How Using Our Own App Got Us To Number 2 On Product Hunt - And $50K in Extra Revenue
The beauty of startup culture is its deep sense of community: without collaboration and sharing ideas with each other, there would be no innovation.
Hence the massive influence of Product Hunt: the Product Hunt community represents people who are actively invested financially and emotionally in helping other tech ventures succeed. Even though it’s only been three years since PH went live, the tech community has accepted that the best way to grab the attention of the tech world is to find an influencer to post your app on Product Hunt.
Which brings me to cold emailing.
It sucks, I know. Hitting “send” on a self-promotional message to an influential stranger takes an audacious amount of confidence and a bit of chutzpah. Your email could end up deleted, or worse, you could annoy your recipient into banishing your email address to the spam filter.
Then again, one cold email could earn the interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm of someone who has the potential to pull the right strings to get you featured on one of the most influential tech communities on the internet.
That’s what happened to us.
I’m going to share with you how we got on Product Hunt and more importantly, what results we got from this.
My hope is that by the end of this story, you’ll see that being featured on Product Hunt is within your reach as long as you bring a desire to connect and an audacious amount of confidence with you throughout the process. A bit of chutzpah can’t hurt, either.
The Cold Email Conundrum
It seems like everyone approaches email outreach with dread. No one likes to get spam or be a spammer, but everyone needs to connect with the right people so they can succeed.
Since cold emailing influencers and potential customers is a necessary evil in the startup world, our team set out to make it less of a chore. We came up with Reply: an email automation app that makes outbound and inbound marketing email campaigns more personal and more likely to earn a response.
How We Made The Right Connections
Full disclosure time: I’m not what you’d call a Silicon Valley insider. I launched one startup in the past, and while it was profitable, it didn't grow into the larger company I dreamed of building.
Our growth strategy with Reply was to reach out to the startup community to get feedback and assistance as we developed the app. The purpose was twofold: 1) to launch a successful product and 2) to create the business connections we’d need for long term growth.
So with our meagre email list of 300, we used Reply to send a small outbound email campaign about Reply to connect with other startup founders.
Meta, I know.
Here’s the email we sent:
The (grammatically incorrect) cold email that launched us to the top.
Okay, so English isn’t my first language (I’m originally from the Ukraine). The point is, it worked. Check out this response from Milan, co-founder of the Wildcard (among other things), and avid Product Hunter:
Now you might think: They landed their perfect Product Hunter! Mission accomplished!
But before we accepted Milan’s offer, we did some digging to see if his Product Hunt submission would give us the boost we needed.
According to data nerd Kartik Mandaville, the reach of Product Hunt influencers is not determined by the amount of followers they have, but by the quality of their participation in the Product Hunt community. This means the more upvotes, comments and products they’ve posted, the more followers, upvotes and comments they’ll attract to products they submit.
Intrepid hunter Milan was the perfect guy to help launch our app.
All we had to do was take a look at Milan’s PH profile to see that he was a highly engaged user: with over 500 followers, over 700 upvotes, and almost 60 products submitted, he’s someone who will grab the attention of dozens influencers within minutes of posting the product.
We knew we had found our founder.
We enthusiastically accepted Milan’s offer, and within two weeks we found ourselves in the number 2 spot on Product Hunt.
Why Our Cold Email Worked
That’s right: a four-sentence cold email written in broken English got the attention of the perfect person to introduce us to the biggest influencers in the tech world.
It may seem like dumb luck, but I assure you: every decision made behind that email was intentional.
Automated outreach emails that don’t look automated
First of all, we didn’t want to be mistaken for spammers, so we used Reply to send the email campaign. Reply sends emails directly from the sender’s email account and the emails land right in the recipients inbox (as opposed to the Promotion or Bulk folders). So the intro email looked handwritten and sent directly from me.
We decided the intro email was simply to let our prospects know we liked what they did and that we were here to help.
We made it four short sentences, because anything longer would lose their 8-second attention spans (True fact: human attention span = less than goldfish attention span)
If they clicked on the link, great: now they could learn more about us and we could let our website do the selling for us. If not, no problem, Reply would automatically send a carefully timed follow-up email to foster their curiosity and interest.
But thankfully, no follow-up email was needed because Milan immediately understood how we could help him and other startup founders.
Thus began our Product Hunt journey.
How We Dipped Our Toes Into The Product Hunt Waters
We knew if we failed to get upvotes for Reply on Product Hunt, there would be no second chance. Product Hunt doesn’t let you repost a product unless there’s a major update. So we made our next strategic decision:
We launched a free product to test the Product Hunt process.
We had already developed a tool for our team to get email addresses based on name and email extension (hence our 300-contact email list culled from Slack). So we sent our Chrome extension, Name2Email, to Milan and he was impressed enough to post it on Product Hunt.
