In February 2022, Nook Calendar was at a crossroads.
For months, our small but hungry team—then only five people—had been hard at work on our calendar and meeting scheduling app.
We had been gaining new users and investors, attention in the local press, and had decided to double the team’s size.
Covertly, we had been planning a free meeting scheduling tool and Calendly alternative and were ready to take it to market (especially after Calendly’s meeting scheduling app began gaining attention for all the wrong reasons).
So, on February 25, the decision was made to launch Nook Calendar on Product Hunt on Monday, May 9, 2022.
We had less than two and a half months to prepare for the launch.
Fast forward 74 days later, and this happened…
How did we do it?
Shortly after our launch, we began receiving DMs from people in the Product Hunt community congratulating us and asking if we had any tips, tricks, or advice on how to launch successfully on Product Hunt.
So, we decided to make our own guide.
But before we dive into how we launched our product on Product Hunt, a quick note 📝
There are a lot of Product Hunt launch guides out there—some good, some bad. None of them offer a perfect Product Hunt launch strategy. If they did, everybody would be skyrocketing to number one and have a chance at winning a Golden Kitty award.
If you’ve done any research into how to launch on Product Hunt, you’ve probably encountered a lot of contradictory information. And what worked for us may not work for you.
But, in the hopes of helping other startups in a similar situation and contributing to the #culture, we’ve created this rather in-depth how-to. Think of it as more of an anecdotal account of what we did, what we think worked, what didn’t, and what we’d do differently instead of a traditional Product Hunt playbook or checklist.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s begin.
Here’s How We Got #1 Product of the Day on Product Hunt
Step 1: We Built a Following in the Product Hunt Community Before Launch 💻
Once we decided we were ready to launch on Product Hunt, we started by engaging with the community.
Many of us already had pre-existing accounts from years of working for different startups and tech companies.
We began re-engaging with the community by checking out products, providing feedback, and commenting on discussions daily.
Some people approach this in a pretty half-assed way, simply saying “Congrats!” on every product and hoping to get a follow back from makers and commenters. (In Product Hunt, having followers is beneficial because when you’re listed as a maker and launch a product, they’ll get a notification and hopefully check out and upvote your product on launch day.)
Instead, we spent a few hours each week forming meaningful connections with makers—providing thoughtful feedback on products, contributing to conversations, and hosting AMAs in the Discussions section of the site.
Once we had formed a bond with a maker, we usually gave them a follow and got a follow back in return (and sometimes connected with them on LinkedIn and Twitter), which came in handy later on (more on that later).
Step 2: We Got a Top Hunter 🏹
Finding a hunter to hunt your product on Product Hunt falls into the “optional” category when planning a Product Hunt launch.
“You don’t need to reach out to ‘top hunters’ or influencers to get your product hunted. Ultimately the community upvotes products they like and find useful, so it’s far more important to build something awesome and clearly communicate its value to the world.”
During the lead-up to our Product Hunt launch, we saw several products launch without a professional hunter and still ended up Product of the Day.
That said, there is some benefit to having a hunter.
Although Product Hunt no longer emails users when a hunter they follow hunts a product, some guides suggest that having a high-profile hunter guarantees you a featured position on the front page upon launch.
That seems debatable. But at the very least, having a top hunter hunt your product DOES provide a form of social proof that you have a legitimate product.
So, we started by creating a list of our top 20 Product Hunt hunters based on their reach, track record, and clout within the community.
From there, we crafted our Hunter Pitch. This laid out who we are, why our product is great, and why they should consider hunting us.
Our first draft came in at a whopping 752 words—yikes. So we trimmed it down, got rid of most of the fluff, and focused on what made us special. 🤗
After that, we focused on the Hunter Kit.
The Hunter Kit (sometimes called a Press Kit) basically contains all the information you need and want to be included on your Product Hunt page when you launch your product.
It includes your product name, tagline, short description, link to website (or app store pages), makers, and any assets (like demo videos, product videos, thumbnail, and GIFs—we went with all four) you want to be added to the media gallery and on the page itself.
It was a pain to get together. But it was a good opportunity to simplify and solidify our value proposition and messaging. It also seems like it made a good first impression (a top hunter—Kevin William David—accepted our pitch almost immediately).
