Peter Vu

@petervu1

Product Hunt: C.A.T — the ultimate approach for App of The Day.

Written by Peter, author of “Learn Product Hunt the h̶a̶r̶d̶ childish way”

Habitify is my first child.

Disclaimer: I am a cat person. Hope you don’t have any allergy with both.

Hi, my name is Peter.

I’m an indie maker of Habitify and Nirow. I founded Habitify 2 years ago when I discovered Product Hunt as a great platform to receive great feedback and ideas from the maker’s world. So I gave it a (few) shots.

Eager as a child, I jumped in the game and got myself drowned 3 times before earning for myself 2 honorable prizes “#2 app of the day” and “#5 app of the day”:

Habitify for Android and for macOS are my 2 successful launches.

For your reference, here are some results from my PH campaigns:

Habitify for macOS launch:

Habitify for Android:

  • 450 visits to the landing page
  • 1337 app installs
  • $500 sales in 14 days

Honestly, numbers are not everything. The last 5 PH journeys have left me with lessons and connections more valuable than any type of traffic.

If you’re still on the fence of whether you should launch your product on PH, you may want to visit: “Product Hunt: Is it worth the hype?”, where I explain why I will always come back to PH when I have a new product.

If you are already determined to launch on PH, then, below is my own (and painful) story!

In the post, I also will share my collection of sources that help contribute to the success of my recent 2 launches. So even if it’s quite long, I believe it can save tons of your time later in your PH journey :) 👇👇👇

You, after this post (hopefully)

The CAT approach to App of The Day 😻

I. [C]ommunity-centered approach

  • Slack channels and Telegram groups
  • Product Hunt community

II. [A]sk the right person, the right way

  • Who should you ask?
  • How to find the right person to ask?
  • Never ask for upvotes
  • Ask once!

III. [T]hink forward, prepare backward

  • Launching the same product within 6 months is not preferable
  • Launching the same product is (still) not preferable
  • Best time of the week to launch?
  • Setup tracking
  • Have your checklist checked
  • Hunt your own product
  • GIF logo, discount codes & videos — Are you asking the right question?
  • But you still need to glitter

Self-note

In design, we have Human-centered approach.

In Product Hunt, we have Community-centered approach.

In short, if you want to reach the top spots in Product Hunt, you must have a community to back you up. It’s like going to war with full gears and millions of soldiers behind ready to sacrifice themselves for your life (sorry, GoT fan!)

In order to have a community who knows about you, cares about you and talks about you, you can try what I did.

Slack channels & Telegram groups

What I learn from the failure of Nirow, Nirow 2.0, Habitify and Habitify 3.0 is that people are generally unfamiliar with Product Hunt.

After digging deeper, I realize, it’s the enthusiastic makers, devs, growth hackers that share the same passion and vision as me that are best promoters for the app. Maybe due to their geeky characteristics (…), they often have very lively communities.

During my research, I was invited by a friend to 2 Telegram groups that have the most active makers in the world!

Beginning Creators on Telegram
Solo founders on Telegram

For the first time in my life, it occurred to me there were huge communities like this. While I’m just sitting here, juggling my own thoughts and find my way in the dark, people are tossing thousands of ideas back and forth every day. I felt like the boy in Birdbox (Netflix) when he opened his blindfold…

I started talking and answering questions. People are really nice and friendly. They’re so active sometimes I have to wonder where on earth they find that much time.

Andddd shortly after I joined, I was introduced to another group! The Maker’s kitchen!

Look at the active 1027 people here! Look at all the 🔥, the ❤️, the unread notification!!!
  • If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, a maker’s kitchen or developer’s kitchen has been a long-formed idea to connect like-minded devs to share and learn from each other.

So, when I see there’s a Slack channel named “Maker’s kitchen”, I know immediately this is going to be my morning ritual.

I started following people, congratulating them on their launch and help promote their app by retweeting and commenting on PH. I made some friends who are crazy innovators (and emoji users!) Never have I thought my PH journey is like a t̶i̶n̶d̶e̶r̶kindergarten.

