Product Hunt launch playbook: 5 Steps to land in the top 3

Product Hunt launch playbook: 5 Steps to land in the top 3
By Hiba Amin | On Oct 07, 2022
12 min read
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Standing out on Product Hunt can mean major traffic and exposure. Famous products like Notion, Robinhood, and Loom have made their debut on the platform, which currently boasts almost 5 million monthly visits. That said, Product Hunt is far from an easy win. To see meaningful engagement, your product needs to make it to the front page—and competition is fierce. Around 20,000 apps are launched on Product Hunt every month—that’s 30-40 per day on average. 

Another thing… you only have one shot. 

Since Product Hunt restricts any one product from being submitted multiple times (or “hunted”, in Product Hunt speak), marketers don’t have the luxury to experiment, test, tweak, and refine like any old campaign. So how do you successfully launch on Product Hunt? You need a combination of foolproof strategy and sufficient planning to get it right the first time.

I’ve learned this driving 10 separate Product Hunt launches—three of which ranked in the top 3. After every launch, I get an influx of call requests to talk through my launch playbook. So, I figured that it’s about time to write it down because who likes gatekeeping anyways?

In this article, I’ve distilled my most effective processes, learnings, and best practices into a full-blown Product Hunt Launch playbook. It breaks down the exact same methodology our team used to launch TestBox for Marketers on Product Hunt and achieve:

  • #2 Product of the Day ranking
  • 732 Upvotes on launch day
  • More than 200 comments with overwhelmingly positive sentiment
  • 50+ social shares
  • Inclusion in Product Hunt's daily and weekly newsletter
  • Record number of new companies onboarding in TestBox in one week
TestBox for marketers product hunt launch
TestBox for Marketers Product Hunt page

I hope our Product Hunt Launch Playbook will serve as a useful resource to help equip your team for similar success.

In this article:

Quick note: How to use the Product Hunt launch playbook

One question I’m frequently asked is “When should I launch on Product Hunt?”. There’s no hard and fast rule—the answer will vary greatly by team and organization. For this reason, the Product Hunt Launch Playbook is broken down by sequence, rather than timeline:

  • Step 1: Decide if Product Hunt is the right channel
  • Step 2: Determine your timeline
  • Step 3: Build your demand
  • Step 4: Prepare for launch
  • Step 5: Launch day!

You can also check out our detailed walkthrough below:

Alright, let’s dive in!

1. Decide if Product Hunt is the right channel for you

Everyone wants to be on Product Hunt—but that doesn’t mean everyone should be. Before jumping in feet first to a new launch, it’s important to determine if this is even the right channel for your organization in the first place. 

Generally speaking, Product Hunt makes sense if you’re looking to connect with a tech-savvy audience, including:

  • Employees at startups or high-growth tech companies
  • Early adopters actively looking to explore new tools
  • Builders and creators who are also coming up with new products or content themselves
  • Millennials or Gen Z, who are more likely to turn to technology to solve problems
  • People who are willing to challenge the status quo

If none of these describe your target audience, a Product Hunt launch probably isn’t the right channel for you.

2. Determine your Product Hunt timeline

The best time to launch on Product Hunt depends on several variables, including size of your company and team, type of audience, and available resources. Another key factor is how active you are currently in the Product Hunt community. Typically, you can go live sooner if you’ve already:

  • Launched products on Product Hunt
  • Built an audience within your space
  • Connected with other Product Hunt users in private Slack communities or Telegram, Signal, and WhatsApp groups
  • Supported other product launches

At TestBox, for example, we gave ourselves three months to prepare for launch. However, multiple people on our team were already active on Product Hunt—myself included. If you’re starting from scratch with a net new audience, dedicate at least a couple months to actually participating in the community first and building meaningful relationships. 

This should always be a team effort. 

Genuine, meaningful relationships take time, and doing this alone can cause the quality of these connections to suffer. No one will be excited about what you’re building if they feel like they’re being spammed or used for upvotes. With other team members involved, you can also build more relationships faster.

3. Drive demand pre-launch

Product Hunt isn’t always a tool to generate initial momentum, but rather accelerate it even further. Your launch won’t succeed without a solid network of advocates, supporters, and fans, which is why I always recommend dedicating a couple months to demand building activities pre-launch. At TestBox, we’re especially fond of the following tactics:

Wait lists

Aligning your Product Hunt launch with broader demand initiatives—like a wait list for your product before it goes live—lets you hit two birds with one stone. You can generate overall demand for your product and simultaneously cultivate a list of people who are genuinely interested in what you’re building—and can eventually support your Product Hunt launch.

