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August 3, 2016 - No Comments!

In Forbes — The Biggest Mistakes New Entrepreneurs Make

For a Dan Simon article in Forbes, I shared the story of that one time we forgot to market a product launch. Why did that happen? I let fear blind us.

I'll share a more detailed version of this story sometime soon (folks on my newsletter already got it), but for now, check out the article, filled with interesting lessons learned.

The story is of our worst launch ever, what we learned, and how that led to our best launch ever.

Read the article on Forbes.com »

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January 21, 2016 - No Comments!

What Happens When You’re #1 on Product Hunt

Last week, we launched a new thing. We were hoping for the best, but we didn’t anticipate how big “the best” would be.

Most notably, Throttle took the top spot on Product Hunt for the day. Ever wondered what happens when something takes the #1 spot on Product Hunt for a day? Read on.

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The Takeaways

Comments & Community Quality
This is one thing that amazed me the most. Whenever we’ve had a post that did really well on Hacker News, Reddit, or anywhere else, the comments are dismissive, hyper-critical, sometimes rude, and often wildly misinformed. To some degree, we have learned to dread the comment sections of most sites.

The Product Hunt community must be a totally different slice of the internet. Besides plenty of totally positive comments, there were critical comments, but they were well-informed, and often asked questions for us to clarify. Many suggested ideas for interesting directions we could take the product that we hadn’t considered.

Some examples of the positive and productive community on PH. Top: An interesting idea — in the email space, I’ve often heard from parents of the need for a “safe email” service for their young ones. We never thought of Throttle’s impact it could have there. Bottom: Hokie Nation sure does love (or hate?) email, and being on the connected community, we were able to open discussions to what would usually be a lofty request for partnership.

Some examples of the positive and productive community on PH. Top: An interesting idea — in the email space, I’ve often heard from parents of the need for a “safe email” service for their young ones. We never thought of Throttle’s impact it could have there. Bottom: Hokie Nation sure does love (or hate?) email, and being on the connected community, we were able to open discussions to what would usually be a lofty request for partnership.

When I wrote back to reply to anything critical, the commenter usually responded, in a constructive way, or to just say “thanks” for my response. The comment section on Product Hunt is positive and productive.

For a “comment section” on the internet, it was really, really weird. But what a refreshing, constructive, and positive community they’ve got over there. It’s phenomenal. This is probably largely thanks to their restrictions on who can comment — you can’t just sign up and start commenting on day 1, so they’ve managed to grow a ton but still scale a positive and productive community. Most communities just put in a downvote button and hope for the best, but that doesn’t solve the problem at all — most people are probably afraid to write a comment because of the backlash they might get for minor nitpicks.

Tip #1 on Product Hunt: Engage in the comments. Answer questions. The community appreciates and rewards it.


Traffic
Here’s a brief overview of our data, 1 week after launch.

Referrals from Product Hunt: 6,058 (reported, actual number could be up to 9,000; accounting for over 25% of all visits). That beats out every other referral for our launch week, including the Mail Pilot website (1,644), being on the Hacker News front page for a few hours (1,499), and The Next Web’s article (539), and Twitter (348) — (See the full table of data at the bottom of the post).

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Product Hunt brought in far more visits than any other referral, and surprisingly without a shorter session duration, as is usually the case with high-volume referrals, in our experience.

Again, amazingly, despite Product Hunt bringing in a volume multiple times larger, there was very little variance on the quality of the visitor here. Note: bounce rate (blue) lower is better, pages / session (green) higher is better.

Again, amazingly, despite Product Hunt bringing in a volume multiple times larger, there was very little variance on the quality of the visitor here. Note: bounce rate (blue) lower is better, pages / session (green) higher is better.

The bounce rate was slightly lower and the time spent on the site slightly higher than the traffic from Hacker News, which suggests a higher quality visitor. That was confirmed by the number of customers that came from Product Hunt — the margin of error is too large to put perfect numbers on it, but Product Hunt visitors converted into customers at a much higher rate.

To sign up, Product Hunt traffic resulted in a 5x higher conversion rate. Not 5x more signups — 5x higher conversion rate. It is normal, in our experience, for conversion rates from sites that swing large chunks of the internet around to be lower, and this was the case with Product Hunt. But the conversion rate didn’t drop nearly as low as it usually does.

The majority of PH visitors first went to Throttle’s page on Product Hunt before visiting the site, which isn’t usually the case with social news sources. There is a high value on the community within PH. We engaged there, answering everyone’s questions, which helped build on the buzz. Unlike Hacker News, the comment to up-vote ratio didn’t seem to be used in the ranking algorithm, meaning I could respond to every comment without hurting our placement (we’ve found the opposite to be very true on HN).

Tip #2 on Product Hunt: Give Product Hunt visitors plenty of content. They’ll stick around for it.


The Big Value
Interestingly, the big value wasn’t the signups — we had 9,000 during our soft launch last year, and only brought on an additional 1,000 in launch week.

The big value was proof of product-market fit, in a really visible way. Our conversations with press, investors, and industry partners have been much easier since. In fact, we had a few journalists, investors, and potential industry partners reach out when they saw Throttle on Product Hunt (some of whom we had unsuccessfully tried to cold email before).

Never before has a big feature resulted in this many inbound leads. We’ve been on TechCrunch, in the New York Times, and plenty more, but I don’t remember any one of those single-handedly bringing in this many contacts. The only exception is probably Hacker News circa 2012, when being in the top 5 for a day won us a good handful of important contacts that helped us launch our business. But we’ve been on the front page a few times since, and the quality of what comes out of it has been quickly draining. I was surprised at the number of prominent figures in our industry that browse Product Hunt regularly — I got emails from far more than I expected, most with a simple “congrats on the placement.”

In fact, The Next Web article was published without any help from us. Usually, when a big site is covering us, like TechCrunch, we know about it well in advance — we send lots of resources, we answer lots of questions, we provide early access to our software, and so on. But Ben Woods (@TheNextWoods) at The Next Web got the article up before I even knew about it.

Tip #3 on Product Hunt: Leverage the public proof of product-market fit with those that need to see it.


Actionable advice or lessons learned?

  1. Build a great product
  2. Get featured on Product Hunt
  3. Engage the community in the comments section
  4. Enjoy meeting a bunch of new people

A full breakout of the data visualized above, for reference, and to check me on any visualization errors or misinferences (that’s not a word, but it should be).

A full breakout of the data visualized above, for reference, and to check me on any visualization errors or misinferences (that’s not a word, but it should be).

Learn to make world-class products that sell themselves.

Get actionable insights on product design and product ideation each Thursday morning, so you can become a pro at creating products people will love.

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