Where to find them?

Being captivated by the idea of chat groups, I decided to do a thorough search and here are some active groups I’ve found and joined:

If you’d like to explore more, here’s a curated list of 2000 Slack chat groups (also made it to #4 App of the day on PH).

  • Note: In most cases, you need to request an invitation from the slack group, which doesn’t take that long. I requested and only about half an hour later I’m already inside all the groups :)
  • I’d recommend joining 3–4 groups maximum. It’s hard to engage with a lot of people simultaneously, and even harder to focus when some makers really like using @Channel to call for help…

It’s so great to meet other makers like me. I know they all come to the same place for help and growth, so I didn’t think much of any returns when I help them. I know they will help me back, for sure.

To give is to receive. You have no right to ask if you haven’t given anything. That’s how communities work. There’s no other way round.

And I was right.

Launch day: Time to return the favor

On the launch day of Habitify for Android, Alan Ng. thought he just posted the news here to let people know. We didn’t expect anything much, because we never introduced ourselves as makers of the app.

But just after a few hours, here’s what we got:

👍 ❤️ 👏 😍

People even make a public announcement lol:

It doesn’t feel like any community I have joined!

By joining this community I figured out that Ethan was launching his product (Makerlog) on the same day as mine, which makes the race even more fun!

People were asking questions, sending several GIFs and even make jokes about our products. Some of them tweeted about us, some even went on to comment on PH. I got some people who liked Ethan post liked mine because he also tweeted my launch!

Product Hunt community 😸

Product Hunt itself is a community so it took me no sweat to know other like-minded makers. It’s like the lowest hanging fruit for you.

I started with people who upvoted my previous product, then onto those who commented, makers of other apps, and on and on.

This took time, but in return, I got a chance to engage with interesting people who gave me really useful launch advice. Or like Marcello Silvestri:

Later I found out his wife stays in the same hometown as mine!

And with lots of pre-launch engagement, I got a lot of support on the launch day. People were giving very positive reviews and recommendation about the app, so many that I had to ask my team to help me reply to them.

Reviews of people help makers and users-to-be decide if they want to give the app a shot!

Self-note

If you ask me what Product Hunt has taught me, I’d say Product Hunt has taught me the art of asking people.

As easy as it may sound, asking for support, especially for a one-off event like PH launch, is no piece of cake.

Who should I ask?

Disclaimer: Original content.Must read. I̶f̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶, read it.

Yes, I know what you think. I own an app with over 400.000 users, why don’t I ask all of them? A simple push and everyone will get the message. Done. No fuss.

Ha.

Haha.

I often sit back and laugh at that childish thought.

Remember this:

  • Product Hunt is big, but not that big. Non-makers are often unaware of the site. If you intend to send emails en masse to everyone, you may want to consider very carefully.
  • Some people are extremely sensitive about what they receive, especially app users. I got several complaints that they received 2 irrelevant notifications in a day (I thought 2 is verifiably small, but…)
  • If what you’re doing is of little value to your customers, then it’s best not to send anything. This is a painful lesson that I learned from my launch of Habitify for Android. I sent a message to all active iOS users, and here’s what they say about it:
App users are already bombarded with junky notifications. I shouldn’t have done this.
This, and several complaint emails. Ouch.
  • Beta testers are powerful allies. They may be a little picky and demanding, but they don’t hesitate to spend a few minutes to help you. I got tons of support from my beta testers, even though I had just talked to them once via email. I don’t know… they’re just… kind? #faithinhumanityrestored. Contradict to some angry iOS users, my Android testers are really excited and supportive.

I made a group for them to exchange ideas with me and the team long before the launch, so promotion on launch day isn’t a big deal.

Beta testers are technically everywhere on the Internet. If you’re a community person like me, I’d definitely recommend Reddit as the starter. I found most of my translators and beta testers there:

Redditors are hands-down the kindest netizens in the cyber world.
  • Makers, devs… are (busy) allies, too! As I mentioned in the previous section, they are the ones you should cling onto for feedback and testimonials. If your product is good, they say good. If your product is bad, they say bad. Either way, you learn something, the product page on the launch day is always lively, your chance to reach the top is higher!
No one understands devs better than devs.

