How Hotjar Grew 60,000 Users In Just 7 Months – Part 2 [OMP 007]

Interview with David Darmanin, founder and CEO of Hotjar where we discuss possible mistakes they made during their launch, things they did right, and coming up with a good domain name. In The Offline Ignition Minute I'll discuss the “S” in my PEERS formula.

Show Notes


Hey, it's Nicolas again and this is Online Marketing for Profits. Welcome to the show if you're new to the show, if this is the first time listening in, welcome to Online Marketing for Profits. If you have listened to a few of the other episodes, welcome again. This is going to be part two of my interview with David Darmanin of Hotjar, the Founder and CEO of Really how they managed to grow their user-base to 60,000 users in just seven months, how did they managed to do that and if you missed episode six just our previous episode this is where we…

I presented the first part of the interview. I discussed with David things about launching the product itself, creating buzz, managing their community, creating anticipation and how did they managed to do all of that with just a team of five people. There are some really, really great tips in there about launching just about anything online if you're thinking about launching a website, a video course, an info-product, a book, a podcast, whatever it is. I think there are some great things in there that you can use yourself to do a great, great launch and things to think about about your business.


In this second part we're going to talk about domain names, things that David feels they did right in their launch and what they've done right so far and scaling up and all that. Also things he would do differently. If he could do things slightly differently second time around what would he do differently. I think there are some good gems in there also for things to think about ourselves when we launch something in the future so that we perhaps don't make … I wouldn't call them mistakes but we could perhaps profit from what he's learned with launching Hotjar so far.

That's part two and when we come back after the interview I'll tell you my biggest take away from that second part and also I'll present to you the Offline Ignition Minute about our body language as entrepreneurs. Without further adieu here's the interview with David Darmanin.


A few things Hotjar did right during their launch

Nicolas Fradet:
I guess one of the things I was curious on is obviously you achieve a great level of success very fast like I mentioned earlier. A little bit of word of mouth and a lot of it seems like Hotjar was all over the place. Can you tell us a bit about some things that you did well for this launch? If you had to do it again this is something you would do and if someone was in the same position as you were seven or a year ago or seven months ago what would you recommend they do? A few things that you did right throughout this launch.

David Darmanin:
I'd say definitely it's being in contact with the users a lot. That kind is the Hotjar creates like the whole feedback idea and listening a lot. I think that's really important. In the first few months when we had that landing page up and we had the queue we were constantly reacting making minor tweaks and changes to the page and to the positioning. The key is to learn to make … I'm really glad that we made small quick changes every day as opposed to big. That's something I will definitely do on all future projects.

Nicolas Fradet:
That's a good point because I remember there was something in the survey. I wanted to fill out the survey I had built with your tool and someone I had sent it to mentioned I could only enter it was a 100 characters or whatever it was. I thought I'm sure that's not what they intended it to be. I remember just adding a support ticket and I think within an hour or so it was corrected and live on your side. That really impressed me because obviously that tells me that you're listening to what I'm saying and you're obviously responding very quickly which are two ways to make sure that I'm having a positive experience about the whole thing. That is great.

David Darmanin:
Agreed. Those are the type of stories that we hear a lot and we realized it's so easy to underestimate how powerful that is. We didn't even do it on purpose. We were trying to just get things done very quickly but then we realized that this created what we call now wow moments. Now we're putting much more effort into sustaining that as we grow. Another thing that I'm very happy that we did and we'll definitely do it again was actually a suggestion by one of my colleagues, my co-founders, Eric who said …

Because a lot of people were asking for things that they were missing. I would love if I was using a tool like Hotjar to be able to see a roadmap. We say, “Yeah, we should do a public roadmap.” We should show publicly what we're working on, what we're planning to do and try and roughly give an idea of how we're prioritizing them so that anyone using the tool can have an idea of what's going on and what we're working on. We're glad that we did that and we still have that and we show it like we update constantly showing what's in progress, what's done and what's coming up.

Nicolas Fradet:
Yeah, that's a good way to get people invested in the process and seeing what they want and seeing where you're going and that also like you said that you're listening to them. The same way I noticed that you did something I hadn't seen much out there where you have your Hotjar founding members, you mentioned the community a bit earlier how … You mentioned that Hotjar is more than a tool it's a revolution. What is the idea behind that? What do you think it did as far as building your community?

