254: How to Launch Your Product
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In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten discuss the best practices to launch your product. Hiten uses his own launch of Draftsend as the basis of this discussion—a new platform that allows users to create and share their interactive presentations. Listen as Hiten gives listeners a behind-the-scenes take on a very unique and successful product launch where he leveraged social media and invited customers to take part in the launch itself. Tune-in to hear Hiten’s process firsthand and to learn how you can adopt these extremely wise strategies.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
- 00:27 – Today’s topic: how to launch your product
- 00:34 – Hiten recently launched Draftsend
- 01:47 – Steli congratulates HIten for Draftsend’s launch success
- 03:01 – Draftsend’s launch was all over social media
- 03:13 – Draftsend is a platform that allows you to create and share interactive presentations; you upload a pdf and audio and Draftsend acts a viewer
- 03:23 – “It feels like a video, and people are able to listen to a presentation”
- 03:33 – For those creating , you can record right on your browser on top of the pdf while going through your slides
- 03:45 – One key feature of Draftsend: all presentations are public
- 03:51 – Draftsend can feature your presentation right on their website
- 04:01 – “If you’re building a CRM, you don’t have the same opportunity to be all over social media, because your product should be shared on social media all the time”
- 04:32 – We had 20 people share their presentations for our launch day; we tweeted and promoted their content throughout the launch day
- 04:48 – Take advantage of the opportunity to share your content
- 05:07 – Having a definitive launch date encouraged those 20 customers to finish their presentations in time
- 06:04 – Our goal by having these 20 initial customers was to demonstrate what our product could do so that people could get inspired
- 06:18 – If it wasn’t just Hiten’s content that was displayed by Draftsend, he knew others would be more apt to share it
- 06:36 – Draftsend was launched in Product Hunt
- 07:14 – This product was so unique they wanted to access Product Hunt’s audience as opposed to just launching to their own existing audience
- 08:09 – Steli cannot believe a product like Draftsend did not exist before Hiten launched it
- 08:53 – Product Hunt has a very positive community
- 10:11 – Product Hunt gives tons of exposure; and people really care about giving their feedback
- 10:46 – Draftsend initially had 110-113 comments in Product Hunt
- 11:29 – “Launch when you know the thing will NOT fall down”
- 11:51 – Solicit feedback in your community and engage with the audience
- 12:43 – The launch date is not the birth of your product
- 13:59 – Product Hunt has an upcoming feature where you can set-up a “coming soon” page for your product
- 14:38 – The launch went well because Hiten and his team kept adjusting and learning thru the feedback they received prior to its actual launch
- 15:51 – Hiten already had hundreds of people suing Draftsend before they launched it on Product Hunt
- 16:16 – A launch is not just a launch where you can expect to just sit back and collect—it’s a small event that encourages you to refine your product, create growth loops, gain more users etc.
- 17:01 – Some people think they’re work is done after a launch, it’s just beginning and it’s NOT the hardest part of the process
- 17:33 – Your launch is like the beginning of business
- 19:25 – The number one goal for Draftsend’s launch was to get as much feedback as possible
- 20:07 – The second goal for the launch was to do everything Hiten can to maximize what happens—make adjustments on the fly during the launch to maximize user experience
- 22:13 – They were deliberate in asking for feedback
- 22:28 – Don’t have any expectations, so you don’t get disappointed
- 23:39 – Please give us a rating and a review on iTunes!
3 Key Points:
- Try to leverage social media with your launch to maximize your visibility.
- Your launch date is NOT your birth date of your product or service—test run your product way before launching to get feedback and make the necessary tweaks and adjustments.
- Set goals but never set any expectation for your launches.
Hey everybody, Steli Efti.
And this is Hiten Shah. And on today’s episode of the Startups Chat, we’re going to do something that commonly happens, which is Steli just comes up with a topic, and we talk about it. And usually it has something to do with something in one of our lives, and recently I launched a new product on Product Hunt. It’s called Draftsend, D R A F T S E N D.com and we want to talk about how to launch a product because I just did it and honestly, this morning Steli just launched another e-book, I believe, right Steli?
Yes. That’s true.
So, Steli’s launching stuff. I’m launching stuff. So we’re going to talk about launching stuff. Yeah, so where should we start Steli?
Well, first of all congrats, right?