Devoted makers’ upvotes have more weights on your total upvotes, you might want to be aware of that. I used to follow this strategy: to find other PH-tutorial posts and get in touch with other makers, following up with more in-depth questions and of course didn’t forget to ask them to review my launch for me.

I’ll tell you it worked like a charm!

  • Influencers? Hmmm… Inspired by this post, I’ve tried connecting with several bloggers and YouTubers but it was a no-go. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re short of time. Still, if you have a productivity product, you may want to reach out to Francesco D’Alessio! He’s a super kind and enthusiastic vlogger that I had a chance to collaborate with! He has over 50k subs and a Facebook group which comprise of wonderfully active audiences.
  • Press? Yep, also did, but almost all the time I got no reply. Maybe it was cuz I lacked pitching skill. Here’s my list of all the press-individual contact I researched manually. From my experience, I’d rather search in my connections (users, friends) first (hey it worked!) A few of my users work for the local newspaper and were really willing to spare space for Habitify!

How to find the right person to ask?

I use Ship by Product Hunt.

Several posts on the Internet has pointed to Ship, but they only said we could find people here. I say we can find awesome people here.

What I did was fairly simple: I imported my contact list of Habitify users into Ship, and voila!

I got CEOs, designers at Facebook, Lyft, Google, reviewers. All lying hidden in my contact list!

Ship helps me update my year-old email list with tons of meaningful information that I had never ever thought I could get hold of: website, bio, followers, twitters…

Knowing this helped me a lot in finding the exact supporters I need, sending segmented emails and most importantly help me get a closer look of who my users really are. It turned out makers and designers take up a large proportion of my user base!

If you have been doing marketing, you’d know how much some :cough: companies :cough: charge for finding more information for emails. You have to pay through your nose just for some basic information like facebook, or twitters.

Meanwhile, with PH, you pay around $68 per month, and you can check as many emails as you want (be mindful that if those people also sign up on PH, they’ll have more information than other emails).

This, my friend, is a real, real, real bargain!

⭐️Pro Tip:

Product Hunt has a great function: letting me know who follows me. Normally I’d consider it as spammy. But after I took a close look at the e-meow from PH, I realize this is my golden opportu-kitty!

Look at what PH shows me!

If I hadn’t known Francesco before, I’d be super triggered to check the profile of this App Reviewer. He has ~40 times my followers and got some serious stuff going on with Todoist and Slack. Why wouldn’t I want to check that?

Knowing this, on the launch day, I did follow a few people that I got from my Ship’s list, and also their followers, just another way to give them a heads-up without any marketing cost!

Can’t tell you exactly how many people that I followed actually visited the product page, but I did recall seeing some familiar faces follow me back. Sweet!

Never, ever, ever (I repeat 📢) ask for upvotes.

Being so confident that I have very avid supporters to back me up on the launch day (as mentioned in “So how do you find the right person”), I aggressively and explicitly ask for upvotes of the product.

I emailed asking for upvotes. I used Ship to ask makers for upvotes. I pushed notifications to my users asking for votes.

When Habitify on Android was newly launched, it quickly got to the #2 App of the day spot.

I was sooo over the moon just to fall in the hole of disappointment when I saw Habitify being pushed down the rank every 1 hour. #3, then #4, then #5, even it has more upvotes than both the other 3 combined.

Confused, I reached out the PH team, and here’s what they said:

No…

It all made sense thereafter. I got upvotes to bypass the system, but then as it works out through time, it quickly identified I got votes by asking for it. It “punished” the app by pushing it down.

It was really, really painful, and there’s nothing I could do about it.

