Is it possible to have a startup without knowing what ProductHunt is?
I don’t know, but with a staggering number of eyeballs on the site every day, no startup can afford to miss out on a shot at ProductHunt fame – we at Gophr are no exception.
With a major announcement on the way a few weeks ago, we began to look at our options for getting press. We worked out who would be most interested in our announcement, how to get in touch with them and how many readers we would reach. More importantly, we got our heads down and started making improvements to our user experience, adding some essential features and squashing bugs. We wanted everything to go off without a hitch.
It was around this time that we started looking at ProductHunt. With an audience that seemed predominantly valley-based, we weren’t so sure our London-focused courier startup would be very relevant, but we decided to go with it anyways.
After having a bit of a think on how we’d do this we realised that our friend William Channer or the excellent Dorm Room Tycoon podcast and Panda fame, offered to post it up for us. He has form on posting good stuff and has way more reach than us so took him up on the offer.
We pulled together the various screenshots and bits needed to post. To support this we thought we’d include a bit in our newsltter about our presence on ProductHunt on the day, and also added an free credit offer for ProductHunters to trial a delivery on us.
The plan was simple: post at 10am UK time on our chosen day, keep an eye on the comments and answer any questions ProductHunters have and as long as we get plenty of London viewers, all should be good, right? …Not so much.
We posted at 10am as planned. The product list was small at this point and we took off quickly alongside the day’s number 1 product, Hoist. A few people around our shared office had voted us up and by 11am we were easily above 30 votes with a few registrations to our service pouring in.
Things were getting exciting.
At 1pm, we sent out our newsletter to our userbase. Amongst everything else, we included a mention of ProductHunt, with a link to the ProductHunt site (but not to our specific listing) and no call to action to vote us up or anything. We must’ve been at around 80 votes by this point. Despite the 2nd highest number of votes, we swung between 2nd and 4rth place for most of the morning – A little weird, but we knew ProductHunt’s ranking algorithm was more sophisiticated than ‘most votes win’ so we didn’t think much of it. Registrations were coming in, traffic was high and everyone was happy.
By mid-afternoon, though, things started to get a little weird. Our vote number was still climbing, at 100+, and still keeping us firmly in second place, votes-wise. Despite this, we were beginning to fall down the rankings. 2nd place…then 4th place…then 6th place? At this point, we noted “UK Only” had been added to our title – we had already mentioned this in the top comment, but we figured it didn’t hurt to make it clearer. After all, our offer was only available to London-based ProductHunters, given that our courier service is only active across London.
6th place was just the start though. Within an hour of having the UK-only clarification added to our product title by forces unknown, we started to drop. 6th…7th…13TH?!
We knew something was up. We were still in 2nd place votes-wise with our vote count fast approaching 160. Heck, even a product with a single vote was above us! Had we been penalised for not making our UK-only restriction more clear? Had it been several people in the office voting with the same IP? Had it been our newsletter link?
At this point, we were sure we were going to be kicked off of the front-page entirely. We remained at position 14 for the rest of the day, thankfully, and as the West Coast started to wake up and cast their votes over the next few hours, the numbers began to leave us behind anyway. With high visibility across GMT hours, we believe we got the best possible time in the limelight, but we’ll always be wondering how much more traffic and how many more votes we would have gotten…
On a brighter note, here’s the uplift in traffic we got from the site.
Our total sessions for the day gave us a 700% increase in our usual traffic – a huge jump! While much of this traffic came from the U.S. and thus wasn’t a great match for us, we did end up with several new UK customers and many new jobs booked. We got lots of attention on social media, and lots of positive, useful feedback. Best of all? We got the chance to bring more attention to the living wage conflict within the courier industry, and highlight ourselves as the first courier company in the UK to pay a living wage – although admittedly this probably means very little to an audience outside of the UK.
Despite only half a day’s traction, ProductHunt worked out well for us overall. On reflection, there are several things we wouldn’t repeat: we wouldn’t have linked ProductHunt in our newsletter (It seems that PH detects sporadic groups of votes) and we wouldn’t have let everyone in the office and friends and family know about our placement. It looks like multiple IP voting could have been an issue. We would also have tried to make our UK-only offering more clear (though at the time we thought it was already very clear!)
We only got 8 of our 24 hours ProductHunt fame, but that alone was a firehose of traffic. Our one advice? Don’t be put off by your service area – ProductHunt has a global audience.