I’ve been launching e-books this year quite frequently but when it comes to a real product, something that I know that you’ve put a lot of time an energy and doing customer research and really just going from one discovery til the next until you found a product that you guys had enough data to support that you really had that could have been potential and that a lot of people could utilize and use it, get value from, that’s a really long journey all the way up until launching something. Even just observing your launch make me really excited, that make me realize it’s been long time since I launched a real product out there. So, first of all, congrats. Congrats on the success. I was seeing Draftsend everywhere.
It’s just like dominating all my timelines. And usually I get annoyed by this if I’m not involved but yesterday I was secretly living through your experience, you know, like living through your launch, and every time I saw someone talk positively about it, I took a little pride in it and I was like smiling and excited for you.
I appreciate that.
So yeah, there’s a lot that’s going on before the launch but this is the way that I think will provide the most value to the listeners. It’s just talk us through … There was a moment where you and your co-founder, you guys decided okay, this is a … This product. We’re going to want to launch it publicly. Tell us what the plan was. The thinking. How did you guys chose the date, and the day of the week, what you did to prepare the launch, and then how it was to go through the day just the 24 hours of like posting … Launching your product , being in the social media world when, and how you reacted to things. Just guide us through the pre-launch and then to the launch day itself. A little bit of you guys’ thinking on the strategic level.
Yeah. Sounds good. It was all over social media for a very specific reason, and I’m going to start by saying that depending on what your product is, you launch it in a slightly different way but the steps are the same. So Draftsend is a product where you can put a PDF, upload it, add audio, and then you get this … I should say beautiful viewer, because that’s what other people say. And in that viewer, it feels like a video and people are able to listen to a presentation. And the people who created that video have this experience where they’re recording right in their browser on top of the PDF and going through their slides. So, what we realize is … And the one feature we have is that for free, all the presentations are publicly. So what we realized is there’s a bunch of great content out there, and we can actually ask some people if they want to feature something and be promoted on that day. And that’s what really helped us do a lot of social media. And the reason I started there is because if you’re building a CRM, you don’t have the same opportunity to be all over social media because your product should be shared on social media, all the time.
So if we’re successful with this product, there’s Draftsend links of people’s presentations being shared every day. Right now there aren’t. We have a lot more work to do. But, at the end of the day, on the launch day, we knew from a strategic standpoint, we could have a lot of tweets going on for ourselves and other people and even the people that recorded these presentations, by just coordinating a little bit. So we had about, I think, right under 20 people who ended having presentations that they were comfortable sharing publicly and we were able to tweet those throughout the day. So that was a big helpful thing outside of even a product launch or anything like that. And so if you have an opportunity where you have content created in your product or some tweets that are really something like that … That’s really powerful. And so that was a key part of our strategy and we actually … One thing we learned, which no one’s going to take as a surprise, especially you, Steli, is that until we had a date of our launch day, and it was definitive, it was very hard to get those 20 people to finish recording. And record something for us. Not because the product was hard to record with. People actually loved the way it records, thankfully, because that was a little nerve-wracking for a bunch of reasons. But it was because once they had a deadline they were like, alright cool, I got to do it by then. Yeah. And where am I going to go? We’re going to do a bunch of tweets. We’ll see what happens. So it’s not like we were promising them anything besides some level of promotion, but it ended up being really cool, and those people also, if their experience was good with the product, which it was, they started commenting on product and tweeting it out and sharing on Facebook and it was just … It wasn’t like, some people like, oh you need influencers or something. We didn’t pick out these people because they’re influencers. We just needed good presentations and good things to say. We could have probably spent more time finding people with larger audiences and things like that, maybe it would have helped. But our goal wasn’t that. Our goal was just to demonstrate what the product can do and have enough of these example videos so people can get inspired when they look at the product. Otherwise we would have to record all these videos or something like that. And so that was a key part of our strategy, and if it wasn’t just our content, we knew that more people would share it. So I think that was unique part of the launch of this product. I haven’t had a product where I could launch it like that, and so that’s why the social media thing you said, I think it has a lot to do with that aspect of it. Yeah.
Now, you guys decided to launch on Product Hunt, right?
Although you’ve been a very active and influential member of the Product Hunt user group, this is the first time you launched on there.
Yeah. This is the first.
So tell us about that experience. Why did you guys choose to do that? I know that it has a lot to do with the audience that you want to reach with this product. And then how was that experience differently from just launching it on your own website basically?
