with GifGiv who is specialised in preparing PH launch visuals. (~ 2 hour)
- Define a colour scheme: This may seem like a small detail but defining the colour scheme in advance will save a lot of time at every bit of your launch preparation.
- Design a hero image: Describing the product at the simplest level possible. A random person walking on your street should be able to understand what you do. I designed ours on Figma and to be honest it was challenging to simplify the product idea down to a single image. I still believe it is not perfectly simplified but it does the job. You can check it here. (~ 2-3 hours)
- Set up email templates
- Find a hunter: In my opinion this is not as important as you it is advertised. You can always hunt your own product instead of spending time and $$$ on PH hunters. We worked with Chris Messina and mainly because offers a clear documentation about his process and he pretty much automated the whole process which takes out all the unnecessary communication. We didn’t pay Chris for this hunt so my experience is based on his free offer. I think building up your own audience and launching with a strong communication strategy is 10x more important than you who is hunting your product.
- List the relevant networks and channels to announce our product. Communities on Slack, WhatsApp, Telegram, Reddit, LinkedIn & Facebook groups, forum boards
- Prepare the message text for each distribution channel in advance, don’t get busy with those on the launch day
- Write the contents to be shared on the launch day
- We focused on a single problem to solve and limited our product focus on that specific problem. We did not go for an extra mile to make things pixel perfect or aesthetic. In my opinion we did a great job repurposing one of our existing features and turning it into a free product.
- This part was mostly technical so I leave it to Demirhan if he decides to write about his experience :)
What we have learned?
We did a post launch analysis and did a brief retrospective on our learnings from this launch. I would like to share the ones may help you as well:
Fact: In terms of traffic, our post on Reddit brought more traffic and qualified leads compared to the PH launch.
Learning: PH is huge and the interests of the audience is so broad. Since our product was targeting Shopify store owners who manage physical inventory and afraid of running out of stock; our target was difficult to be found on PH. On the other hand, r/Shopify subreddit was a bang on because that’s where our users hangout, seek help and engage with the content. If you are releasing a very niche product which can be appreciated by a very specific segment, channel your energy in finding the places your segment hangs out instead of spray shooting on PH.
Fact: You can only control your own PH launch. The uncontrolled factors are the ones that impacts your success on the launch day.
Learning: If one of the big companies get listed on your launch day, your chances are way less to be in the top 3. Windows 11 was announced on our launch day and dominated the top section for a while.
Misconception: PH algorithm will penalise you if people find your product through a direct URL.
Fact: “Link directly to your product page. Linking to “producthunt.com” only makes it harder for people to find you and doesn’t have any effect on the algorithm at all. It seems to be “common knowledge” that you’re punished for linking directly to your product page — it’s simply not true. Focus on communicating what your product does. P.S. Linking to producthunt.com is one of the clearest indications you may be “over-optimizing” your launch (gaming the system).”Source: Official post of PH
PH launch should not be the final destination, it should be a jump start of something bigger. After the launch day, look back at the content and materials you created. Go through the reviews and extract the useful information out for improving your messaging and product. Re-use the materials for reaching out to your users through different channels. Run small budget ad campaigns to test, write blog posts and share with the world. Use this investment you made as much as you can.
I hope this comes useful for people who are launching on PH for the first time. There are so many things to share and I could not decide on what to include in this post. If you have further questions, feel free to drop a comment and reach out to me on Twitter & LinkedIn.