How Oli Gardner’s Critique Inspired Us to Start Our Own “Roasting” Service

How Oli Gardner’s Critique Inspired Us to Start Our Own “Roasting” Service

We’re very critical of our work.

There’s nothing we crave more than honest criticism and pushback – especially when it comes to creating videos or writing copy.

But getting constructive feedback can be difficult.

Most people don’t (or can’t – I’m not sure which is truer) give criticism you can actually use.

Most people give feedback that leaves you in the same (or an even more unsatisfied) position than before getting feedback.

Most people don’t take the time to give you a detailed response.

As business owners, we have to constantly demand constructive feedback. Even if we’re really good at what we do, we need to get better – always learning, growing, improving. Criticism drives us to sharpen our skills – and that measurably impacts the growth of our business.

Here’s the story of how we got brutally honest criticism from someone I really respect – and how his “roast” inspired us to pay-it-forward with my own roasting service.

It all started when we realized people were being too nice to us.

Searching for pushback

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When we launched the new division of Happy Box in March 2015, we were focused on building our content strategy.

Over the course of 6 months we wrote a total 35 articles, but we didn’t publish a single one, for 2 reasons:

  1. We wanted to polish our style.
  2. We wanted our articles to tell a story.

You see, we believe that great content should be more than just interesting, actionable and informative. We believe it should also take readers on a journey.

In other words, there needs to be a strategy behind the content. A plan. A purpose.

Each article needed to teach our readers something they could put into action – and also give them a reason to read the next article – and the next, and the next, until they were convinced we knew our stuff and that Happy Box is the right marketing company to hire.

That’s the level of thought we put behind the content strategies we build for our customers. We knew that the content strategy for our own company shouldn’t be any different.

Content should take readers on a journey. Be thoughtful and understand WHY you write every piece Click To Tweet

Finally, in July 2015, we knew we couldn’t keep holding back. We realized the only way to get these articles from “good” to “great” was to start putting them out and letting people tell us their thoughts.

The first article we put out was on the 6 Stages of a Buyer’s Journey – which explained an important piece of our approach when building marketing strategies. I sent the article to ten of my friends – and they all gave feedback that was very kind, very positive, and totally useless.

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They all said things like “It’s good,” or “It’s very informative,” or “I enjoyed reading it,” that’s not what I wanted.

I wanted them to tell me what we’d done wrong, and how we could improve.

We were getting frustrated. We started searching Google for terms like “writing critiquing” and “content feedback.” We didn’t know exactly what we were looking for – we just knew that there had to be someplace online where people were critiquing each others’ content. All we had to do was find that place.

Instead, we found something even better.

The roast that changed everything

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After days of searching, we stumbled on a Reddit community called “Roast My Startup.” Its name came from those comedy events known as “roasts,” where actors and business leaders drop harsh burns on each other to keep the audience laughing.

This subreddit actually wasn’t designed for roasting articles – it was for startup owners to roast each others’ business ideas. But we were out of options. In all my days of searching, this was the closest thing we’d found to a place where people could get a critique without the sugar coating. We decided to take the plunge.

I submitted our Buyer Journey article, begging for honest feedback. In the post, we mentioned one of my personal heroes – Oli Gardner, a marketing guru whose company, Unbounce, is known for tearing apart web content while suggesting specific ways to improve it. I loved Oli’s approach, and I hoped someone would throw us a good Oli-style critique before our post got taken down.

The next morning, I checked my messages, and I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Oli Gardner himself had written a roast of our article! He ripped it apart, actually. He broke down the whole article piece-by-piece, explaining exactly what sucked, why it sucked, and what we could do to make it suck less.

We took Oli’s feedback to heart, and rewrote the whole article from the ground up. We stripped out all the pointless paragraphs, replaced vague crap with specific calls to action, and tweaked the tone into something much more upbeat.

Your content shouldn’t just “sit there.” If people use it, they’ll share it. Click To Tweet

Oli’s roast had transformed my article from another dead piece of content that just “sits there” into an actionable tool that people will actually find useful. It was exactly the critique I’d been looking for.
Then it clicked…

“This roasting idea is so cool,” I thought. “We’ve got to start doing it myself.”

We’re paying it forward…

Oli’s roasting inspired us to start our own service – roasting businesses on their website and helping them uncover page elements that are lowering conversion rates and costing them sales.

We started privately at first. Then publicly on our website.

Recently, we made it official and launched our PROFESSIONAL LANDING PAGE ROASTING service to any company that wanted a better understanding of what’s working, what’s not, and why, for ONLY $7.

We used to offer this service for free. But at $7 it tells us that you’re a serious business looking for expert advice!

We’ve already helped dozens of clients tear down and replace ineffective landing pages, content, and websites strategies.

Get Roasted Happy Box Solutions

Think your company could use a roasting? Get in touch >>

Here’s the truth: If you keep showing your website, your videos, and your ads to supportive friends and family, you’re never going to find out what you need to change.

Until you get a brutally honest critique of your ideas, you’ll always have a sneaking suspicion that something isn’t working – or that something could be better – but you’ll never be able to put your finger on the problem. Your will always be “good enough,” but it’ll never be truly great.

Until you get a brutally honest critique, you’ll always wonder if there’s something more you… Click To Tweet

And that’s OK, if you’re happy running a business that’s just “good enough.” But if you’re ready to take your content – and your sales – to the next level, it’s time to start thinking in detail about your strategy.

At Happy Box, we’re not just an advertising agency or a web development firm. We do all those things – but only if there’s a clear an measurable purpose behind each activity.

Thoughtful strategy comes first. Actions come second. Click To Tweet
We believe that a thoughtful strategy should come before any action. Every decision should be founded with a deep understanding of your company, your customers, your competition, backed by research, hard data, and a good ROASTING.

Wherever you are in your journey, we want to let you know that when you’re ready to take the heat – Come get roasted. Our door is open. 


  1. Loved reading this! Proud of you for taking the time to do it right, and to be brave enough to ask for the feedback in the first place.

    All the best with the roasts, and don’t forget to put some gravy on them.

    • Oli Gardner strikes again! Thanks a lot for the kind words and recognizing that we’re trying to do it right.

      And don’t worry – we’ll make sure to put our extra-special sauce onto each one of our roasts 😉

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