Yeah. So, a lot of our other products that I’ve built, they don’t really … They already have an audience long, long before we launch it. This product was a little bit unique where we didn’t want to use any of those audiences. Number one. Number two, we felt like Product Hunt as a crowd, being product people and the kind of people that are really curious about new products, would really appreciate this product because it’s something you can’t really do anywhere very easily. We looked around. And when it clicked for us, we got really excited about it and realized that it’s a little bit of the cutting edge of like kind of different, kind of innovative, but we don’t know what’s going to happen next. Honestly.
Let me say something … Let me say something on this. When you first showed me Draftsend, I could not believe this doesn’t exist. I was like, this is cool and then I went online, I went to a few places and I thought I’m sure one of these tools has this. And then I was like, no, they don’t. It’s one of these things where it’s so obvious now that I’ve seen it that it’s still hard for me to believe that this didn’t exist before you guys put it … It’s like how is it possible this didn’t exist before? But I couldn’t find a solution. That’s super cool.
Yeah. It’s one of these weird things, right? And it’s really weird. And it’s been weird for us too because we looked around and were like, why doesn’t this exist? So, you know, for us, the strategy on product development, and I do want to talk about that because I have a bunch of lessons that I haven’t shared yet and don’t know when I will at this rate. It was the first product that launched on Product Hunt. I can explain the social media strategy, which was just because this product is unique and we can do that with this product. The thing about Product Hunt is that it’s a very positive community. And we knew that, because I’ve been a long time user. I’ve submitted many products. I have the most popular collection on there called Free Stuff for Startups and it’s a community … I wouldn’t say I’m like a big time commenter, but I will comment maybe once a month, maybe twice a month sometimes, but I’m all over it in terms of looking for products and looking things up and submitting my fair share of stuff. And the thing that I was pleasantly surprised by is, but it was also delivered on our part for this product, is how positive people are and also if you ask feedback, how much feedback they’ll give you. So we literally both … Marie, my business partner, and I, had written up our comment that we wanted to say. They were a little bit different. Hers talked a lot about use cases. Mine talked a lot more about why we built this product a little bit and what we learned. And our whole purpose of it was just to get as much possible feedback as we could. And that was a goal with this community. Because what we know and what everyone who’s listening should about Product Hunt is, it isn’t one of those communities or one of those sites that’s going to necessarily get you a ton of sign ups of people that are going to be paying customers. What it will get you is a ton of exposure and a ton of people who really deeply care and have used almost every product out there. Many of these people are very active on Product Hunt in terms of looking at products and discovering products and wanting to know the newest, greatest, latest thing. A lot of them are product people. Some of them are designers. Some of them are engineers. Some of them are founders. But overall … And a lot of them are investors too. But overall it’s people that are really into discovering new products so they’ve tried a lot of things. So when you put yourself out there on there, and you really ask for feedback, you get it. We had like 110 … 113 something comments. And it’s because we were engaged. Everybody that commented, we had something to say to them, and we really even dug in deeper. We got a ton of messages even on our site because we had drift turned on across all of it. So that’s another tip, which is like turn on that chat thing and be on it. Both Marie and I were on chat. That whole day was like a blur now because neither of us talked to each other all day, which is like totally weird, but we were on our computers literally … One, making sure nothing went wrong and our engineers were ready, but that we took care of. We were actually delayed by about five to seven days on launching because of some issues that we noticed after we let a bunch of more early access people in. When you were talking about date, you launch when you know the thing will not fall down. It’s the best idea I have. Because ours was falling down at one point and we thought we were launch a day before, and we were like nope, not going to happen. Or it turned out great because more people published those decks that we needed and wanted and all that. For us, the community, I would … The biggest piece of advice I have for people is solicit feedback from that community in the comment that you make after your product is posted and then engage with them. And the main reason is, you will get feedback that really helps you. For example, within the next couple of days, we’re going to send an email to everyone that’s signed up and actually explain to them what we learned from the launch in terms of about this product, and ask them some questions about what we should do next. And it’s not like questions like, oh what should we do next? It’s more like, some very deliberate type of surveying so we can understand what features are important to them because this is a feedback-oriented community. This is a community that wants to tell you what the heck’s wrong with it, to be honest, and how to make it better.
