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How to win on Product Hunt

How Campana got 4th place, twice

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Mike Choi
Mike Choi

I don't know about you, but I find Product Hunt to be an increasingly mysterious platform. I first launched an app on the platform back in 2019 without any thought and it got #1 product of the day. Yes, the app and the post were thought out and polished but I didn’t spend loads of hours crafting the post and didn't pay people to upvote it.

Fast forward 4 years... I have done 4-5 product launches since then and I have yet to find a reliable and successful formula... until now. This post is going to be about that pattern the team at Campana found and our new philosophy in thinking about Product Hunt as a distribution channel. But first, I will tell a story about how over the last 2 weeks, we were able to get the #4 product of the day, twice.

First Launch

We had zero expectations when we launched Campana for the first time. The thought process was, “let’s time box creating a Product Hunt post to 1 hour, post it, and see what happens.” The artifacts of the 1 hour session were 4 “low-effort” looking assets briefly describing the product and a copy used as the post’s description. It was already Thursday so we decided to schedule the launch for the next day and moved on.

Come Friday morning, I woke up to my usual 7:30 AM alarm. As I turned off Sleep mode on my iPhone, I noticed that I had a lot of notifications from Product Hunt. When I opened it, Campana was at 4th place! I thought “surely, we will lose out to the products where people paid for the upvotes, right?” 5PM rolled around and we were still at 4th. The next day came, and we received an email from Product Hunt saying we ended the day at 4th place!

This email is always so nice to receive
This email is always so nice to receive

Other than placing 4th, we were able to collect 170 emails and schedule 20 video demos for our product. Not too shabby for one hour of work 🙂

Second Launch

Fast forward to one month after our first launch. We talked to all of our initial users and our waitlist signups had dried up. Losing the high, we knew it was time for another Product Hunt launch... because why not?!

We time boxed the launch to 1 hour once again and started creating assets we needed for the launch. But this time, things felt different. I felt the pressure to create higher fidelity assets, polish my writing a bit more, and in general put more effort into the post. One hour passed, and I wasn’t anywhere near being done with the post. Another hour went by and I was finally done with the post. This time, the assets looked more sleek, button placements on the landing page thought out, and color schemes more inviting. I was confident that if my lackluster effort with our first launch resulted in a 4th place, this post should surely get at least 2nd or 3rd. The day was Monday so we decided to schedule for Tuesday.

I went to sleep slightly nervous about whether if the post will perform similarly to the first post. After all, I still felt like we got extremely lucky with the first launch.

Tuesday @ 7:30AM, I woke up to the sound of my alarm as usual and checked my phone. Zero notifications... I thought “hmm, that’s weird. Maybe the post never launched.” I got my coffee and opened my laptop and went directly to Product Hunt. Nope, the post was definitely live. It just had received 2 upvotes. I panicked and tried to come up with a solution and then I remembered, “Oh, the Product Hunt support team is actually really helpful and responsive. Maybe I can ask them to reschedule the post to a different day so we can try again… this time, we should launch on Friday.” After one message to the Product Hunt support team, Campana was set to launch again on Friday.

Can we reschedule, please?
Can we reschedule, please?

Friday rolled around. I woke up at 7:30AM, checked my phone, and was thankfully greeted with bunch of notifications from Product Hunt. After a huge sigh of relief, I happily rode my bike into the office. As a reminder, the product we were selling was identical for both launches…

What’s the secret sauce?

Sorry, but I don’t think there is a secret sauce. But if we were to come up with one, it would be our philosophy towards Product Hunt. But for those folks that are obsessed with diagnosing Product Hunt launch data to find the optimal timing / messaging for a post, below are some patterns we found;

  • Both launches were on a Friday
  • Both launches took 1-2 hours to plan
  • Both launches contained no video / explanation videos
  • Both launches were hunted by ourselves
  • Both launches were completely organic. No paid upvotes and no marketing
  • Both launches got to their final place - 4th - before noon

Our Philosophy towards Product Hunt

And to end this post, the most important piece of information I want to share with you all is our philosophy towards Product Hunt.

  • Don’t spend more than 1-2 hours on a post
  • Keep your expectations low, don’t rely on it as a distribution channel
  • If it doesn’t perform well on Product Hunt, it’s not entirely because of you. You might have just launched at the wrong time so try again and again

Product Hunt is a big, mysterious black box that is filled with people trying to game it. If you can’t change it, only thing you can do is to change how you view, think, and play the game. With that, good luck on your launch and don’t forget, always be shipping 🙂