Votes, as I learned, must be organic. If people like the product, they vote, it counts. That’s why one of the makers (who happens to have a close relationship with PH Team) once advised me:

They kinda like to draw a line between “bootstrapped”/team /company product. Basically they notice that the last 2 tend to use the teammates/employees and other connections to mass upvote their products, leaving bootstrapped stuff on the very bottom. Product Hunt wants to encourage small makers to make stuff and post it in PH though, so they tend to be more strict in teams/companies, when they can notice it (can be wrong).

Remember this:

  • Don’t ask for upvotes, in any way. Call for feedback and people will genuinely understand what you need.
  • Don’t spam. They may report to PH team and who knows what could happen? From PH own words:
Please keep in mind that upvotes that are considered by the system as spammy can end up damaging to the overall ranking.
  • And don’t forget to thank them! They put their time and effort in. Letting them go unnoticed and you won’t be able to ask for anything next time.

Ask once!

“But there are only 24 hours” — you may say.

I tried dripping mails to constantly nag people to support me on PH. I even translated the message into 13 languages and sent ’em out twice.

I painfully realized that people who hadn’t read my 1st mail had a high chance not to open the 2nd one.

The click-through rate of the push message improved trivially, so I believe I had annoyed them more than I had provided something valuable.

I use Onesignal to send push notifications.

So what’s the point of asking too many times, if all you get in return is a damaged brand and unsubscribers?

Self-note

What I (painfully) realize is that no matter how much we prepare, there are always some unexpected things that will jump scare at any moment.

To minimize the bad impacts, we should always think ahead, to the point of our launch, then go backward and plan our actions from the last day to the first day. Leave a few days (or hours) before the launch so you are not overwhelmed dealing with unexpected stuff.

This technique is called “reverse planning” which I got inspiration from Mike Martel, former US Army Special Forces. He explained it very carefully on Lifehack.org, which is also one of the first sites on the Internet that featured us (thanks a lot, really!)

So I have made a list of some “Unexpected things” that made us writhing in pains, just so you won’t reinvent the wheel.

Launching the same product within 6 months is not preferable.

This is my (crying) painful experience with Nirow and Nirow 2.0. 3 months after the first launch, we decided to relaunched Nirow 2.0 because I thought I have made a big enough update.

Yet, I never made it to the “Popular page” because of the 6-month limit, despite being hunted by a very popular hunter Jack Smith (I’d definitely recommend him if you want to launch. He’s lightning quick in replying emails and really supportive).

So, all-month-effort had gone down the drain.

Launching the same product is (still) not preferable.

As indicated by this message:

As you know, I have many versions of Habitify, but on the 2nd launch onward, it always says the link is duplicated.

Product Hunt wants to avoid spamming the same product without delivering many values to the community.

If you want to bypass this, just simply add “/something” in the end of your domain, and let it redirect to your homepage, like this:

/?ref=something or /?cta=something doesn’t work. PH considers them the same link.

Best time of the week to launch?

Depends on your product.

If you have a small and new product, it’s best to avoid competitive days like Thursday, Wednesday or Tuesday. They have the highest no. of upvotes and submissions:

This is my data analysis in the course of 1.5 months. Tue, Wed and Thu are most competitive with most upvotes and no. of product submissions. The least competitive ones are weekends.

Of course, you’ll gain less traffic on the other days, but there’s a higher chance you can get to the top. I felt really lucky when I decided to launch Habitify for macOS on 13 Fri 2018 because just the day before, the top 3 apps had about 800 upvotes each…

If you’re confident you can compete with big names and gain huge traffic, go for Tues, Wed and Thurs. Hicham Amine has a beautiful story of how his product won over Spotify Daily Mix.

Have your checklist checked.

As the clock ticked midnight PST time on the launch day, I started feeling panicked and couldn’t remember anything at all.

“Should I send emails to my users first?” - left brain.

“Should I leave a comment on Product Hunt so people know my story?” - right brain.

“Wait, did I forget to attach some screenshots?” -panic guy.

So, a checklist is the new Headspace.

It helps me run through everything I need to do before, during and after the launch. As I calm down, I won’t miss anything.