David Darmanin:
It was rather than [00:06:31] we want to give something back because as I said it was such an awesome adventure and a lot of the people in there we were literally speaking to them every day. It was like we literally had an army of people in there using Hotjar and saying, “I love this. I hate this. This is not working I expect it.” We were replying back and forth and this is all done in what we call non-real time chat. If you're not around you'll receive the reply via email but if you come back into the tool you can continue with the conversation where you left off. That had a huge impact.

About usability within the app

Nicolas Fradet:
It's good that you mentioned that because you mentioned your background and usability and one of the thing that really struck me when I first signed up for Hotjar. If you go to the website I think on the surface like the home page, the plans page, you'll see a lot of good persuasion elements that you know it is built by a good conversion optimization marketer. It's really well-built and I highly recommend people actually go over to look at what they are doing. It's really well-made and the testimonials are there. We mentioned that in episode five.

That wasn't surprising to me knowing you before but one of the thing that really struck me and you mentioned usability is how well the dashboard once you get inside the tool how well it's made and super easy to navigate and find yourself around because it's one thing to get them to convert and sign up but then you need them to actually use the tool, use it and actually like it so that they can share it and eventually maybe perhaps become paid members. The way you have your navigation on the one side and then you have the support tickets, all the announcements you're using on the other side on the right hand side, how did you come up with that layout because to me it felt like I remember when I bought my first iPhone where after playing with it for an hour it felt like I had owned it for a year or so. Everything was right where it's supposed to be and I felt that way when I was using your dashboard for the first time. How did you come up with that layout?

David Darmanin:
I can't take any credits for that. We're lucky that one of the co-founders, he's our UX product guy so he's the person that built that and then iterated on it, got feedback a lot from the team. There's a lot of qualitative decisions going on there.

One mistake they'd like a mulligan on

Nicolas Fradet:
That's good. It's super easy when you have a new announcement or if you ask a question to your support team it's right there. It's super easy that you can't miss it really and I think it's well-made. You mentioned a few things that you did right when you launched. Perhaps there were some things that you'd like a mulligan on maybe, things that you'd do differently, can you maybe list a few of those for us today?

David Darmanin:
Sure. It's difficult to look back and choose because there's so many things that we would do differently because you're constantly learning but then again I want to look back and say you need to do them in order to learn. I'd say there is one particular thing which I think was a mistake. Then again I'm not sure which is it would have been a better idea probably that early on we got users who were interested in the tool to commit.

For example, by putting in a payment method in advance even though they wouldn't be charged because that would have helped with the commitment later on.

Then again I'm not sure because that might have been a bad idea because then we would have probably spread less quick and grown less fast. It's a tricky one. In reality it's always these tricky balances for example communicating with … Because having too many users can also be a bad thing like you stress out the team, you can't keep up with replying to everyone. It's more probably looking back even though we did really well I'd say I wouldn't mind having maybe a little bit less success and growing a little bit slower. That would have been a nice thing. I guess one way of doing that would have been to ask for a little bit more commitment upfront.

Sorry to interrupt you but actually thinking back now I realized why that would have been good. It would have been good because of all the sleepless nights because I remember six months in we were thinking will anyone give us money for this. Are we doing this? Now I remember that would have been a really nice extra thing to have. If anyone out there is planning to do something like this that's actually a good thing to do.

On having a plan to scale

Nicolas Fradet:
I guess that's a good thing that when you're at the six month mark and now you're saying we're going to flip the switch on and going to accept payments, we're just going to do it and cross our fingers. Were there a prepared plan on scaling it or doing it in a precise way? People have been using it for a while now will just start accepting payments and hope for the best.

David Darmanin:
We were just prepared for the worst. We put in the bank enough to survive six months and we were just praying to God that we could basically come back and cover our operation cost within that six months. We were lucky because we did that within one month. That was good because it then also gave us a nice cushion to use that cash then emerge and start growing again.

Nicolas Fradet:
Right, that's excellent. Congrats. I'm sure the sleepless nights were awful but in the end…

David Darmanin:
They were really awful because it's a long beat when you think about it. By the end we're like, “Oh my God, what is going to happen?”

