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No marketing unicorns

Written by Justin on February 7, 2015

This past week, I shipped a small project: The Product Hunt Handbook. (This is part of a bigger project, The Build & Launch podcast, where I’m trying to ship a product every week).

Ironically, the book was submitted to Product Hunt before it was even finished. This resulted in a nice bump in pre-orders.

I shared my pre-order stats on the latest episode of Build & Launch:

My friend Jason Zook asked me a great question on Twitter:

@mijustin congrats on the launch man, impressive! Were you surprised at the number of sales from PH? I would’ve thought higher at #1 spot?

— Jason Zook (@iwearyourshirt) February 7, 2015

I decided to write a response in a PDF case study (that I now include with the Handbook), but I wanted to share part of my answer, here are the blog.

Was my conversion rate from Product Hunt low?

The most oft-quoted conversion figure is from the Industry Retailer, which pegs the average e-commerce conversion rate at about 2-3%. However, this study by Smart Insights digs much deeper into that number. For example, look at their chart on Conversion Rate by Referrer: Typical e-commerce conversation rates by referrer (or channel) What you’re seeing here, is the power of intent. On AOL, Bing, Yahoo, Ask Search or Google, people are actively looking for a product or solution. This makes them more likely to buy the product when they find it. On Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon, people are passively browsing. They don’t have the same intent to buy, and therefore convert at a lower rate. Product Hunt fits in this category. People browsing Product Hunt aren’t going to the site looking for a specific solution; more often, they’re checking the site out of boredom.

What does this mean for you?

With the Handbook, Product Hunt drove a reasonable amount of sales for a small, niche product. But, as you can see, launching on Product Hunt is definitely not a silver bullet, magic unicorn, or genie in a bottle. Sites like Hacker News, Product Hunt, and Reddit can be great for building awareness, creating virality, and introducing you to a bigger audience. But they don’t always drive a huge number of immediate sales. As my friend Allan Branch, from Less Accounting, reports:

“Hacker News traffic doesn’t equal sales for us. We had 13k unique visitors in the past 12hr = 2 additional signups.”

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t launch on Product Hunt. As I mentioned here, we often focus on getting people to purchase right now, and miss out on the long game. Too often, we think about marketing like this:

How we think marketing works - illustrated by Justin Jackson

In reality, people buy products like this:

How people buy: the different marketing steps

When you launch, you’re building awareness. You want people to remember that you have the solution for certain type of problem. Hopefully people will run into your product multiple times as they browse the web. The whole aim is to have people think of your product when they are ready to buy. As my friend  Des Traynor puts it:

“People buy when they’re ready to buy, not when you’re ready to sell.”

Play the long game!

Justin Jackson

PS: if you’d like to see the full case study from my launch, it’s available (as a bonus) with the Product Hunt Handbook.

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