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Street Advertising Experiment (Increasing random foot traffic walk-in's with a sandwich board)

I was walking down the street here in Austin, TX.....and noticed this little Shoe Hospital:


Here's some pics of it:

Shoe hospital in Austin downtown

Shoe hospital in Austin downtown

I live nearby.....so I've walked by this place probably 500+ times......and the only thing I've ever noticed about it was this dinky sandwich-board sign:

Shoe hospital sandwich board sign

All it says is "SATURDAY SPECIAL! 1/2 price heels no limit!"

I have no idea what that means.

So I got to thinking.......

"How can I make this Shoe Hospital street sign get more random people in their doors?"

One of my favorite copywriting exercises is to "mentally re-write advertising" I see in the real world.

So my first step was to analyze what was wrong with the street advertising this shoe hospital was already doing:

"What is wrong with this advertising?"

This is what's going through my head when I see the shoe hospital's advertising:

Shoe hospital wrong advertising

1.) I have NO CLUE what the hell a shoe hospital does!

The guy who runs the place told me, "We're a shoe hospital....we fix shoes!"   ....but I'm just Joe Schmo who's walking by this place, I don't know what the hell a shoe hospital does!

2.) They mention they "repair shoes" which means NOTHING to me.

You have to show me some real examples of shoes that got fixed!

3.) Tell me "1/2 price heels"....but I dunno what the service is!

This shoe hospital desperately needs to SHOW me the service they do.

One of the biggest sources of retail traffic is random walk-in's.

So having bad signage is a serious problem if you are a brick & mortar business.....because you're losing a percentage of ALL the people that walk by!  That's free customers you're losing!

A random dude walking in may spend $50 on his 1st visit.  BUT that doesn't end his relationship with you.  He will come in time-and-time again.  His LTV (Lifetime Value) might be in the thousands.

In the short amount of times I've visited this shoe hospital, I saw purchases from $50 to $200+ from ONE VISIT.  I was blown away, I had no idea what this place does, yet there were people dropping hundreds of dollars per visit.

The owner of the shop said he gets on average 8 - 10 random walk-in's per day.  

Let's make this a conservative estimate, and say only 8 random walk-in's come through per day.

With this estimate, let's figure out what this Austin Shoe Hospital location is missing out on:

Let's do some quick & dirty math:

8 walk-in's per day.

300 days per year open for business.


8 x 300 = 2,400 walk-in customers.


Now.....through re-doing this sign, let's say we increase the amount of walk-in's to 15 per day.

15 walk-in's per day.

300 days per year open for business.


15 x 300 = 4,500!

Holy shit....that's 2,100 extra customers per YEAR just because we improved the damn street sign from 8/day to 15/day!!!!

Now let's see what those 2,100 new people will be worth at different average purchase prices:

  • Average purchase is $35....at 2,100 customers = $73,500/year

  • Average purchase is $50....at 2,100 customers = $105,000/year
  • Average purchase is $65....at 2,100 customers = $136,500/year
  • Average purchase is $80....at 2,100 customers = $168,000/year
  • Average purchase is $100....at 2,100 customers = $210,000/year

This doesn't take into account repeat business!

Out of respect for the Austin Shoe Hospital, I will not publish that sensitive info.....but you can easily extrapolate that simply making a better sign can make an extra tidy profit!  Giggity.

I asked my friend Jude who runs DowntownAustinBlog, to do a quick analysis of this shoe hospital at 8th & Congress here in Austin, TX.

The foot-traffic estimates are based off some old 2010 data that was collected, and during a regular workday this shoe hospital is estimate to have 700 - 1,000 walk-by's per 8-hour workday.

That would mean their current signage is converting at around 1% of walk-by traffic (remember, they get about 8 walk-in's per day with the existing signage).

So I would like to get the Austin Shoe Hospital from about 8 walk-in's per day.....to 15 walk-in's per day.

"How can we get from 8 per day...

...to 15 per day?"

Street advertising change to sign

Well my first thought was to change that damn sandwich board sign!!!

The primary psychological things I wanted to happen were:

1.) People on the street would intensely look at the board and process it. 

2.) There should be a call to action on at least ONE side .....telling the person to come inside the store. 

3.) I wanted to clearly explain what the shoe hospital can do for YOU.....with simple images.

This was easy enough because the Downtown Austin Shoe Hospital website had plenty of before & after shoe pics like this:

Austin shoe hospital website

All I had to do now was steal some of their before/after pictures and mock them up in Photoshop.

Fortunately I'm a guy with WAY too much time on his hands, so I know Photoshop reasonably well (mainly for making dumb stuff like this):


.....anyhow, I took a bunch of the images from the shoe hospital website and made two mockups.

Neither of them were exceptionally clever, and honestly I didn't care.  So long as people looked at the BEFORE/AFTER pics and think in their head, "Oh....maybe I can bring in my old pair or shoes and make them awesome again!"

That's all I wanted from these boards:


Sandwich Board Mockup #1

Shoe hospital sandwich board 1


Sandwich Board Mockup #2

Shoe hospital sandwich board 2

Notice how Mockup #2 says, "Ask inside what we can do!"