Here is what my pre-launch checklist for Nirow looks like.

We have a 1-month plan. This is just the last-week-sprint.

You can also contact me for my launch checklist. I had it in Vietnamese so I don’t want to screencap it here.

Hunt your own product

There’s a rumor that only hunters can hunt products and get it featured. I can confidently deny that. Nirow 2.0 was hunted by a popular hunter, but it wasn’t featured.

Habitify for Android was hunted by myself, and it was featured. I’ve seen lots and lots of makers hunt their own product and they succeeded.

The reason people are making a fuss over hunters is that when hunters hunt any product, it will notify their followers. But as hunters are hunting more and more products, our notifications can look very much like this:

And what do we do when we see too many notifications? We ignore them.

So if you’re still biting nails over why your chosen hunters haven’t replied to you, well, you shouldn’t be.

Setup tracking

The beauty of Product Hunt is that it gives us high-quality traffic that we should monitor really carefully. I personally use Google Analytics for tracking purposes, coupled with iTunesconnect (because I’m a dev).

What I will be looking for are conversion rate, visits per day (to see if my product is really impressive) and traffic sources (to see if my marketing campaign is effective). This data is valuable if you want to do remarketing.

GIF logo, discount codes & videos — are you asking the right question?

I’ve seen countless posts ranting about these “magical spell” that will get attention for your product and hence bring it to the top spot. But after a few launches, I realize a more important question:

What’s the unique selling point of your product?”

I’ve seen products with beautiful GIF logo, codes, and eye-catching screenshots. But as I scrolled down below, I saw people asking questions like: “So, how exactly is your product different from product X (a well-known in the field)?”

“All that glitters is not gold” — William Shakespeare

The risk is if the maker cannot make it clear from the start, people will have trouble “liking” their product and hence an upvote will not be given.

After all, Product Hunt is where we launch ideas, not products. All products may look the same, but the idea behind it is different.

Let’s be honest, with the rapid growth of technology, makers are leaving no stone unturned, so technically no problem is new. So what are people looking for? Is it GIF logo, codes and CATchy screenshots?

Yep, as long as they can convey exactly the creative approach to solve the old problems.

But you still need to glitter (?!)

Yes.

You read it right. All that glitters is not gold, but you still need to glitter.

I discovered an interesting fact while I was looking for suitable profiles to ask for support:

PH visitors have a tendency to upvote the first 3–5 products, not just the first one, or the one that they’re most interested in

It turned out, the same person is very likely to upvote many products that come into vision. Great!

So what do you need to do?

Besides the GIF logo that I mentioned in the previous part, taking good care of your app name and tagline, especially the latter.

A tagline is like the First Moment of Truth (when it catches the attention of the visitor, and the visitor decides whether to click on your product or not)

Honing your tagline will significantly increase the chance of your products getting clicked on.

“Give me 2 days to launch an app and I will spend the first one sharpening the tagline.” — Peter Vu, unrelated decendants of Abraham Lincoln.

Take a look at Sunsama’s example. Tell me, which tagline will you click on?

Kudos to the weirdly brilliant mind behind “If Trello & Google Calendar had a baby”!!! Teach me master… teach me…!!

I can’t tell you if the tagline is more important than other factors (logo, app name, competitors on the launch day), but here’s Sunsama’s product 4 years ago:

And here’s the 2018’s version:

Er…3080 upvotes…?

Enough said.

Sooooo, that’s ittt! It’s so great to reflect on my own journey. I would definitely say Product Hunt launching is one of the biggest milestones of 2018 for me.

If you have any questions regarding the post, feel free to leave it in the comments :) If you’re having a product launching on PH soon and want objective feedback, you can always DM me via @tiepvuvan :)

“Product Hunt: C.A.T — the ultimate approach for App of The Day.” is my second post in the series of endless lessons I learned after 5 years of being an indie dev, from Product Dev, Marketing, Team Management, to Customer Management.

If you think my story has been useful to you, you could give one more, two more or forty more claps 👏👏👏 to help others find this more easily :D

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