Every so often my team and I set two weeks aside to work on a passion project. The bottom is line is ever important, but feeding the soul with an adventure on the side is as well. We field it as-is at the end of our two weeks, just to judge interest and field test our efforts. Our latest project, Guess the Throne, was no different. However, we decided to add an extra challenge: launch it successfully for less than $150. Guess the Throne is an online death pool for the final season of Game of Thrones. Create your group, submit your picks, and invite your friends. We handle the scoring, rules, and everything else for free!
You may be asking yourself, “What’s a death pool?” Much like it sounds, it’s a bracket that lets you predict if a character lives or dies. Each correct guess is worth a point, and the most points win!
It’s hard enough to launch a product with gobs of cash at your disposal. The timing, connections, and dumb luck required for a meteoric rise can leave the best and most deserving of products on the scrap heap. However, I hope our experiment helps you succeed by this one approach: a focus on product with a hard-charging ground game to back it up. Armed with DM slides, a photoshopped cat picture, and a good user experience, we were able to capture thousands of users within 24 hours of launch.
We tried to exhaust all free methods before dipping into our limited budget. We figured Product Hunt would be a great place to make a splash in the development community. After reading how to make it happen we were finished in around 20 minutes. On launch day over 7,000 people viewed our website and 1,200 users signed up. We battled for a top-five spot all day before falling to eighth by closing time. This was awesome! One thing we noticed was that even though we converted over 1,200 people we didn’t get very many upvotes on Product Hunt in comparison. To battle that, we decided to personalize the experience if you came from Product Hunt by giving you a little nudge to direct you back to the site after making a group and entry.
If you’re using React and would like to have the code comment below and I’ll open source it! Since we didn’t network before launching on Product Hunt or use the platform beforehand I found myself going to other people’s products commenting, interacting, and following. Don’t do this! Every time I did we would drop in the rankings which was unfortunate because I wasn’t being spammy. Of course I wanted them to come back and check out our cool new thing. 😆 Overall, Product Hunt seems like a no brainer in any budget launch situation. We still get referrals from their site each day. We’ll need to launch more products on PH get a grasp of how lucky we’ve been so far, but after this success we certainly will.
Perhaps one of the more sketchy ideas was to slide into the DMs of influencers on Twitter and politely ask for a shout out. No one gave us one for free 😭, but you can normally negotiate a way for them to promote you in a tweet. We put our trust in the internet here and it panned out great.
We paid for this tweet to reach +500k Game of Thrones fans. Within five minutes of the tweet going out we had over 80 people on our home page simultaneously and based off our analytics we converted over 250 people within two hours. The cost per acquisition was 20 cents 🙌🏻. Influencer marketing is the move.
We scoured the internet for mentions of “death pool” and “Game of Thrones” together. If there was an article written about it we commented on the post. Game of Thrones Discord channel, we’re there. Facebook Groups? You got it. Reddit? Yep. If you’ve tweeted about Game of Thrones and death pool in the past three years you likely received a message from us. I cannot overstate the importance of interactivity, of personality. You need to be everywhere someone could search for your product and be available to answer their questions promptly, to offer them solutions to questions they haven’t asked. There is a fine line between attentive and spammy. Don’t mindlessly plaster your product across the internet with cheesy, self-aggrandizing, corporate claims. Most groups have moderators and it’s always best to confirm with them that you can share your product before doing so.
Writing publications on Medium is incredibly easily, and I want more people to know that. Write your article draft, find the publication it aligns with closest, and reach out to to them. Don’t be shy! I’ve never had an article denied, and my articles perform 100x better (no exaggeration) than when forgoing a publication.
Caldera is my personal account and rarely receives any views. From our Medium post in Hacker Noon we estimate over 1,100 users joined. It took us an hour to write and was completely free to do!
Everyone that worked on the product found one gig on Fiverr to help us promote.
This was pretty awesome. An iHeartRadio host advertised us on his talk show. The commercial is an instant classic!
Cost: $7 Impact: Hard to measure. Worth the cost because you never know who is listening.
Give this guy your Twitter handle and he floods your page with totally, definitely real people who like, follow, and retweet you.
Cost: $7 Impact: Little to none. It was nice to break 75 followers on Twitter right off the bat, but fake users are useless after that point.
Type up a tweet and off it goes onto this guys account (he’s a cool guy — it’s in his bio).
Cost: $7 Impact: I’d say we converted about 60 users from it. Not bad!
Once we saw this one it had to happen.
Meet Waffles! Cost: $7 Impact: Not too much. Links on Instagram are hard.
You type up a press release and it’s immediately published on over 100 websites. This was more of a curiosity to us than anything because we can never get press on product (more on that below). Don’t do this. This is an example of the quality you get 😂… Chinese Export Business Senmer News Wire : Spoilers ahead! Please don't visit the website or read this post if you're not caught up… www.facebook.com Cost: $52.50 🙄 Impact: It was shared everywhere, but we couldn’t measure any impact at all. Most of the websites were sketchy and probably hurt our SEO.
“What about press?” you might ask. We tried so hard to get this in the news, and thought it would surely get picked up after seeing blogs like this. Six people responded from 110 DM slides. Some said they personally liked the app, but their lack of interest in writing that opinion was made clear. We couldn’t even get Game of Thrones blogs to write about us. We sent a press kit and personalized messages, and followed up repeatedly with (we thought) interesting updates on our progress. If anyone reading this has insights on how we can better connect with the press I would love to hear from you.
Grand total spent was $130.50. Now to the numbers. We are up to 5,058 users on the app twelve days after launching. Here’s a snap of our Google Analytics.
We’re overjoyed with the success that we’ve seen and feel like we’re one piece of press away from taking this to a new level. We’re projecting to hit 20,000 users by the start of the show, and would love for you to join us! We’re actively looking for a partner to help promote Guess the Throne and create content. If this is something you’d be interested in shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I believe the most important lesson we’ve learned is the power of product and timing. Having a timely idea with a good product makes marketing easier. And remember, as the co-founder of Airbnb once said…
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