Step 3: We Created an Upcoming Page That Stood Out From the Crowd 👋
Once we were consistently engaging with the Product Hunt community and had our hunter nailed down, we decided to create an Upcoming page to build up some hype before our launch.
Similar to getting a hunter, this is an optional step.
Within Product Hunt, you can show makers what you’re currently building by creating a landing page that appears in their Upcoming products section.
This is a great step if you’re relatively new and want to start collecting emails and get a few additional contacts to keep updated about your Product Hunt launch.
Product Hunt’s Upcoming page builder (also known as Ship) is fairly straightforward. We had our UX/UI designer test the various templates and create something that stood out from the crowd—it took half a day to complete.
Leading up to the launch, we used the email addresses we collected through the Upcoming page to notify subscribers of our official launch date and remind them of our upcoming launch.
Because Product Hunt doesn’t let you view the entire list of who upvotes your product, it was impossible to know exactly who from our email list actually checked out our Product Hunt page unless they provided feedback.
It was simple enough to set up the page, though, and gave us a bit of extra attention early on.
Step 4: We Connected with Existing Contacts Pre-Launch 🤝
Now that we were active in the Product Hunt community, had pitched and landed a hunter, and were gaining additional attention and contacts via our Upcoming page, we started massaging our existing connections and early adopters to prepare them for our Product Hunt launch.
We started by creating a spreadsheet including all of our current users, investors, friends in the industry, and any additional contacts we thought could help support us on the day of our Product Hunt launch in the form of feedback (i.e., comments and reviews).
The list was huge, so we separated it into people who had a pre-existing Product Hunt account (it’s easy to search online for this) and those who didn’t have one but we thought would be interested in joining the community.
Now would be a good time to discuss upvoting in Product Hunt, as this is a hotly contested topic of discussion in the Product Hunt community:
A high number of upvotes is essential to getting Product of the Day in Product Hunt. That said, it’s ill-advised to ask directly for upvotes publicly or try and “game the system” and could result in penalties (such as certain votes being removed from your final tally).
Product Hunt says “all votes are equal,” but they have systems to detect if “you have bots trying to vote or have paid a service to upvote your product” and can damage your overall ranking. This is why you’ll often see products with a higher number of votes ending up lower in the rankings or see a product’s vote count fluctuate up and down throughout the day.
That said, it seems some votes and comments—at least anecdotally—carry more weight than others and are considered high quality. And while a single vote from someone high-up in the community won’t, let’s say, result in five additional votes, it does seem to impact how you move up the rankings—at least in the very early part of the day.
Either way, it pays to play it safe and play fairly by focusing on engaging with personal contacts who have pre-existing Product Hunt accounts.
We reached out to each one in our circle directly in the month, week, and the day before launch, and then followed-up one-on-one on the actual launch day, asking them to provide feedback on our page.
Step 5: We Launched the Product 🚀
When the big day finally arrived, we were prepared to do everything necessary to ensure we had a successful Product Hunt launch.
We decided to work in three-hour shifts for a full 24 hours to ensure we could respond to every comment in a timely manner and connect with our contacts in each time zone.
We’ll go into more detail about this strategy in a minute, but first, I want to backtrack and answer a popular Product Hunt launch question: When should I post on Product Hunt?
The answer is complicated. A major Product Hunt myth is that Tuesday is the best day to post a product on Product Hunt. The next best days to launch on Product Hunt are Wednesday and Thursday.
We chose Monday.
Why? Because launching on Monday meant the playing field was a bit less crowded, allowing our solution to stand out even more, and gave us a whole week to try and get Product of the Week.
🚨 Spoiler Alert: We DID get Product of the Day but only ended up as the #3 Product of the Week (more on that later, though).
Alright, back to launch day. 🚀
After coordinating the launch with our hunter the week before and ensuring all assets had been finalized, Nook Calendar launched on Product Hunt at 12:01 a.m. PST (03:01 a.m. our time) to ensure we had a full 24 hours to launch the product.
Previously, we had batched our email outreach requesting feedback to begin in different time zones. So when we initially launched, our entire team stayed up and voted on the product to get the ball rolling. Then, our contacts and users overseas were reminded to check out the product and provide feedback. This got us a decent amount of momentum early in the day, which allowed us to rise up the ranking as more Product Hunt members were coming online and seeing which products had been posted that day, getting us a lot of organic upvotes, feedback, and traffic to our site.