On getting a good domain name

Nicolas Fradet:
Right, exactly. At least you knew you had some buzz and some momentum with everyone that was signing up. As you said that can never tell that much how much people are actually going to come up with their credit card and actually pay for it, right? Okay, a rapid fire of questions.

The first one is I think people obsess a bit too much about this but in your case it's just a great that I wanted to touch on on that is your domain, your domain name basically the name of the tool Hotjar. I'm curious because we all know nowadays .coms don't come easily and I was curious did you own this domain from few years back thing? “This is a great domain name. I'm just going to use it. I'm just going to use it one day,” or just stumbled up on this just it fell into your lap or how did you come up with a six letter word with two words in it that has a very memorable are pretty rare these days. I'm curious about how did you came up with that.

David Darmanin:
Choosing a name was just plain horrible because we couldn't find, we knew we wanted to do it different. We wanted a name that was different that was very memorable but ideally had some kind of memorable connection. We knew we wanted the heat thing in there. The reason is we knew that heat maps having done some market research we knew heat maps were incredibly popular. In a way we knew that Hotjar was all about identifying these hot opportunities for growth. We wanted to build around that theme. Basically, every domain name I could think of was taken so that left us with kinds of idea.

Nicolas Fradet:
I know the process.

David Darmanin:
Exactly. We went through the usual thing. At the end we stumbled across this domain which was owned by someone else and they were willing to sell it and we managed to buy it for a very reasonable price.

Nicolas Fradet:
Wow, okay. How did that process go through? I know from experience I'm sure a lot of people out there know that it's quite frustrating. You're just filling out some domains and they are all taken and you want to keep the .com you don't want to go to .net route and things like that. For someone who's interested in a domain, did you use a service to do the transaction? How did that go through?

David Darmanin:
Yeah, we used loads of services and tools to search but at the end what worked the best was actually looking for domains that are already for sale. That's my advice.

Nicolas Fradet:
Was this on a marketplace?

David Darmanin:

Nicolas Fradet:
It was listed for sale.

David Darmanin:
Yeah, it was on a marketplace because that just makes for a very swift decision.

Nicolas Fradet:
Was there a price listed for the domain? I'm curious.

David Darmanin:
Yes, there was.

Nicolas Fradet:
Okay. You offered that? Did you tried to negotiate or how did that …

David Darmanin:
No, we just offered that.

Nicolas Fradet:
Okay. If it's reasonable why waste time.

David Darmanin:
Yeah, exactly.

Nicolas Fradet:
Cool. That's great. I think Hotjar is terrific name. I think people, it's important to have a good domain name but at the end of the day if Nike was actually called Kion or whatever we just wear Kion shoes and our day would be the same, right? It's important and people maybe overdo it sometime but that's great.

David Darmanin:
[Crosstalk 00:16:42] I read quite a lot about this before we kicked off Hotjar because I had that project which were failing and I realized that although a name can be irrelevant it can carry a weight but let's say the most important rules from my experience are that one, your name is not generic and it does not promote generic behavior. Instead of calling the brand, the tires brand Michelin imagine if it was called Great Tires.

Nicolas Fradet:

On Branding and the Long-Term

David Darmanin:
The funny thing is that we tend to do this a lot. My first company I was working on was called Optimization Lab and that's like it doesn't get more generic than that. It's very easy to fall into this mistakes so I think the best thing is to choose a name which is unique and particular and reflect what you're trying to do. For us, to have a strong punchy words was important for us. The whole idea of jar was also the fact that you can, one, visualize a hot kind of jar and the fact that you're capturing insight. It's good to have some kind of story and make it extremely unique.

Nicolas Fradet:
Yeah, I get that. It's such a struggle you can spend hours and hours and hours on this process especially if you can have more people chiming in and you're not necessarily all aligned together. It can be a very excruciating process. All right, thanks for that. One thing I really liked when I saw the dashboard and also I've seen you use these in emails. I've never seen anyone use this in this way or animated gifs. You're using them all over the place and when you want to use a tool you got to have this gifs that summarizes in a few seconds what the tool is about and how to set it up.

Especially in the email I think instead of using videos like other people do, you can't play the video in the email itself. You have the image, the thumbnail and then it brings you to an external site. Having this gifs inside the email I think is a great way to add a bit more content to the email. I've never seen that done before. Did someone inspire you on this? Who had the idea behind that because I think it's terrific.