Don’t worry about fancy tools. At TestBox, we created a simple landing page with Unbounce, which we then promoted across our network. The landing page had a 40% conversion rate, with 300 companies opting to join the wait list in the weeks leading up to our Product Hunt launch. 

TestBox marketing automation waitlist landing page example
TestBox Marketing Automation waitlist landing page

On launch day, we emailed our wait list a link to our Product Hunt page. If you’re planning something similar, the tone should always be low-pressure, i.e. “We built this thing and now it’s on Product Hunt, go check it out if you’re interested. Feedback and support are always appreciated!” Otherwise these messages will feel spammy.

When sending out our waitlist email we had two goals in mind:

  1. Actually get people to sign up for TestBox, kick the tires, and eventually make a purchase
  2. Let people know that we’re live on Product Hunt
TestBox waitlist announcement and Product Hunt launch email
TestBox waitlist announcement and Product Hunt launch email

💡 Tip: Be sure to add a campaign field in your marketing automation platform, like HubSpot or Active Campaign. You won’t be able to run any tests on the Product Hunt launch itself, so it’s crucial to gather as much data in advance as possible to see what’s working before you go live.

Creative contests

Our team launched the landing page alongside a contest to drive even further demand. We decided to go all out and award the winner a $2,000 prize with AirBNB—it provided a better incentive for participants to help us spread the word than your typical Amazon gift card (no shade). 

Anyone could gain additional entries for sharing referrals or posting about the contest on Twitter or LinkedIn, which built more momentum. The quality of the prize had a major impact, with multiple participants driving 20-30 referrals each.

The AirBNB gift card also subtly related to our product. TestBox was designed to drastically streamline the software buying process and save our users a ton of time—leaving more space on the calendar for fun stuff like vacations. Here’s an example of how we promoted the waitlist and gift card on LinkedIn:

Waitlist promo for Airbnb gift card

Relatable, useable swag

Don’t underestimate the power of good swag. For us, that meant coffee mugs with a cheeky statement we knew would resonate with our target audience. Before we printed out our mugs, we asked the community to vote on what resonated most (and built up even more anticipation pre-launch!)

We gifted the mugs to 20 different “influencers”—each with a completely different audience—to get our swag out there in the tech marketing community. I say “influencers” because for us it was less about their total audience/follower size, and more around picking people who are trusted and respected within the space. It didn’t take long for the mugs to start cropping up in posts all over our network. 

Collage showing mugs campaign and people sharing on social media

You don’t need a massive budget to make this happen. Our campaign was so successful because the mugs were relatable,  entertaining, and actually useful. One marketer even joined our wait list after modifying the UTM code to “MikeWantsHisMug”.

4. Prepare to launch

Building demand is only half the battle. You’ll likely need a full month to get all your ducks in a row for the Product Hunt launch itself. Big ticket items on your to-do list will include:

Building a list of supporters

Arm your team with a list of anyone and everyone likely to support the launch. This will likely include some combination of:

  • People who already signed up for your wait list
  • Existing users of your product
  • Connections from communities where you’re an active and contributing member, have strong existing relationships with members, and provided value 
  • Investors 
  • Employees at investors’ other portfolio companies
  • Your parents (or really, any friends or family)

Once you’ve compiled your list, be sure to notify everyone about your Product Hunt launch at least a week in advance. It’s easier to rally your network if they know it’s coming and are on-call to support the initial push.

It’s also important to find a Product Hunt influencer or top “hunter” to submit your product on launch day. The hunter’s followers will immediately be notified on the day of launch, so make sure their network includes your target audience. And, to state the obvious: You should also look for someone who’s sincerely excited about your product.

Creating templates for shareable posts

Make it easy for supporters, employees, and investors to support your Product Hunt launch by removing as many barriers as possible. At TestBox, we created templates with suggested copy for social media posts, and then emailed them the respective people on launch day.

When you reduce the effort it takes to support you, it makes it easier for people to do so. In most cases, we saw that people copy and pasted our social templates and massaged a bit of the language to fit their voice better. Instead of taking 15 minutes out of their day, it might have taken 2 instead.

