On August 27, 2020 I finally launched Story Creator.
In this post I am going to talk about how I took Story Creator to the #1 product of the day so you can learn from the launch.
You'll learn what mistakes I made, what I did well, and the "why" behind some of the decisions I made. I will also be sharing some numbers – because stats are awesome.
Committing to the launch
My recommendation is to commit to a launch date about 1 week ahead. Be realistic about the timeline, you should believe your product is top notch quality one week before the launch. If it's not then the chances of you getting #1 are low.
There is a balance that you should be aware of and you need to be honest with yourself. If you don't think your product is ready then don't launch. If you are finding yourself adding features upon features with paying customers then you're procrastinating.
It's a fact you will never feel ready, but if you can properly assess where you are at, then you my friend will succeed – perfectionism kills dreams, execute.
A quick checklist to make sure you are ready.
- Use a new email and go through your product from scratch
- Tighten up code and test days before
- Make sure you have pricing integrated and working
- Have your friends test the product and see if there are any issues
- If you have users monitor logs for a few days
Join online communities
This is something you should start today, right now actually, open a new tab and find Facebook groups, Slack groups, etc. Be a part of something and show up every day or every other day.
Obviously you won't secure a place in a community overnight, it takes time to be a familiar member who is liked for giving value. As long as you're trying sooner rather than later, then it will naturally happen. Just be on the lookout for cool communities and make friends.
These folks ideally are enthusiasts for SaaS products and or could be potential customers. Folks who understand your space and or who love your mission. These people should know how Product Hunt works and have an understanding of what it can mean for you the product developer – the audience you build should be into tech products.
Lastly I recommend being consistent and offering value. You want to build social capital, then you can use that capital to do an ask later down the road, i.e launch day. Trust me it's not a chore, it's actually quite fun. The hardest part is just getting started, so what are you waiting for?
Get feedback early
Maybe I launched later than the "ship fast" community would like. I do believe you need to reach a certain standard first. So before launching I did acquire several paying customers. I went through an accelerator program called pioneer.app. I also launched on Hacker News and was #1 on there for a while https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24054382
I spent months building, growing, getting feedback through product feedback platforms, and iterating. I put the product to the test. Remember the key is knowing when to say enough is enough and just ship – find the balance.
For me the point where I knew it was time was when I hit my 10th customer, when the product was trending on Hacker News, and the feedback overall was positive. Did I know it could be better? Sure, but before launch I knew it was in a good enough state to compete for the #1 spot and that is the state you are shooting for.
If the feedback you're getting shows signs that you're ready, you still wont "feel" ready. The signs are clear though, so despite your feelings, you now know it's time to ship it.
Set your goals
Leading up to the launch you should want to get something out of it. Assuming you're geared up for a #1 spot you want to move your business forward, not just hit a vanity metric.
My goal was to sell as many lifetime deals as I could up to 100. While also putting Story Creator on the map and creating some recognition. The third goal was to be able to write about this achievement and share – it creates energy.
Yours may be different, however you should have them in place. Leading up to the launch you want to get your copy down, add the banners to get folks to upgrade, add the Stripe integrations, make promotional videos, optimize the user journey for your KPIs.
Then do a bit of testing, you will still feel nervous, it's natural. As long as you know you gave it your all and were as prepared as possible, then just trust the process.
Create your launch material
This is the last step before the actual launch. This doesn't need a whole lot of time, I actually preferred doing this last minute because the assets came out more natural and I didn't have time to overthink it.
Most of your time should be spent on the above ☝️. I remember 8:00 pm hitting after spending most of the day optimizing for the LTD, creating videos, banners, etc. Then I hung out with my girlfriend for about 1-2 hours. Around 10:00 pm is when I went back to work creating the GIF for the launch and the product previews.
Around 11:30 pm is when I shot the YouTube video, then I used Story Creators automatic subtitles to quickly add subtitles to the video and a progress bar. Then at about 11:50 pm I uploaded it to YouTube. Around 11:55 pm I wrote the copy for the launch this took me about 8 minutes.
