Lessons from launching a #2 Product of the Year on Product Hunt – for product managers
Today we are talking about getting attention for your product launch. Joining us is a co-founder who got his product to #1 Product of the Day, #1 Product of the Week, and a finalist for Product of the Year on Product Hunt. That’s a lot of attention.
His name is Ken Babcock, and he is the Co-founder and CEO of Tango. Tango allows you to simply create step-by-step tutorials of anything you do in a web browser or on your computer desktop—it simplifies creating instructions or workflows.
Prior to Tango, Ken spent most of his career in the Bay Area at Uber, where he held roles in Launch Operations, Data Science, and Product Strategy.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[3:12] What insight or problem led you to create Tango?
I met my co-founders, Brian and Dan, at Harvard Business School. When we met, we kept talking about team performance. One of the barriers to high performance is creating documentation. It gets outdated quickly, and when it is outdated, people tend to ping you and ask you to update it. The emotions associated with teams creating documentation, which is a conduit to sharing knowledge, were very negative. We thought about how we could shift that to a more positive experience and cut down on pain points.
It takes a long time to create documentation. How could we make this passive? Could we make it something people do in the flow of their work? You go through your process and we create the documentation for you.
I reflected on my Uber experience, where I was on a launch operations team. We took what we learned from cities we had already launched in and applied it to cities we were about to launch in. It was a constant recalibration of our best practices.
[7:48] How do you think about the strategy for getting attention for a new product launch?
Your strategy has to be within the context of what your product is. It all comes back to the product you’re offering and the value proposition to the end user. We were a product-led company, meaning people would download the Chrome extension we’ve built and use it to solve their day-to-day tasks. We were speaking directly to those end users. The call to action was, “You need to go download this because you’re spending too much time creating documentation.” Make sure all those pieces are tight—you understand what you’re selling, the typical emotion, who your customers are, and how they find your product. Product Hunt is not one-size-fits-all. Product Hunt is a great way for early product adopters and end users of technology to find tools. Our strategy informed our decision to launch on Product Hunt because that’s where we were going to meet a lot of customers. To start the conversation, you have to know who the people you’re communicating with on launch are.
[10:54] Take us through the specifics of launching on Product Hunt and getting a product to the top of the charts.
On Product Hunt, every day a new batch of products launches, and those products get upvoted as people interact with them. There’s a #1 product of the day, week, month, and year. We got our product to the #2 Product of the Year, which was pretty cool. Product Hunt is a great way for new products to get visibility; it’s free marketing.
To launch on Product Hunt, you upload a quick blurb on what it is and a few screenshots that walk through what the product does. Someone hunts your product. It’s a good signal if a strong hunter hunts your product. This is all geared toward getting attention and upvotes, because if you get upvotes, more people will see your product.
Those blurbs and screenshots are not a lot to get people to understand the product. We had to be really tight on that messaging. We had to be very clear on what our product does, what it’s solving, and the impact it will have on the end user. Product Hunt is an all-day affair. We launched at midnight Pacific time, which gives time for Europe to interact with it. Our team was up around the clock pinging people they know and asking friends and beta users for upvotes. Product Hunt is a unique platform, but it’s phenomenal free marketing to a community that’s going to readily try your product and give great feedback.
[15:03] What help did you have with creating messaging?
When we launched, we had been in development for about a year, and we had brave, generous beta testers who were willing to try the product in exchange for giving us feedback. We listened to the vocabulary customers were using to see how the product was resonating with customers and used similar language in our messaging.
[17:27] Tell us more about the hunters on Product Hunt.
Product Hunt has tried to remove a little bit of the impact a hunter can have. It used to be there were super hunters, and if they gave you their stamp of approval, you were pretty much guaranteed to get in the top five for the day. When we launched, the role of hunters had diminished, but we had someone in our network, Clair Byrd, who was an exceptional marketer, and we involved her in the launch. She gave us a ton of good feedback. She told us to not frame our product as a vitamin—this will be good for you. You should frame it like a painkiller—you have a problem that needs to be solved now, and this product will solve it.
[20:13] What campaign did you have in place for launch?
We had about 200 beta testers. During development, we had been creating a waitlist and had captured emails. We listed our product as Upcoming on Product Hunt. We ran a big email campaign and segmented folks by what time zone they were in so it hit them right in the morning on the day of launch. We posted on LinkedIn and Twitter. We were getting as much free, organic marketing as possible.
Built into the product is a collaborative loop. Documentation is a team sport, so you’re usually creating it so share with somebody else so they can replicate your process. The collaborative loop in our product led people to find Tango via Product Hunt. The people they shared it with would find it on Product Hunt. We had 1300 upvotes on the first day, and in two weeks we had 10,000 users of Tango, many from the collaborative loop.
[23:17] What have you done to promote the product since launch?
A year from when we launched, we’re at 175,000 users. Forty percent of those have come referral through the collaborative loop. We’ve remained diligent about thinking about the end user. User-generated content has been really powerful. TikTok has been a huge channel because it’s user-generated content, and Tango shows really well visually and can be shared in a short snippet. We’re always thinking about how we continue to speak to the customer, and often customers speaking to each other is the best thing you could ask for.
[26:01] What are you doing to use user-generated content for marketing?
Some of it is organic. We pay for sponsored contact on influencers’ channels. We collect user testimonials and have been writing up case studies. In the product, we ask for reviews on the Chrome store and G2. When power users get to a certain threshold, we ask them inside Tango if they would like to review Tango on the Chrome store or G2. We get as much of our marketing as possible from users and have the ability to get reviews built into our product.
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- Learn more about Tango
“Nothing is more damaging to an adventurous spirit than a secure future.” – Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.