So one thing I want to highlight and then have a question for you. So the one thing I want to highlight, because it seems obvious to you and me, I’m sure it’s not obvious to all people, I know for a fact it isn’t. The launch day is not the first … It’s not the exact birth of your product in the sense of like the first time a user or a person could come to your website and sign up for your service. That’s not the official launch date. You could allow people to use your products for months and months and months … For a year. And then have a big launch date. People always think that the moment they hear about something as it’s launching, is the very first moment everybody hears about it, and that’s just not true. That’s just like when you read in the tech news about some company raising out of the ground. It doesn’t mean that it happened that morning. It could have been a year ago that they raced around. They just decided to announce the financing that very morning. So you guys were allowing people … Bringing people in very deliberately to use the product, to try the product and, you know, gathering feedback. And eventually you decided to go and launch it really publicly.
I can’t stress this enough. You’re right, we had a relatively long early access period. We actually had people using this product several months ago. One thing I want to point out on a related note is Product Hunt has this feature called ship. We were one of the first users of the feature, and it has this, I guess, feature, called upcoming, where you can basically put a pre-launch page up on Product Hunt and they will … The Product Hunt user base will basically come there and say they want early access to your product. So we had about 1,800 people who said they want early access to the product, and we were bringing a bunch of those folks in slowly and having them try the recording. And we were learning a ton about the user experience and kept refining it, because people would hit some issues. And so one of the reasons the launch went well and people really liked our specific way that we do recordings, was because we kept learning prior to launching on Product Hunt exactly where the issues were and we fixed as many of them as we thought we could before we launched. And because Product Hunt has this feature and then they have a free plan on it too … They have some paid stuff as well. You can use it to basically get early users. Even if it’s a few hundred, that’s still better than zero. And all those things … That whole ability to get those early users, I used to have to do that on my own manually. Whether through advertising or lots of sharing or tweets or pleading with people to sign up or joining some communities and getting them to be really into the product. And Product Hunt has made that really easy because like I said, they have this community of people who love trying products and giving feedback. That’s essentially what that community’s all about. And obviously, as a lurker, who’s just viewing it, even if you don’t have an account, you’re discovering products. So there is some level of people who will discover it, you will get exposure. But the primary on Product Hunt, for me, is that you get even more feedback. And if you can refine the experience prior to that you’ll get that much better feedback when you launch it. So you’re absolutely correct. We didn’t launch on Product Hunt and say oh no, here we go, first time anyone’s going to see it. We actually had hundreds of people using it prior to that so we could validate it and make sure that things were working and we could refine it. I’ve been doing that so you’re right. I’ve been doing that for every single thing I’ve done since 2005. It’s just something natural. It’s also a part of … At the core part of the lean startup principles where a launch isn’t a launch. You shouldn’t just be launching and then expect the world to change for you. You should actually refine your product. Launch just ends up being this small-ish event … I mean, the way I look at it now and the way I talk to our team is that hey, we’re barely starting now. We did all this work already to get up to here, the day was great, we got a whole bunch of people playing with the product, trying it, and all that kind of stuff. Now it’s like when the real work begins because there isn’t another launch. It’s not like we get to launch this thing again and then expect lots of people to use it on a single day. Now we have to actually do all the hard work to create the growth loops in it, make it actually work, figure out how to get users and paying customers, iterate the product. All that stuff that I think some people would … I’d even go further Steli and say some people think you’re done. And I don’t mean you’re done, but this was the hardest. This was actually the easiest thing. And then I can’t say it was easy. And I don’t think would when they put their product out there in the world. I guess those are my thoughts on it. As somebody who’s launched products before, and yes, just like you, I haven’t launched a product in a very long. On Product Hunt or anywhere else. It was definitely an awesome experience and something that I think just is almost like the beginning of a business in a lot of ways. When you put out there publicly and it’s fully open, and anyone can use it. And anyone listening should definitely check out Product Hunt’s upcoming feature so you can get early users. It was the easiest way. The best experience I have had at getting users early. And then, should basically consider posting it on Product Hunt when they’re ready for feedback. Not necessarily customers. Because I don’t think Product Hunt is the best place to get customers for every type of product. Only for a few select type of products like a product manager tool or a productivity tool. Things like that, that you think would work with that audience, definitely you can get customers. But most products that are out there, Product Hunt isn’t the place to get customers. In fact, most channels like Product Hunt where there’s community and people are looking at products all the time, isn’t the best place to necessarily get customers.