Then boom 💥 12:00 pm hit and it was time to rock and roll.
Rock and roll time 🤘👨🎤
Now it's time to shine and get the flywheel going. This is the most important time of the launch, at 12:00 am you should be sharp – I made a coffee and was prepared to engage for 3-4 hours.
Going back to the communities I was involved with, that is where I started the train – without spamming I just posted in the general chat. I let my good friends know. I reached out to folks in my Instagram DMs, reached out on Twitter DMs, I made public posts on Twitter, and Indie Hackers
At first Story Creator wasn't even listed on the front page. I was actually kind of nervous. I was looking at my votes and clearly based on the votes I should have been on the top – my friend had his product de-listed because of the same IPs voting twice. He reached out to support and had it fixed. I was nervous the same thing was happening.
Fortunately after some time the algorithm updated and Story Creator was on the front page. This was within the first half hour.
During this time you want to keep stroking the fire, keep reaching out to people letting them know you've launched and would really appreciate their support. Reach out to your contact list in your SMS, reach out to LinkedIn, hit up old co-workers, whatever it takes, let the world know. Don't be afraid to be a bit annoying, it's not like you're doing it everyday, the livelihood of your product depends on getting a jolt of energy.
Engage with everyone
Now your job is to purely engage with folks on Twitter, Product Hunt, and whichever channel you are buzzing on.
You want to keep engaging because that's where the fun is, it's where you have an opportunity to keep the flywheel going and meet new people that want to support your mission.
You want to optimize for retweets. There isn't much you can do to control other people retweeting – it's awkward asking for a retweet. I found the best thing you can do is have the right initial folks in your following that really support what you're doing and that get the power of retweeting. Be as authentic and genuine as you can – with that you can't go wrong.
Get some rest 😴
Once the fire is going then it's ok to go get some rest, you'll need it, and you deserve it. I found 3:00 am - 4:00 am is generally the time where things cool off and if you're in the top 3 you should be good. Ideally the momentum is strong and when you sleep there are still people talking about you.
If your product is solid and people are seeing the value of it quickly, and you have a good UI/UX. Then people will get a good first impression and hit the upvote button. I have a free demo that visitors can check out. It's super low friction and if you like the demo then it's a no brainer.
All these things matter while sleeping. Stable high quality product and lots of buzz/momentum working for you.
Keep the momentum up
I woke up to see Story Creator still in the #1 spot. I wasn't that far ahead though so I still needed to keep the fire alive.
This shot was taken about 3 hours I woke up. I think I was about 50 - 100 ahead by the time I woke up. I wasn't satisfied with that yet -- playing sports my whole life I know how dangerous it is to get comfortable with a lead.
Between 12:00 pm - 8:00 pm I repeated what I've been doing. I would share updates around the launch to get people excited and want to retweet even more.
At this point it was smooth sailing. Now was opportunity to make new partnerships and let my name be known in the SaaS world. I talked to some interesting folks and set up some meetings.
I also closed $4k in LTD which gave Story Creator a boost of cash so the company could stay alive for a few more months – which is amazing. At this point I can build and improve the product without so much stress.
Hitting #1 on Product Hunt can be amazing to put your company on the map. It can be amazing to get some cash in the door to validate your mission. It's a fun experience and it's great when you have a product in the backend that sells.
However, PH is just the beginning. It shows you the power of the internet and puts you on the map. The real work begins the day after. From here it is up to you to make sales out in the wild, do PR on your own, and make content that keeps buzzing around the web.
From here I am focused on SEO editorial link and content. Imagine getting the same amount of traffic from Product Hunt inside the Google SERPs daily – 🤯. That would be amazing and truly lucrative. If your PH launch went well then you know you will crush it once your pages are ranked for high intent keywords. It's just a matter of getting there.