Ideally, on Product Hunt

A lot of startups “launch” on Product Hunt these days, but what they don’t do is their homework. I mean, yeah, maybe you’ll be lucky and people will love your idea, regardless of your blunders, but…

…there are some best practices you should consider.

Before the Launch

osprey-67786_640First of all, you need a hunter. And if you think you’ll just pick someone at random, find their email, and send them an annoyingly long cold email, you’ve got the wrong crowd. Actually, no crowd tolerates that.

Ideally, you would search for similar products to yours on Product Hunt and see who hunted them. If you go to their profile and they’ve hunted a lot of products with many upvotes (like Chris Messina or Ria Blagburn), then you’re in luck. All you have to do now is reach out. But first read this article by Bram Kanstein on how not to pitch your product.

Ideally, you’ll ask nicely and be brief. Every hunter has their own preference, but I’d say that tweeting or DM’ing someone would be sufficient. Only disclaimer: be human and respectful. 

P.S. I’ve seen a lot of people ask to be “invited”, but invitations are only given so you can comment on PH, and yes, you can hunt, but it won’t go to homepage. So better find one of those hunters who have special posting rights.

Get Ready

Do you have all the details in the hands of your hunter? (Those are: name, link, a funny/memorable tagline, and the twitter handles of the makers.)

Do you have some kind of thoughtful greeting to Product Hunters on your product page? (Not a must-have, but nice.)

Does the top of your page look good enough to be attached to a tweet?

Have you warned your team not to ask for upvotes?

If you answered yes to all, you’re ready.

On the Day

Do not ask for upvotes. Anywhere.

Introduce your product. Don’t advertise. Ask the community for feedback.

Answer everyone’s comments. This is vital.

Monitor social media and press mentions. Use TweetDeck & Google Alerts.

Just be engaging and human. And have fun. 😀

Something Went Wrong?

So your product is in the cemetery. Sorry, I mean the “upcoming” tab. Nobody’s really coming to your site, and when you are ready to launch, you can’t hunt the same thing twice. What do you do?

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Ideally, you talk to your hunter, ask nicely if they can nudge a moderator, because mods have super powers: like pushing something to homepage.

Approaching a mod directly is not ideal because they get too many requests on a daily basis. But they’re really nice, and if you can make friends with one, you’ll be happy you did. Because, let’s face it, they are the product gate-keepers.

Follow Up

If anyone influential liked your product, wouldn’t you want to know? Then use Product Friends to find out. (Is that an investor?!)

Ideally, you would have followed up with everyone who mentioned your product on the day of being featured, so tweets, shares, press, etc., all need some kind of acknowledgement and gratitude.

And make sure to thank the hunter who put you on Product Hunt. It’s a little thing, but it makes all the difference. 🙂

P.S. Kiki Schirr’s Product Hunt Manual could also help direct your efforts.

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Anything else? What are your Product Hunt best practices? 

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Why Startups Fail and How to Build Up Interest Before the Launch

If you asked me, I’d say:

The biggest reason most startups fail is because they don’t build up to their launch and they don’t market from day one.

It’s like the 50/50 rule from Traction:

Traction and product development are of equal importance and should each get about half of your attention. This is what we call the 50% rule: spend 50% of your time on product and 50% on traction.

Imagine the following scenario:

You’ve worked hard to build the “perfect” app. You’ve fixed any possible bugs, made it look beautiful, and just “know” your market’s out there. On the day of the launch maybe you get lucky and a couple of people write about it, and maybe you even get on Product Hunt. You’re thinking, “wow, I’ve made it”. After the buzz dies down, you’re left with a thousand or so customers who don’t stick around much, and your bounce rate is so big, it would look great if you replace “bounce” with “conversion”.

What happened?! Simply put, you relied on things that don’t last: both press and Product Hunt will give you a nice boost, but you need to build a steady foundation first in order for the buzz to continue building.

What’s your main metric?

Even when you think your app is doing well, it might be dwindling, and by the time you realize, it would be too late, and you’d have to start from the beginning. That’s why you have to have someone on the team who cares about metrics and measures practically everything.

