Product Hunt has been an integral part of many product launch strategies. A surge of traffic to your app’s iTunes page or website for free? Why not, right?

But to play any game, you need to first learn the rules.

What’s the deal with Product Hunt?

Product Hunt App Screenshot

Product Hunt receives tens of thousands of viewers every day who want to explore the latest in tech, games, books, and podcasts. If you are one of the featured apps for a given day, you will appear at the top of the feed and acquire a lot of traffic to your product. As an added bonus, being one of the top 5 featured apps will also get you published in the next day’s email that summarizes the previous day’s activities.

While it costs $0 for your product to be discovered on this platform, it is a closed system. Success can vary widely based on how influential your hunter is, how strong the content is on your Product Hunt page, and what other products you are competing against in the leaderboard that day.

This influx of traffic is especially important for iOS app launches since the App Store’s ranking system favors apps with strong early traction and positive reviews.

Why are some hunters more important than others?

Besides having a kickass product, who submits your product is the single biggest factor for being featured on the Product Hunt front page. There has even been a recent debate on Hacker News about the fairness of this practice. If you’re interested in the backstory, check out the original post and the founder’s response. However, I will not be commenting on the debate in this article. I’m a fan of Product Hunt and respect the way they want to run their product.

So if you already have a Product Hunt account, can you just submit the app yourself? The answer is “it depends”. Product Hunt gives significantly more weight to a small group of influencers and power users. If you’re one of these users, then submit away! But if you are not, your best shot of being featured on the front page is to have one of these power users (aka hunters) submit your app.

But how do you find these hunters? Your best bet is by looking at who has submitted products on the front page, especially the ones in your category. I’ll be walking you through how we did it for our app, Core15, in the rest of this article.

How we started

First and foremost, my partner and I set a public launch date for our app. As makers, we knew better than anyone that having such a deadline was the only way to stop us from working on the app forever. With a date set, we started researching on Product Hunt for similar apps in our category–Health & Fitness. You can do this through Product Hunt’s search function, but I’d highly suggest running your own competitive analysis on the web first and cross-checking if those products have been hunted. In our case, we knew about a competitor’s app, 7 Minute Workout, before and searched for it on Product Hunt by name.

Identify Product Hunt User Demo

Once you’ve identified a strong product with a lot of traction (high number of upvotes and comments), identify the hunter of that product. It is your mission to find a prominent hunter who submits a lot of apps and frequently engages with the community. An influential individual with a strong following can drastically increase your visibility.

Get to know your hunter

Remember, this hunter is a human being with a beating heart and feelings. And just like any other human being, he/she hates it when strangers ask them for a favor cold-turkey. In short, don’t be a jerk.

My partner and I started researching our hunter’s background. We learned that he is the founder of a boutique app development shop and very influential in the mobile app and product development community. We started reading his blog and familiarized ourselves with his values and opinions. We primed our connection by following him on Product Hunt, commenting on his blog posts, sharing his content through social media, and subscribing to his newsletter. Once we had built a rapport, it wasn’t nearly as awkward for us to engage with him.

Crafting the request

We went into crafting the “ask” with the following goals in mind:

  • Share our appreciation for his past work by establishing a connection to specific content
  • Make our introduction short and sweet
  • Give early access to your product or offer any other value exchange as a gesture
  • Keep it fun & interesting

As you will see in the screenshot below, we made reviewing our app a breeze by including a video walkthrough. Since joining an app’s beta isn’t always the easiest thing (beta invite, TestFlight, etc.), most would actually prefer to watch a well-made demo video.

Reach out email sample

The cold email to our potential hunter

Our hunter responded with a happy yes and complimented us for constructing a short video to intro our app and for the funny image we posted at the tail end of the email.

Good luck!

If your experience is like ours, you’ll see that most people love to be helpful as long as they can see that you’re putting up a solid effort. Don’t be surprised if your hunter has a specific request in return for assisting you. Marketing is all about value exchange. Be open-minded and know that it’s all worth it in the end when your app ends up on the front page of Product Hunt!

Interested in the actual numbers we received on our Product Hunt launch? We’ll be sharing those numbers in the next post. Stay tuned!

Thoughts or feedback? Tweet me at @wakeupmrkim.

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