Here’s what the original post looked like:
The reception was overwhelmingly positive: over 500 upvotes, 14,012 website visitors from Product Hunt and 6,000 installs. The launch was such a big hit that we got coverage from Business Insider. And with over 14,000 views, the BI article was undeniably hot. Our little experiment was turning into an unexpectedly huge opportunity to grow our following.
Check out the phenomenal jump in traffic on the day of the Name2Email launch:
The final stats on the Name2Email launch:
Unique visitors - 16,235
Product Hunt visitors - 14,012
Business Insider visitors - 2,223
Business Insider article views - 14,921
Installs - 6,000
So what did we learn from the Name2Email launch as we prepared for our Reply launch?
- Timing is everything. If you don’t get at least 10 upvotes within the first couple hours of your launch, you won’t be featured. The best time to launch is Tuesday or Wednesday morning, early enough to be front-and-center on Product Hunt when the US is waking up. Just don’t launch on the same day a big brand rolls out something new then all bets are lost.
- Attention-grabbing headlines are huge. Our Name2Email headline was “Get any email based on someone’s name.” Simple yet descriptive, right? But I think we could have gone a step further and added an emotional element, which we did in our Reply launch (more about that in a sec).
- Don’t waste people’s time with a crappy product. Even though Name2Email was for all intents and purposes a throwaway test product that we didn’t plan on promoting beyond the PH launch, it still had our name on it and was associated with our main product. So before you launch any product, make sure you execute it as flawlessly as you can.
- Respond to comments quickly and frequently. I can’t emphasize this enough: be gracious and informative and send shout-outs to top PH interactors on Twitter. The quicker and more helpful your response, the more upvotes it will earn.
- Don’t be a dick about suggestions from the community. There’s a reason commenters on Product Hunt are invitation only: it eliminates trolls. So if someone has a constructive suggestion for improvement, they’re doing it out of a genuine desire to help. Thank them. Take their comment into consideration. The more invested you are in receiving feedback, the more comments you’ll get and the more upvotes and installs you’ll earn.
Thanks to our Name2Email experiment, we had solid evidence that the right combination of timing, product, and influencers would rocket us to the top for our Reply launch.
Launching Our Main Product
We launched just after midnight California time (mid-morning EU time) on a Tuesday, so we could be one of the first to show up on the PH feed. While we couldn’t directly solicit upvotes as per Product Hunt’s community guidelines, we made sure to announce our presence on Product Hunt to all of our social followers and email contacts.
Within 24 hours, we had earned over 600 upvotes and were Number 2 on the front page.
The glowing endorsement of a dealmaker
Milan’s intro comment couldn’t have been better. His excitement over the app was contagious and his review was spot on for creating legitimacy. And it got people talking: we had 35 comments from Product Hunters who loved the idea of the app but hate getting/sending cold emails. I responded to every comment and was sure to also thank upvoters for their support via Twitter.
Speaking of Twitter, look who tweeted us a pat on the back for a job well done: Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt.
As evidenced by the comments, sales email automation brings out a lot of big feelings in people, so we reflected that in our headline: “send cold emails that feel warm.”
An emotionally engaging headline was key to earning upvotes & traffic
Our headline reflected the desire of anyone who sends an outreach email: to make a genuine emotional connection with the recipient. Other than Milan’s fantastic endorsement, we credit the headline as one of the biggest drivers of traffic to our site.
Speaking of traffic...
3,840 new users in one day!
We had 11,549 unique users and 631 registrations referred from the Product Hunt page. How did that translate in revenue? See for yourself:
The total annual value of users from Product Hunt that converted to paid customers after the free trial is $51,516, and each month we’re converting more customers. Not a bad return on investment for a 3-5 sentence cold email, am I right?
In fact, the biggest challenge we’ve faced in this journey wasn’t getting to a top spot on Product Hunt, but creating an onboarding strategy for the thousands of contacts we earned. But thanks to our Product Hunt success, I now know that with strategy, audacious confidence, and a bit of chutzpah, we’ll overcome this hurdle as well.
So what are the lessons we can take away from our Product Hunt experience?
1. Seek emotional engagement in every interaction. Whether it’s your first outreach email or your response to Product Hunt comments, if you approach your prospects in the spirit of community and collaboration, they’ll reward you with their respect and ideas.
2. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Yes, the chances are high your email will be ignored. But if you connect with the right person at the right time, the possibilities are limitless.
3. Be strategic as hell. Emotional connections are worthless if they’re made with the wrong people. Make sure you’re targeting the right people at the right time with something they need and will want to talk about.
Since launching Reply on Product Hunt, we’ve also launched an ebook and some small extensions related to Reply all of which have earned over 100 upvotes.
Give our approach a try better yet, start using Name2email and Reply to make the connections you need to drive a successful Product Hunt launch. And let me know how it turns out: email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear your story.
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