Question: What are you measuring?

If it’s traffic traffic, that won’t help you long-term.

If it’s conversions, great! But are people who converted sticking around or have they abandoned your app right after they installed it? If it’s the latter, I suggest you devise an evil plan to email them a week after and see what went wrong. Maybe there’s a good reason and they can tell you what to improve.

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If it’s how engaged people are with your product, I congratulate you. You’re on the right track because retention is the most elusive of metrics but also the most beautiful. Basically, it’s the white fox of the startup world.

I’m fed up with unicorns anyway.

Timing is everything. (That, and foreplay.)

So you’ve got an app. And a landing page with cute pictures, maybe you’re on twitter, facebook, and you’re going through the motions to be social and human and … wait a second, how long have you been doing this for?

If you just started because you’ve just launched, I think you missed a few steps in between. Experts advise to start marketing as soon as your idea is born. Guy Kawasaki, for example, uses a very clever publishing model where he crowdsources his books’ chapters and asks for feedback. So what he’s doing is getting people’s interest and their investment into the product way before it gets out. That’s classic foreplay.

The longer you stagger the release, the better, but there’s also the other side of the coin – telling people “this amazing app is launching soon” and one year later it’s still a vacant twitter account and no updates in sight.

You have to find the balance and set your own pace. It’s worth it.

How are you luring potential users?

I was going to write an entire blog post about “the common denominator of viral apps”, but this will do. You’re probably thinking it’s something super sexy, but it’s rather something super simple – it’s freebies.

Why do you think all the best marketers offer free ebooks on their sites?

Because freebies equal subscriptions. And every good marketer knows that email is the Holy Grail. Content may be King and Social it’s Queen, but email is the ultimate goal because it’s the most direct way you can contact someone. Everybody has just one inbox (or at least one main one) and they covet it, so when they subscribe, you’ve entered their shrine.

Here’s what the experts do – set up a landing page and give something for free. Or only give early access to some people. Or better yet, release your app for free and show people how fun it is to use before they have to subscribe. Meerkat shows everyone the streams without signing up. Slack and buffer are free until you want the “special features” and by then then you’re hooked.

My point is, give something for free before you ask for anything in return. And NEVER ask for my credit card at the start. Huge turn-off.

Always look for new channels and laser focus on the best ones.

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I’m a fan of the book Traction. In it, you can read about the “Bullseye Framework”. Basically, you have to do little experiments to find the channels that work for you, but you must never say “no, this won’t work” until you’ve tried it.

Once you find something that works, you must really hone in on it. For example, it might be a specific user segment or a specific social platform. Whatever it is that’s really bringing the big bucks, milk it until the cow’s empty. And then do more experimenting to find other channels.

I think you’re supposed to focus on 3 channels and work on those, but never spread yourself too thin. I’m assuming you’ve done your market research and you know where your users hang out by now, so get going.

How are you engaging users?

You can’t just expect people to use your app. It doesn’t happen.

What happens is – people see something cool, they think about trying it but without context or an additional reason to carry on, their interest fizzles out.

In this case, I recommend finding a way to engage your early users. I mean the ones that are really excited about the product. Whether they have four stars on MailChimp or they’re the ones who always give you feedback or reach out on twitter, whatever they do, they’re easy to spot.

Think about it like this: Your goal should not be finding new people endlessly. It should be keeping your most engaged users indefinitely.

Product Hunt is an excellent example of this: Ryan Hoover personally reached out to a bunch of people at the start, he constantly asked for feedback on everything – new features, new mockups – and thus kept the most engaged users equally as engaged as the day they signed up.

It’s why I open Product Hunt daily. Because he gave me a reason to stick around, then the product became a habit, and BOOM. I am hooked.

Encouraging users to spread the word.

Referrals are usually the most dependable source of conversions. Whether you have launched already or you’re building up to it, it’s important to encourage your users / beta testers to share the app with their friends.

Some marketers use “tweet to download” gimmicks, but I personally prefer well-placed buttons and opportunities to share on social. Furthermore, if your product is good and you’re engaging your users, chances are word-of-mouth will happen naturally. That’s usually the tipping point.

