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The Gandalf Method for testimonials 💌
3 ways to achieve *actually good* customer reviews
Let's be honest:
Those generic “Best [Industry] product in the world!” testimonials? They are not great. In fact, they are marketing's equivalent of a snooze button. Even the worst startups can get these reviews.
Whenever I see companies proudly parading testimonials that basically scream, “Everything is great!”, I cannot help but shake my head 🙇
🦸♂️ The Hero Test
Would you ever write “Best [Industry] product!” on your website's hero section? Probably not. It is uninteresting, unconvincing, and everyone can say it. One person's opinion does not carry much weight.
Same for customer reviews. We want to obtain reviews that are so good that we can brag about them everywhere online.
💖 What Makes a Good Review?
Feelings. Metaphors. Not everything is perfect (it never is). Often 4.5 stars > 5 stars.
Take, for example, this gem of a review for Wiz:
GANDALF? Wow. That's not just a review—it is a crazy good story! When you feature such reviews on your homepage, it strikes a chord with your audience. People enjoy reading them; it is like diving into a short fiction novel.
In a nutshell, a good review = a love story (with all its complications).
Which one of the following reviews would you prefer to read?
More importantly—which is more convincing?
💡 The idea: Share testimonials that are creative, personal, or emotionally charged. Bad testimonials use generic praises. Good testimonials are love stories.
🧪 3 Ways to Obtain Love Letters
So how do you actually get customers to share these love stories? Say hello to the “Gandalf Method”—three actionable strategies for generating love stories:
🧠 Tactic #1: Creative Prompts
When requesting reviews, use creative prompts like, "Does our platform make you feel like you have superpowers?" or "Can you relate our product to a movie character?" or reference existing reviews that resemble love stories.
These nudges can actually make a difference.
Typically, when people are asked for reviews, they tend to jot down something like "Yeah, great SaaS" without much thought. But when we ask the right questions, they'll likely get more creative. When we can't control the review submission form itself (e.g., we’re asking customers to leave reviews on G2, Gartner, or TrustPilot), our invitation to leave a review should include these creative prompts.
🏆 Tactic #2: Quality-Focused Contests
Start a contest for the most creative review, with a ridiculous prize for the winner. Most review generation contests focus on quantity—get as many reviews as possible. This time, try something fresh and concentrate on the storytelling aspect, encouraging customers to go wild with their creativity. Writing reviews is not fun, and crafting creative ones is even more demanding, so the prize must be worth the effort.
🖼️ Tactic #3: Yearly Wall of Love
Encourage your customers to send you stories about how they use your product. If you sell a physical product, ask them to send the used product and the story behind its use. If it's a digital product, get innovative: request photos of your software on their screens in their desk setups or in creative settings (beaches, mountains, boats, etc.), along with their story.
Then, once you receive submissions, create a mini-website showcasing the best love stories you've received throughout the year. Reward those chosen and inspire others to submit their stories year-round, making it an eagerly awaited annual tradition. People will anticipate next year's event and plan their submissions accordingly.
Here’s my favorite example—a brand called Red Wing Shoes:
They have created a “Wall of Honor” to share the stories and display the work boots of a select group of customers with amazing stories. It's a tribute to their customers’ achievements.
When requesting submissions, they totally nail the copywriting:
Even if you are not manufacturing working boots, I bet your customers have some emotional stories to tell. Turn those into love stories.
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