Preparing distribution channels

Give yourself enough time to prepare launch day posts for all your distribution channels. At TestBox, we were ready to go with:

  • Copy and graphics for a full sequence of social media posts
  • Copy for posts on Slack, WhatsApp, Reddit, and Telegram
  • Copy and code for website banner promotion
  • Copy and code for in-app messaging
  • Graphics for employee email signatures 

Getting your team ready

Ask team members to join Product Hunt and start participating in relevant communities at least two months in advance. If everyone creates a new account on launch day, Product Hunt will likely flag this as spam and penalize your submission. It also seems less authentic to the Product Hunt community.

I also recommend encouraging your team to engage with your Product Hunt page by commenting, answering questions, and looking for feedback— this signals an active and engaged conversation, which will give you an advantage on launch day.

Preparing your submission

Before launch day, you also need to prepare your actual Product Hunt submission. This should include:

Copy

  • Product name (max 40 characters)
  • Tagline (max 60 characters)
  • Long description (max 260 characters)
  • Categorization topics (max 4)
  • First comment for your hunter
  • First comment for your founder

Visual assets

  • Icon—gif, png, or jpeg (Recommended size: 240x240px)
  • Up to 5 gallery images (Recommended size: 1270x760px)
  • Short video or product trailer (if possible)

💡 Helpful reminder for marketers: Your video doesn’t have to be polished—despite feeling like it needs to be. It can be as simple as a short Loom video of your founder walking through your product. Check out Voiceflow’s walkthrough video.

Image to describe what copy and image options are needed to prepare for a product hunt submission

5. Launch day

Product Hunt launch day is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to keep your cool and remain just as organized and methodical as you’ve been throughout the months of planning. Here are a few best practices our team likes to follow on launch day:

Create a Product Hunt checklist

Launch day can pull you in a million different directions, but preparing a full to-do list can help you stay grounded and ensure no details slip through the cracks. You can see my checklist here.

Spread out your promotion throughout the day

Conventional Product Hunt wisdom is to double down on emails and social posts first thing in the morning, then use that initial traffic surge to leap to the front page and capture further engagement. To Product Hunt, this looks spammy and unnatural—and is a major red flag that could jeopardize the entire launch. Instead, split your promotions throughout the day, so you gradually build momentum across different avenues and supporters. This is more organic and minimizes the risk of getting flagged.

Ask for support, not upvotes

If you’re trying to uncover how to get more upvotes on Product Hunt, know this: the worst thing you can do is ask for them. Product Hunt is hyper vigilant about spam and users gaming the system. Requesting upvotes is a big no-no—ask for support instead. Besides, a sudden influx of upvotes can put your submission squarely in Product Hunt’s crosshairs, dooming your launch to fail. 

🚨🚨🚨 Also never create fake accounts or have multiple users sign up from the same IP address. Integrity first.

Loop in other teams

Don’t spam Product Hunt—spam your team. 😉 

At TestBox, we set up a dedicated launch day Slack channel, where our engineering, product, marketing, and operations teams were inundated with positive comments, social posts, and feedback. This not only provided much deserved recognition for their hard work, but helped them feel more involved in and excited about the Product Hunt launch. 

When your launch is treated like a team effort instead of a marketing initiative, other employees are more likely to participate in the conversation and help generate further engagement. Launch day success also provides the product and engineering team with product validation, and increases visibility across the organization.

Do literally nothing else on launch day

Last but certainly not least, be sure to clear your schedule on launch day. Product Hunt should be your sole focus—if you commit to anything else, you’ll spread yourself too thin and burn out. Be kind to yourself and remember that launch days are a marathon, not a sprint.

Back to you

Launching on Product Hunt takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. However, you can significantly increase your odds of success with both a solid plan and sufficient amount of time to build demand, foster relationships, front load preparations, and get supporters and employees ready. 

Although this process will look different for every team, I hope our Product Hunt Launch Playbook gave you some ideas. If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, remember—momentum builds momentum. Product Hunt launches will get a little bit easier every time.

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Hiba Amin

Hey, I'm Hiba! 👋 I've worked in the tech space for over 5 years now across a lot of marketing disciplines! But, I'm a content geek at heart and love building experiences that are driven by customers, not Google. ;) When I'm not spoiling my dog, you can find me concocting new cocktails or recipes, and drinking all of the coffee the world has to offer!

TestBox empowers you to have a self-serve, customer-led experience so you can buy new software and feel confident that you made the right choice. Currently focused on Customer Support, TestBox allows you to test out Zendesk, Freshdesk, HubSpot, Dixa, and other products side-by-side. It takes a matter of minutes to sign up and take these products for a test drive. Find out more at TestBox.com or follow on LinkedIn.