Finally, never assume your work is done. Keep experimenting and iterating because people will not be interested forever. Haven’t we seen enough buzzed-out products that have disappeared a month after launching?

canvasAll of the above? [Case Study]

I can’t really give an example other than my own startup because those are the metrics and results I know best, so let’s go with that.

Here’s how we do it at Amazemeet:

  1. Key metric: Engagements with the Meeting Facilitator Canvas (yep, the pasty thing on the left there)
  2. Timing/foreplay: We’re staggering the launch by doing a 3-wave-beta process where we invite some of our subscribers to test the product so far. That way we can both engage and iterate on the product until it’s market-ready. Also, we have been marketing from Day One. 🙂
  3. Luring users: We gave away the Meeting Facilitator Canvas for free, so we were able to collect some emails for further promotion of our app. The app is based on the Canvas, but way cooler.
  4. Channel focus: At first we went with content marketing, twitter, and trying to build a community on LinkedIn, but honestly, people were just not interested. So we switched to email marketing, viral marketing, and press (because of the results we got from Product Hunt), which according to analytics and product features, hold most promise.
  5. Engagement: We’re constantly encouraging people to try the Canvas and tell us how they liked it. Also, we’re building in-app (unobtrusive, we hope) features that will ask for their feedback and soon we’ll be building a community wherever we see fit. LinkedIn didn’t work, so maybe… Slack.
  6. Referrals: Since we have a large list of subscribers already, this is not a priority… yet. What we need now is mostly feedback.

In the end, everything comes down to this:

Your app needs to have a userbase when it launches. Even if it’s not big, as long as it’s engaged, it will spread.

Mike (my co-founder) and I have come up with our own ideas of launching. For him it’s like a rocket – you know, all the parts releasing and boosting the important ones in space. It’s because he’s a developer. 😀

My idea is that pre-launch is like a tsunami (hang in there) – each wave builds up on the last until one huge wave floods everything and brings after-waves until it settles. (After that, ideally, there’s steady growth.)

So how have YOU been building up to your launch? Leave a comment.

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P.S. I also consult startups on the side. If you’re about to launch or have just launched and struggling, contact me and we can talk about how I can help you.

Are Empathy-Building Products Making a Dent?

By “empathy-building products” I mean the products that raise awareness about people’s difficulties and put users in other users’ shoes. So on one side we have the people who need help and on the other – the folks who are willing to help them, and by doing so, their empathy levels go up.

Beautiful concept, no? But is beautiful enough to make a dent?

Jelly

hopefulface

The first time I heard of “empathy-building products” was when Biz Stone launched the overpraised Jelly app with the unexpected primary goal of increasing empathy. That was January 2014.

On TechCrunch, Biz states:

Let’s make the world a more empathetic place by teaching that there’s other people around them that need help.

That is beautiful. A year later – March 2015 – this happens:

superapp

This time Biz is not so idealistic. His new app – Super – is “just for fun”.

Has Biz learned from his mistake? Maybe… He does seem a little bit glib in the second photo compared to the first one. But I don’t think the lesson here is “make fun apps, not idealistic ones”. That’s not the lesson at all.

Rather, Biz’s mistake lay in his interpretation of the app.

When you first heard about Jelly, was it clear it would raise empathy? Did you think about empathy at all? I didn’t think so. There was a discrepancy between Biz’s idea and what we actually saw. Not to mention it was too broad to be truly helpful. (To be honest, I don’t get “Super” either.)

And so don’t think for a minute empathy-building products are not as impactful as the fun apps. Because they can be.

BeMyEyes

bemyeyes

The second time I thought about the concept was when BeMyEyes trended on Product Hunt. It’s a beautiful concept, which proves that people do take notice of empathy-building products, especially if they’re radically different than anything else.

Be My Eyes is an app that connects blind people with volunteer helpers from around the world via live video chat.

Download now and start helping blind people see.

Was Jelly radical? Nope. If anything, it reminded me of Quora.

