Product Hunt is the testing ground for any SaaS product worth it's salt. Here's how to make your product shine brightest on launch day.

It's tough being a solopreneur. It's tough being an entrepreneur. Period. Irrespective of whether you're a team of one or many, when you first start out, the odds are stacked against you. 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% in their second year and 50% fail after five years in business. Finally, 70% of small business owners fail in their 10th year in business.

Behind these numbers is a world of pain and heartbreak. Let's face it, we pour ourselves into our businesses. It hurts. 

But when it works, it really works. When we hit a milestone, or survive a particularly tough year, or ride out a slump and pick ourselves back up, or sometimes (just sometimes!), when we exceed our expectations and make a big, big splash. 

I had that moment last week. SmartCue hit the top spot on Product Hunt on Sep 5th, and as of this writing, we're ranked 4th for the week. A product launch is never, ever easy. But platforms like Product Hunt make it just a tiny bit easier to launch, connect with a community of testers, get feedback from your first real users, and generate buzz within technical circles. Think of it as Friendly User Testing, but out in the real world. 

Product Hunt feedback can be critical, given that nearly 42% of small businesses fail because there’s no market need for their services or products. Understanding one's niche is key to getting positioning right, and the earlier we're able to make that pivot, the better.

However, as you can imagine, Product Hunt is a crowded space too. Just like any other platform, you need to rise to the top spot to be featured on the front page, which is where the community discovers you. 

There are a LOT of guides for PH. In the interest of adding to that body of knowledge, and sharing my learnings as a Solopreneur, here's mine. 

The SmartCue Product Hunt Launch Checklist

Each product launch has a three-act structure: 

Act One: Building Community 

Act Two: Activating Your Community 

Act Three: Creating Long-Term Engagement 

Act One: Building Community 

  • Examine what would work for your (would-be) community: is a monthly newsletter enough? Or do they need to be in a Slack group? Or would a community forum somewhere better serve your needs? 

  • Irrespective of your medium, post regularly, and often. Also, state the frequency of your posts upfront, so your audience knows when to expect them. 

  • Segment your community and offer content that is more tailored to them. Don't be afraid to create sub-communities, your communities will thank you. 

  • Expand into other means of communication - WhatsApp groups, LinkedIn, email, Slack, Reddit, Discord, and IndieHacker. Keep an eye and ear out for where audiences are congregating, and grow your presence there. 

  • Identify and engage hunters on Product Hunt whose network and community you like. When someone hunts a product, their followers get notified. Most of them do it for free and be wary of those who try to charge you. Once you've found your hunter, get their buy-in to hunt your product. 

  • Also, consider listing your product on the ‘Upcoming’ page on ProductHunt well in advance. It’ll attract people interested in your product and space and give you a nice launch pad when you release your product out to the world

  • Pro-tip - Make sure to explain clearly to non-tech folks what PH is and why it is so important to you. A lot of my folks thought it was a trivial game and so ignored my messages! I probably lost about 100 votes because of this mistake 🤦‍♂️ 

Act Two: Activating Your Community 

  • The golden period for me was the 48 hours prior to launch to 48 hours post-launch. This is when your community needs to pull together to give you the momentum you need to land on the front page. 

  • Set email sequences - organize your contacts by segment, and personalize your message to them. Make sure they receive at least 1 note pre-launch and a couple during the day. 

  • However, be wary of exceeding email send limits. You don't want pesky email blocks causing ANY last-minute drama! I realized that GMail allows a maximum of 1000 emails per day so I had to be really smart about timing my sequences. Also, don't spam. Write to people who know you, and who are expecting to hear from you. 

  • Draft personalized messages for each segment and channel.

  • Schedule these messages on Slack, Discord, Reddit, and IndieHacker groups. 

  • Send these messages out to LinkedIn and Facebook groups. 

  • Send these messages to your WhatsApp groups. Also, setup WhatsApp broadcast groups (preferably by segment) and send bulk messages to them. Remember that each broadcast list has a limit of 256 people 

  • Create relevant and authentic Twitter threads

  • Decide on an appropriate date and time - there is SO much content out there. I would recommend reading up on this. Also, review PH's own Launch Checklist

  • Create a simple landing page on PH with a clear CTA. 

  • Load-test your website and app so they don't crash when you launch!

  • Keep the conversation going - thank those people who helped as the day goes by, on each of the relevant channels. Tag them so your reach improves. 

Act Three: Creating Long-Term Engagement 

  • Listen to all the feedback from PH. Organize it and let it feed into your product roadmap. 

  • Send out personalized thank you notes, especially to those who have taken the time to give you detailed feedback. 

  • Publish your learnings, and your plans - let people know that you're listening and learning and valuing the time they spent on your product. 

  • Give back to the community - support other makers, provide feedback, take meetings, and give support when asked. 

  • Bask in the glow of being No.1! Celebrate your success with those who helped make it happen. 

  • Keep people in the loop - continue to engage your community with new content and insight into what's coming up. Continue to take feedback. 

Conclusion

No launch is perfect. I know there were a number of problems with mine. For one, I didn't build my community early enough. Second, I wasn't as organized as I could've been! Launch day blindsided me with a few surprises and booboos that I really could've avoided with a little more forethought. However, I was lucky that what community I did have, was a very forgiving and supportive one! 

To my fellow solopreneurs and entrepreneurs: trust yourself and get your message out there. If you believe in your product, bring others into the fold! Leverage your connections, and grow your audience. Work hard on launch day, because something or the other is going to go awry. Be patient, and keep steady. And when all goes (relatively!) well, you'll end up with a shiny new trophy and a very happy heart. Here's mine 😃 

SmartCue - Personalized product demos, created in minutes not hours | Product Hunt

Of course, if you'd like follow in our (somewhat) tried and tested footsteps, here is a link to the template that we developed and used to launch on PH. Let us know when you launch and we'll be happy to lend a helping hand! 

Why charge for it? I’ve realized that a lot of free stuff never gets used and just lies on your laptop for eternity (guilty!🙊). Hopefully, the few bucks spent will pinch just enough for folks to put the template to use!