How We’ve Used Product Hunt’s Ship to Validate Content Product Ideas
As you might have noticed, content is a massive part of our growth strategy at Taskable. We view content reasonably broadly. It can be anything from a post in a forum where our target audience hangs out, a blog post, a video, or even something more comprehensive, like an interactive database of places to post your product or checklist templates for launching on Product Hunt.
We are big believers in being as lean as possible and validating ideas before spending a bunch of time on them without knowing if they will be popular, interesting, or well-received.
For smaller content items like blog posts, this often means posting a thought as a tweet or in a community. We’ve talked a bit about this previously, with the idea of minimum viable content.
The comprehensive ‘content products’ require a bit more time and effort. For example, we created a checklist for launching on Product Hunt, that we also wanted to become a feature in our product. Or, our State of the Stack interactive survey of work tools. That isn’t just a few hours of drafting, getting feedback, and posting like a blog. They require development time or hours of research or building new pages on our website.
For these types of projects, we tend to do a bit of additional validation of the idea. And this is where Product Hunt’s Ship comes in.
What is Ship
Ship is a “toolkit for makers to ship awesome products” created by Product Hunt. It lets you spin up a quick landing page, share what you’re working on, and collect email addresses. You can then send project updates and send prospective users surveys.
I hate to say it, but the tools themselves are sort of underwhelming. They can be buggy and clunky. I generally add everyone to Mailchimp to send email updates and use Typeform for surveys.
The really value is access to the Product Hunt community. For $79 a month, they will promote your upcoming page on the homepage. Users can then quickly follow/subscribe to your project.
We like Ship because the number of subscribers gives us a better sense of the interest realin the content product. Now that we’ve done several things on Ship, you can sort of gauge how popular something is by how quickly it flies off the shelf.
It also gives us email addresses of everyone who has expressed interest. That way, when we launch it, we can blast it out to the interested parties.
Finally, it gives us a bit more exposure as Taskable with Product Hunt users, which is a similar audience to the one we target.
There are quite a few downsides to Ship.
The first downside is the cost. Paid monthly, it ends up being $79. You get some other perks, like AWS credits, but it’s still one of our largest expenses.
The second downside is you can only promote two projects at a time, which isn’t clear when you sign up. It’s also a bit tricky to keep tabs on the projects you are promoting.
Third, the product itself isn’t great. The email marketing tool is missing some key features. We do our surveys in Typeform rather than Ship. There are bugs, and unclear features.
Finally, the way users subscribe to your project is frictionless, which is excellent for boosting your numbers and email addresses you capture. But, low friction also means it’s less clear how interested someone is. Lots of people might hit subscribe, but their interest is minimal.
The biggest issue with Ship and I suppose Product Hunt in general, is the number of spam accounts. Lots of people creating accounts and engaging on PH to later upvote and engage with their product post. Often users are just subscribing for you to see their email address and check out their product. To me, this is the biggest issue and makes it difficult to judge whether something is popular, or whether you just promoted it to a bunch of spam accounts.
We do get value out of Ship. It’s been a great source of users and validation for some of these content product ideas. This has a lot to do with our target audience being aligned with the Product Hunt audience. The value comes from the community, not necessarily the Ship product itself. For the $79 per month, you can expect to gather 50 to 100 user signups per month, but anywhere from 25 - 50% of those can be spam (seems to come in waves).