David Darmanin:
I admit that I think we saw someone do something similar but the reason why we decided to go for this is just simply the fact that as a society we're just moving towards this direction gets us all kind of common place today. They are amusing and entertaining even if you look at what it's called? The name of that start up where you have six second videos, Vine. Everyone just wants to consume contents really quickly so we thought it would make sense to build a lot around that concept. Yeah, a lot of people really loved it. Actually it gets a lot of comments from people saying, “I love it.” Since then it has become part of the brand now.

Nicolas Fradet:
Yeah, sure. I mean, they are terrific. I think in the dashboard when you first use a tool you want to just quickly set it up and what it's all about and find out very quickly what I can do with this and they do the job perfectly. In emails I think it's even better. Yeah, that's great. Before we wrap up, David please tell us how people can reach you and how they can use Hotjar today.

David Darmanin:
Anyone who's interested in discovering how their site is actually being used, a good place to start is definitely Hotjar because we make it free and simple. We also help you out in terms of giving you some advice when you kick off like in terms of where you should be looking and what kind of exercises are good to do to discover some interesting opportunities. Yeah, we'd love obviously to have any feedback that you might have when you use Hotjar. We're looking forward to it.

Nicolas Fradet:
That's great. Again, this is and David, thank you so much again.

David Darmanin:
Thanks, Nicolas. Thanks for your time.


All right, I hope you liked part two of the interview. I had a blast recording it with David. He's a good friend like I said. It was great to have that inside scoop of how they manage to be so successful so quickly. My biggest take away from that second part of the interview was how things that they did right and especially being in contact with their users a lot constantly reacting and making minor changes almost every day. Creating wow moments and really course correcting basically their roadmap by listening to their user-base and saying, “This is what people want, we didn't think they would want it so quickly or even that they want it. This is what they think is broken and we should probably fix it.”

Course correcting that way to have basically a better user experience, that really probably I'm sure helped a lot with the speed to which they grew in and the word of mouth that they managed to get I think from everyone. That's my biggest take away. I think it's something I haven't done as well in the past and I can certainly do better in the future. One thing I would add also is when we talked about domain names I wanted to chime in here because if you think about it, the name of the show, my show is Online Marketing for Profits it's the opposite of what David was referring to about being generic and having something that's memorable and all that. You know what?

My take on Branding and business names

I totally agree with what he said on the show and if I were to start a service like his I would certainly go the Hotjar route and pick something that's memorable that's easy to spell and things like that. Probably maybe even think about purchasing a domain name that was owned already and all that but when you think about it Online Marketing for Profits would be opposite of that. I think it really depends on what your long term goal is, what you're trying to achieve and especially I think how you're going to get there. I'll give you a quick example. Online Marketing for Profits obviously is not as memorable I think long term than Hotjar. It's not maybe the best for branding and all that but one of the reasons I chose this name for the podcast was that for basically ranking reasons.

I'm not necessarily talking about Google search engine ranking as an SEO. I don't think I'll ever get to number one page in Google if I ever do then I'll have done very well for the term online marketing and all that. However there are other search engines that are less competitive for example the iTunes search engines and other podcast search engines that are less competitive that I can do better with the online marketing in the title of the show. Also because when you go to iTunes when I'm trying to stand out in the iTunes results page when you're looking at the business sections and all that, I wanted the show to tell you instantly what it was all about. It stood out in that way. This is probably something that people would relate to much better.

Obviously like I said Hotjar on the surface it's not something you know what Hotjar does. Once you do though it is much more memorable and Online Marketing for Profits on the opposite it tells you exactly if you're looking for that it tells you exactly what it is about. I think long term for me because when I'm trying to shape as far as the podcast in the iTunes results page and all that I think was a better choice of name for my podcast. Time will tell if it was a good idea but I would just wanted to add my two cents on that. Okay. Let's move on to the Offline Ignition Minute where we talk about your body language as entrepreneurs.

All right, that's a wrap. If you want the show notes, the links and everything we discussed today, go to Let me know what you think. Leave me a comment, I appreciate it in advance. In our next episode of the Offline Ignition Minute I'll be sharing with you a template that I've used with a lot of clients very successfully to generate more leads, more sales, more conversions. A template that you can use on your home page, on a product page, on opt ins, on exit pop ups and a lot of pages really, really does well in all of these pages.