Alright then. That should be useful. I just want to ask one more question and then we’ll wrap this episode up. From all … And again, this is something that, I intuitively understand what you’re doing and aligned with it, but I want to highlight it because I’m afraid somebody might miss this. When you launched, before you launched, did you set the goal on the launch date, we need to get whatever, 100 upvotes. We need to be the first, the most popular product on Product Hunt that day. Or did you set a goal like we need X amount of comments, or we want to have 1000 sign ups. Do you set these kind of like metric goals or not? Or was there something else that was … How did you measure success yesterday during the day and at the end of the launch day, what was your number one focus that you’re trying to accomplish with the launch, and how did you measure if you did accomplish that?
That’s a great question and I do have an answer. Number one goal, get as much feedback as possible from that community.
I know I’m like a broken record in this podcast-
No. I wanted you to say it.
Dude. Number one, get feedback. Get as much input from these really voracious people that use almost every product out there and hear their opinion. And really spend time to … We crafted the message that we wrote to make sure that we were soliciting feedback and people understood where we stood with this product. Because no product is complete, ever. So when you launch it on Product Hunt, you have this amazing opportunity to get so much input from people about what they think. And then you can determine, obviously, what you want to do based on that, but that was number one. Number two was make sure we do everything we can to maximize what happens. That I think is super important. We cleared our schedules. We made sure that we didn’t … The engineers were ready. We made sure it was on a day when nobody was sick. We actually had an engineer sick the day we wanted to launch too, last week, so we’re not going to launch then because half the engineering team is sick. So things like that. But honestly, number one was feedback, number two was maximize it and make sure we did everything we could. Put our drift up. Be ready to iterate if we had to. We already made a change on our pricing page based on the fact that it was the number one support request was “Do you have a free plan?” The answer is yes we do, but we did not put it on the pricing page originally. Now it shows it on the pricing page. Little stuff like that you learn. And we wanted to be ready to ship, iterate, et cetera. And also make sure the site didn’t go down. But we did not have any goals around number of votes or number sign ups. The reason the majority of the time when you launch something, it is completely unpredictable as to what’s going to happen. Because it’s the first time you’re putting it out there, there’s no heuristics or metrics you can use. I honestly made sure … Because I’m supposed to be the expert on Product Hunt, or whatever, because I’m a top user. That’s what people think even on my team. And probably out there in the world. Honestly, I don’t know what’s going to happen when I launch your product or when I launch my own product on Product Hunt. All I know is I like to set myself up for maximum return on that, and that means opening up my time and making sure I’m there to respond to everybody. Making sure that people are getting responses on drift, and making sure the social media and all that stuff is covered. But I would have been happy with a few hundred votes. That’s the honest truth. On my end. And I made sure our team was aligned with that thinking because it’s like look, if we got a few hundred that’s great. If we got a few hundred sign ups that’s great. We launched. Now the hard work begins anyway, so whatever happens that day, we’re not expecting anything but tons of feedback. And we did get a ton of feedback. We solicited it. That’s why we got it on top of everything else. We could have just launched and said, “Hey, here’s our cool thing. Thanks for trying it, or try it out.” But we didn’t do that. We were very deliberate about wanting the feedback and all that kind of stuff. So I think a lot of people set these goals on these kind of things. I totally get why. But even myself who’s launched a bunch of products on Product Hunt for other people as well as now one of my own, I had no expectation. And it’s because if I did and either I’d be disappointed or I’d blow it away and it doesn’t matter. Like I said, I would have been happy with a few hundred votes. We got number one of the day and we got over 1,000 votes by the end of the day. Obviously once I started seeing it go I was like, alright, I want 1,000 votes now. Once I started seeing it hit 6-700 I was like, alright. Are we going to get to 1,000? What’s going to happen here because this is pretty awesome if we do. But that was about it.
I love it. Well, thank you so much for … A lot of people behind the scenes and look behind the curtain of a big launch like that.
I think that there’s a lot of lessons there for everybody that listened today and now I’m so excited like, what can I launch next? I don’t know. Something. There’s something beautiful about it, but there’s also, just like you said, once you’ve done it a number of times you realize it is just the beginning of a really long journey that’s going to be much harder than that one day, but it’s an exciting day and I think it’s fine to enjoy it as well and to bathe in its excitement. So alright, so this is how you would launch a product. I hope you guys enjoyed the episode. If you did, make sure to go to iTunes and give us five star rating and write us a review, and we’ll hear you very soon.