Getting From MVP to Product Hunt

A few months ago, we decided that we would prepare ourselves for a public launch on Product Hunt (PH). In this blog post, I’ll discuss that experience – where we were before we decided to get on PH, what we did to prepare, what happened on the day of our launch, successes, failure, and what we’ve been up to since.

TL;DR; If you are going to launch publicly, getting on Product Hunt is a great way to start. It will force you to iron out many of the early kinks in your offering and the experience will be largely positive.

It was November and we were still very much in “closed beta” mode. We had a product that worked, we had some customers, and we also had a handful of great ideas for further development and our big vision in-hand. We faced a couple of problems:

  • All of our ideas sounded great, but given the limited resources, we weren’t sure how to rank and prioritize them.
  • We needed more validation, possibly better ideas from new customers – customers who would judge our offering with fresh eyes.

One of our advisers suggested that we consider launching on PH. We’d get in front of more potential customers, get some much needed exposure, and some humbling criticism. We could then prioritize based on what a large pool of customers wanted! Brilliant! As soon we set our targets on PH (along with a concrete deadline), a few more problems immediately cropped up:

  • How do we entice PH users sign-up for the service?
  • How do we show our customers how to tell their customers about the ability to use SMS as a communication channel?
  • How do we introduce Sonar’s capabilities to new users?
  • Was our system ready for the assumed load a product hunt launch would put on our app?
  • What is the best way to explain to new users how the service works?

So, those are a list of problems we had to solve, on top of any bugs and crashes that had to be ironed out in a sensible manner. We solved them by:

  • Creating a special free trial-offer for PH readers to give Sonar a shot, this is highly suggested by the PH team when doing an exclusive PH launch.
  • We created the Sonar Ping widget – an easy way for anyone visiting a mobile website to send the organization an SMS text. All it takes is two lines of javascript and a little button is generated that customers can click to open their SMS app with your number pre-populated.
  • Re-designing our front-page to be clearer both in-terms of messaging and a call to action.
  • Limiting new users by requiring a verification code, which we would send to them via SMS before they could sign-in, to make sure our dev-ops could handle the new users.
  • Providing a short and sweet tour of the most important capabilities upon sign-in in the form of a few tool-tips upon registration

And then we tested everything as well as we could given our time constraints.

Jim Carrey once played a karate instructor on Saturday Night Live. To demonstrate his skills, he asked one of his students to punch him. The punch landed, and he blamed her for not doing it correctly. This is how we felt when we asked a few people unfamiliar with Sonar to give our front-page and on-boarding a test-drive. We then licked our bruises and made the necessary improvements.

Some other important things we did along the way:

  • We came up with a new, clearer pricing structure.
  • Designed an on-boarding flow — a way for visitors to be guided from the front-page, to the signing up page, to eventually becoming paying customers.
  • Fixed as many bugs in functionality and feel as we could find.
  • Ensured that all issues and to-do items needed for launch were recorded and tracked.

We also left off doing certain things until “when we need them”. One such example was what needed to be done when a trial expires. Trials last for 14 days, so we’d have 14 days to add functionality to send  automated upgrade reminders, and allow users to upgrade their account through the interface.

At 9am on 17th December, we had Erik Torenberg (Product Hunt founding team member and 500 Startups Family) post Sonar on PH, and waited.. and waited. We tweeted about it, and posted on Facebook, and told everyone we knew, but really not a whole lot happened. Then, right after lunch, things started to pick up – we began to steadily gain more and more up-votes, people showing excitement, and asking questions. We spent a good part of that day on PH refreshing the page and answering questions as quickly as possible, as suggested by Erik. We ended up in the #5 position for the day on the PH rankings.

A steady number of companies signed up for a free trial. A few days later, some of those companies decided to sign up for a paid account.

Failures:

  • No silver bullet! We prepared ourselves for a massive flood of new sign-ups and traffic. This was not the case. Although we did get a number of new businesses coming aboard, it wasn’t the tidal wave that we’d lead ourselves to believe. Your mileage will vary, of course. It is still worth the shot. As a side note, I believe consumer products most likely get a larger number of sign ups than B2B products.
  • While our application was set-up for tracking via Google Analytics, when we re-designed our front-page, we overlooked adding GA back.

Successes:

  • More paying companies! Businesses whose use-cases we did not think of before the PH launch signed up and became paying customers – product companies who allow their customers to send them SMS messages, to home-service companies that are in constant touch with their staff and customers, to professional services companies that send their clients friendly reminders and field questions.
  • In getting ready for the PH launch, we fixed: the product, the pricing, how we communicated internally, how we signed up new users and their experience starting out. All of these have helped us since and we’ve only grown more confident from the PH experience. All within the span of a few weeks. This was probably the most valuable part of the PH launch, thinking through our messaging and on-boarding in expectation of getting in front of super early adopters.

Since the launch, we have been hard at work. First, we tried our best to stay in touch with our customers to see how Sonar is working out for them and also how we can make improvements. We have been able to gain a better understanding of our market and our product. This means more awesome features that make for happy clients. Product feedback is invaluable.

Want to reach your customers via SMS? Try Sonar!

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One thought on “Getting From MVP to Product Hunt”

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