I'll be sharing with you the key ingredients of the template so that you can put it to use on your website and generate more leads yourself and more sales and more opt ins. I'm looking forward to that. That will be on our episode eight of the Offline Ignition Minute. See you next time. Thank you for listening to Online Marketing for Profits. Be sure to get Nicolas' free funnel swipes plus his 53 point conversion check list at and join Nicolas next time for another edition of Online Marketing for Profits.

Okay, today we wrap up my peers formula for a great first impressions in the workplace and if you missed the previous episodes what is my peers formula it's basically a five step formula for creating memorable first impressions and how we all know how important those first impressions are. If you haven't been listening to the other episodes in the series you can go back to Online Marketing for Profits episode three to find out what the P is all about. The P is for posture. Episode four of Online Marketing for Profits was for E. E is for Eyebrow flash. Episode five was for eye contact. Episode six was for a real smile.

I really gave you some I think some great tips on how to achieve good posture, how to flash your eyebrows correctly, how to maintain good eye contact and how to have a great, “fake real smile,” so you can really impress the people that you're meeting for the first time. Today, it's going to be the S in the peers formula. S is for strong handshake because you don't want a limp handshake. You don't want a weak handshake. People will actually judge you in that single instant on the, “quality of your handshake.” You don't want to appear weak or something like that and by the way you don't want to overdo it as well.

I mean I've heard of breaking fingers and all that I mean not for real I guess but having a handshake that's so strong that it hurts and that really could put a dent in the first impression so you don't want to do that. You really want to have a firm, strong handshake though. How can you achieve that and how can you use a handshake to your advantage? First thing is when you're approaching the person you're going to be shaking a hands of, extend your hand in advance. Don't do it the last time. Extend your hand in advance that shows that you're enthusiastic about the process and you're eager to meet them even if it's just for a second or two.

Just do it in advance, extend your hand and also telegraph exactly what you're expecting from the other person so there's no misunderstanding or awkward moment. You want them to shake your hand as well. Keep a firm grip like I said don't overdo it. Do keep it real and also try to get that hand as deep as you can in the other person's hand. You don't want to shake just the tip of their fingers or just their fingers. Right? You want to shake the entire hand so that's really, really important. Do two or three shakes max when you actually are shaking their hand you do two or three pumps I should probably say in maximum. You don't want to overdo it again and it shows that you're good and happy with the handshake and then you disjoint the hands.

You don't want to do this...
You don't want to do this…

That's really the best way to have a strong handshake, keep it firm, extend your hand in advance and two or three pumps and you'll be good to go. Now, one thing you don't want to do and some people do that and it can appear to be I guess condescending or patriarch. You don't want to do that. Actually hold the arm of the other person with your left hand. Let's say you're shaking the hand of someone with your right hand, right? You're grabbing the elbow or the forearm of the other person with your left hand. You don't want to do that. It's a power move. Some people will maybe perhaps use it to put you in his advantage and negotiate and things like that.

That's for another edition of the Offline Ignition Minute but if you want to just keep it simple and make sure that people are totally happy with meeting you, there's no bad feelings or anything, there's no awkward moment or anything like that, don't hold the arm of the other person with your left hand. Okay, that was the peers formula. I hope you enjoyed all the episodes covering the formula itself. I guess go back to episode three if you've missed it. Three, four, five, six and today, seven covering the posture, the eyebrow flash, the eye contact, the real smile and today the strong handshake.

Put the formula to good use and practice makes perfect so you need to probably practice this a little bit so that sinks in and it doesn't look disjointed and it flows nicely. It can I guess be weird to practice this in front of a mirror something like that but I'm not joking. Practice it a little bit. It will be much cleaner and much more genuine once you do it for the first time and your first couple of times. That could sink in and you'll be on autopilot and you'll be delivering some great first impressions no matter what the setting is. If it is a corporate setting then that's great.

If it's a more relaxed setting like in a bar and just meeting new friends and all that. Making a good first impression is certainly god either way and let me know if you have success with it. I'd be very, very happy to find out that you're having success with the formula that you felt like made a difference in your relationships and all that. Let me know and I'll see you next time on our next edition of the Offline Ignition Minute.




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