The Product Hunt community loves a special offer, so we used this opportunity to launch our new personal booking pages exclusively to the community, who got dibs on claiming their unique URL and creating a page before anyone else.
Working in three-hour increments, our team would take turns responding to messages—increasing our overall comment count and ensuring we were answering any questions and providing real-time support as Product Hunt users started downloading and using our app.
We also prepped some longer-form comments from our makers ahead of time that told the story of our company and reinforced our unique value proposition. We published them throughout the day but started with our co-founders to give a face to the company and the main people behind the product.
We had witnessed a number of the previous top products of the day employ this tactic but hadn’t really seen it written about anywhere.
With so little space at the top of the page to talk about Nook Calendar aside from the product itself, we used these sections to talk about our journey, the history of our team, and why we were launching on Product Hunt—humanizing the product in the hopes of further creating affinity.
By 2 p.m. EST, we had a substantial lead but continued interacting with the Product Hunt community and reaching out to our network.
Our website traffic spiked, as did the number of downloads and new users.
By 3:01 a.m. PST the following day, we were officially declared Product of the Day.
It was time for our team to celebrate.
But we still had some more work to do…
Step 6: We Did One Last Push for Product of the Week 📈
With launch day behind us and our Product of the Day badge added to our website, we set our sights on the next biggest prize: Product of the Week.
As most Product Hunt makers and community members know, Product Hunt not only awards Product of the Day, but Product of the Week, Month, and Golden Kitty Awards at the end of the year for select products in each space.
The following day, we were featured in Product Hunt’s daily newsletter, which helped us gain more feedback, upvotes, and new users.
We began to lose steam with our outreach as the week progressed and shifted our focus to connecting with new users in our Slack community, promoting our big win on social media, and posting a blog post about our success—all of which got us even more traction and new users.
It was a noble effort, but we ended up landing the #3 Product of the Week—not too shabby!
Final Thoughts and What We’d Do Differently Next Time
Launching on Product Hunt was a big learning experience! There were ups and downs, but overall we’re totally happy with the results. We continue to research Product Hunt launch tactics as we plan for an inevitable future launch.
Here are three Product Hunt launch tips we’re considering for our next launch:
We used targeted ads to get people to our website (which included a banner directing visitors to Product Hunt—here’s how to get your own) during launch week, but have read about people creating ones directed at Product Hunt users to get them to specifically visit their Product Hunt page on launch day. Our inclination is to do both next time.
Engaging in Product Hunt Communities
There are several communities made up of Product Hunt users outside the platform itself. Many guides recommended joining Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, but most of them were long inactive.
We got a big up from our local Product Hunt chapter on Twitter after reaching out to them, which is way more tasteful than desperately reaching out to Ryan Hoover directly for an RT (note: don’t do that!). But we’ve read forming connections in various Product Hunt communities outside the platform itself can be a big benefit in getting support and feedback on launch day.
They must be on Discord, right? (Right??... We’ll report back).
Timing a Launch with a Recent Funding Announcement
This one seems like a bit of a no-brainer but harder to do for any of the truly indie developers who are using Product Hunt to get their first foot through the door.
We’ve read anecdotal accounts of people announcing a recent funding round a week before launch and having a higher chance of their product ranking on the homepage and being featured on launch day in the Product Hunt newsletter. This one we’re a bit skeptical of, but figure that timing a launch around a funding announcement does provide a product a bit more legitimacy than one with no backing.
Finally, it’s worth noting that there are countless variables that come into play when getting featured or having a product rank on Product Hunt, and many of them—like which competitors you’re up against, whether or not your Product Hunt followers will see you’ve launched a product that day, and if your product will even resonate with the community—are out of your control.
Following these steps—or any other Product Hunt launch guide or checklist, for that matter—doesn’t guarantee success. It simply increases the likelihood of success.
This quote from Product Hunt themselves really hits close to home:
“By all means, be as resourceful as you can and work as hard as you can to make sure all of the fundamentals are in place. But also come to terms with the fact that, like a lot of stuff in marketing, startups, and life, circumstance and luck play a huge role in success.”
No launch is perfect. But if you make a good product, leverage your existing connections, and work hard on launch day, hey—you may end up with a new trophy in your digital trophy case.
Thanks for reading! For more industry insights and how-tos, check our blog regularly.