BeMyEyes, however, is targeted to blind people, and it really helps their day-to-day activities. As a bonus, it raises the empathy levels of the volunteers who help them, which is the true gift of giving.

What BeMyEyes does right is – it’s clear, it solves a real problem, and it makes a difference immediately after it’s used. For both sides. One could say that it made a bit of a dent, not to mention leaving a lasting impression.

Others

Other than BeMyEyes, there haven’t been many empathy-building products lately. And I’m not talking about charitable programs where you give to charity and then forget about it. I’m not talking about “teleportation apps” either, which are trending right now, but are mainly just fun.

I’m talking about real things that open your eyes about a certain issue.

Off the top of my head, I can think of two such products:

They didn’t really make it big time like BeMyEyes, but they did leave a strong impression, and that’s something that could still help people long-term because the spirit of giving, listening, and understanding lives and carries on from idea to idea, product to product, and person to person.

Keeping the spirit alive can make a big dent someday. 😉

To answer the question I posed in the title: “Are empathy-building products making a dent?” Maybe not yet, but we’re making progress.

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What do you think of empathy-building products? Are there any I haven’t listed? 

Competition Does More Good Than Harm (Product Hunt Case Studies)

I will never forget a conversation I had with a startup founder last year. They were struggling to stay above water (and manage their time better), so they wanted fresh growth (possibly hacking) ideas. I suggested rallying up some founders who had not raised funding and celebrating bootstrapping startups. I also suggested taking a jab at their direct competitors, who have in fact raised funding. As soon as I suggested it, NO was said out loud.

No way, we want nothing to do with those guys.

Sigh. I think that all of us have this attitude – on some level – to stay away from the competition. But I think it’s rewarding to do the opposite.

For example, we all know spying on our competition is a smart move. Maybe we can steal their followers or see what new features they released. Maybe we can even catch a glimpse at their metrics, if they operate transparently, or our best friend is a hacker ninja wanna-be. Maybe…

But here’s a theory that beats the maybe’s:

moregoodthanharm

The fact that you’ve been put in the same space with them or you’ve put yourself there cannot hurt you if you have the right attitude.

Take for example the day that Kiki Schirr and Justin Jackson launched similar books on Product Hunt. On the same day! Instead of being embarrassed (like Kiki put it, of wearing the same dress), they teamed up and did a fun podcast, and I’m sure they got more sales by doing so.

It’s so rare to see people stand right next to their competitor and being proud of what they’d made instead of trying to prove they’d done better. So, naturally, everyone loved that move and complimented them.

Take another example from Product Hunt:

B_CCiK5W4AAhfO5

Tweeting this screenshot got me dozens of re-tweets because it’s so inspiring to see a founder encourage another person to create something that could eventually compete with their own product! I mean, come on, it’s awesome!

Another tweet that got people’s attention had this screenshot:

awesomeemail

I got this email the other day and thought, How wonderful that they weren’t put off or offended by my insensitive tweet (where I stated their competitors made a better product than them), but actually want to learn from it and try again. 

One last example and I’ll shut up: 😀

Yesterday I hunted Enhancv on Product Hunt (kudos to the team for a cool product!), but I could have left it for another time because I saw that Kevin William David had hunted I Need a Resume. Instead, I hunted it. Why?

Because competition does more good than harm.

competitionisgood

I think both products were successful not in spite of but because of the fact they were both on top, begging to be compared. You see, they got people curious. Wouldn’t you compare them? I did.

So don’t steer clear of the competition. Embrace it for better results. 🙂

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Question: Have you had instances where competition has helped you?

How to Battle Content Overload – With the Help of Tools and People

Wow, I’ve never been closer to Content Shock.

Content-Shock-definition

Every day I read, skim, share, and recommend dozens if not hundreds of articles — from Medium, LinkedIn, blogs, and media outlets. Some I find on twitter, others through content discovery tools, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to stay sane throughout this constant barrage.

So I’ve listed ways to discover and curate fresh (or eternally fresh) content below, and I’ll leave it to you to mix and match however you want. The key is to create a healthy system that works and that keeps you sane throughout the process. Still working on mine.

(To see the previews better, click and they’ll open in a new tab.)

#1: BuzzSumo

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BuzzSumo is indispensable.

The tool shows you influencers in a specific field/on a specific topic and shows you the content that’s been most shared in the last 24 hours, week, month, or year. I use it to discover fresh content by searching keywords like managament, startups, and future of work, but if you don’t pay for the Pro option, it only shows the top 10 results.

You can also use BuzzSumo to see what got shared the most in your industry and identify patterns, so that you can create more awesome content.

#2: Buffer

bufferautosug

I considered Buffer’s auto-suggestions after reading my friend Kiki Schirr’s article about it. She’s right that they’re super-clever and targeted. However, if you’re not careful, you’ll end up echoing everyone else’s tweets, and your followers will think you’re another spammer. Nichole Elizabeth Demere advises to:

Counteract it with a lot of original tweets as well.

Besides, it’s worth considering to schedule some of these to come out while you sleep. In my case, those will be the tweets my American friends see in their evening. You can even schedule re-tweets!

P.S. And hey, if you really like buffer’s suggestions and don’t want to sound like an echo chamber, you can always edit the tweets after you add them. 😉

#3: Twitter Lists

Do NOT use some clever tool that automatically lists people who use specific hashtags or keywords. The only thing that does is annoy people.

twitterlists

Instead, take a few seconds to add people — slow and steady — to lists you’ve curated over time, and when you have about 100 people in them (and none of them is too spammy), you have a balanced feed of that particular topic. So when I’m in the mood for design content, I go to my ux twitter list.

And this is just one of the many uses of twitter lists.

P.S. I think Medium is trying to be some sort of expanded alternative to twitter because it’s getting “more connected”. I usually manage to find pretty good stuff in my home feed, so you can try that instead of twitter lists.

#4: Content Curations

foundcywhatread

True, there are a lot of tools and sites that curate the best content — whether by people or some kind of algorithm. Personally, I’ve only come about two useful sources so far: Quibb and foundcy. See foundcy ->

Even though I’m not allowed on Quibb (too VIP), I’ve gleaned a lot of useful links from the email newsletters. As for foundcy, it’s just a small segregator of who reads what.

When it comes to content curations, I like real-time, people curated stuff. The rest is just too impersonal and outdated, really.

I also recommend communities like Inbound, where people upload awesome articles and start discussions around them. There’s a of value in that.

#5: Collect the Best

I think it was Kiki Schirr again who advised me to collect the best articles. It makes sense, but with so many articles coming out daily I hadn’t considered it before. After all there will be new content, right? Wrong, new doesn’t mean better. Now that I’ve considered it, I started using raindrop.io to store the most useful all-time applicable content, for later sharing.

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In my experience, Trello is not the best for such curations. I don’t like Excel either. Guess I’ll have to ask Anuj Adhiya what he uses (because he knows everything everywhere). For now, randrop.io will suffice because it’s easy to use, kind of pretty and colorful, and most importantly, does the job.

What tools do you use to collect useful content? 

P.S. Some people use Pocket, but it gets so messy in there. I wouldn’t recommend it myself.

#6: Start a Group

If you don’t trust auto-suggestions like the ones buffer provides (after all they’re not really real-time), you can gather a group of really good curators on your favorite platform, and share what they found. Kind of lazy, but if you do it right, everyone will benefit from everyone else’s suggestions.

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It can be a group on LinkedIn or you can use LinkyDink (which is how Product Hunt started FYI), and you can even use Slack! Whichever you choose, you’ll have access to the best of the best, every single day.

Wouldn’t that be something!

#7: Search on Product Hunt

Product Hunt is my go-to when I want to find something, whether it is a tool or a clever hack. Just go to the home page and use the search option. Use keywords like “news” and “content” and “curation”.

And hey, you can even create a collection on PH that we can all use!

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That’s all I have for you. If you have any other suggestions, I’d be so happy to give them a try.

We must all strive to learn and improve, and share what works with others, so we keep the helpful circle going. 😀