That was done on purpose to give people an excuse to go inside and say, "Hey what do ya'll do??"

.....it also helps the owner track how many people are coming in through the sign.


Getting the sandwich boards made:

The next step was to actually make the damn things.  A standard sized sandwich board is 24" X 36" ....and I found out at the local FedEx/Kinko's they do these for about $60 per sign (plus tax).

So turned my Photoshop files into regular .jpg files and submitted both designs to Kinko's.

In about 6 hours I got back a giant flat box (people on the street thought I was holding a giant rectangular pizza!) and the signs were ready:


The signs in all their glory.  $156 after tax for both:


You can see for scale how big these are:


Photoshop File to Real Life in 6 hours!


Proud of my work:


Delivering the boards to the Austin Shoe Hospital:


Prepping the sandwich board sign holder:


Affixed to the stand:


One last goodbye before my baby goes out into the working world:


See any changes from afar?


The new sign working hard to bring in new walk-in's!


Telling people to come inside:


Now people can SEE what the Shoe Hospital can do for them!


We could see people constantly glancing at the sign.  That didn't used to happen:


Hopefully 2x the amount of people come in because of this sign.  The goal is 15 walk-in's per day:


My theory is these signs will starting working immediately on a small scale (already a small uptick in walk-in's the very first day).

But the real value is when all the people that normally walk by this location walk by SEVERAL times.  I'd say this will take between 7 and 21 days.


Crazy how just a small change like this can improve a business.

Download this whole post:

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P.S. I want you to comment on either A or B:

A.) How many walk-in's you think these signs will bring in per day (current is 8 per day).


B.) How we could re-do these signs to bring in more walk-in's.  Lemme know!! I might actually be making more of these signs for this experiment...

UPDATE: This experiment results in literally an overnight 50% increase in new-customer walk-in traffic!

User Feedback

Recommended Comments

Guest Jason Vaughn


Great concept.mi might only use 2 comparisons on each side for larger visuals.
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Guest dave campbell


gotta play up the Hospital bit.

revive, etc. is good - "CLEAR!" - paddles, the whole thing.

shoe makeover, re-purpose, 'shoe-therapy'.

people spend maybe 100x on keeping their faces and body 'young and supple' - why not $50 on the shoes that you love?

good shoes should last ~ 20 years with regular attention.

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A: I'm going big, I'm going to say 30-33 new walk-ins

B: "Bringing life back to your old soles"

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Guest Chris Humphrey


A) 14 (being conservative)

B) How about a question like, "Are your shoes looking like this?" or "Are your shoes suffering from scuffitis?" Playing off the hospital theme and of course, using the photos. Being a photographer, LOVE the photo idea but I hope they were high res enough to look good. Web photos don't make good print photos and bad images = bad image.

Great post Nev!

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Hi Neville!

I'd love to see the follow up post from this! I'm on your list, hopefully it will go out after the first month?



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Guest Bill Gee


A. 14


People occasionally become really attached to a pair of shoes, ergo wear them a lot, ergo they get tatty and worn and end up in the cupboard not thrown away, like a fond memento.

I really love/d those shoes, don't want to throw them away.

Make them new again? Hell yes.

Bring it on.

It's a small but emotive segment --- a card worth playing for a week or two every 2-3 months I'd guess.


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"Don't throw away expensive shoes! Let us restore them!" Come inside and consult the Shoe Doctor ---->

Also why not fix the other sign?


Closet full of expensive worn shoes?

Give your favorite heels life again!

Saturday Special!

50% off ALL Ladies heel repair!

No Limit!

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I agree with others above who mention how attached people get to their shoes. It is more than an emotional attachment - it is one of comfort. Especially so of leather shoes which stretch and shape to accommodate your feet. When you have a great pair of shoes that have taken a while to "break in", why would you want to give up on your "partners in perambulating"? Shoes are your "walk mates" and you don't give up on them.
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Guest Nigel Garner


Some really good suggestions here. My first port of call would be to try and work out if the walk-bys are always the same people. I presume you've been doing some on the spot analysis from your comments - if so did you see the same faces all the time?

If not then you need to think about how they're going to remember the shop (name, place, contact details etc). Even those that are regular may not have time to stop for more than a couple of seconds.

So how about producing some A5/A6 flyers that people can grab from a carry basket on the sandwich board - that way they've got something to take away and digest. I'd suggest something bigger than a business card as that'll get put in a pocket and forgotten - a flyer will be something that pin up at home or put on the front of the fridge to remind them to come back. I'd also add the web address and any promos so they know where to go to do their research.

On that note (I haven't looked at the website) why not collate feedback from customers and put it online so prospects can see what people think of the shop? Don't make the mistake of putting all glowing reviews on - people just don't believe all-positive reviews - it's got to be real.

While I'm on my soapbox ;-) why, if Saturday is the busiest day is he offering the best deal? Surely to manage resources he should offer the best deals at the quietest time of the week?

Lastly how about a before and after shot but with an estimated cost and time to wait "in just 30mins & under $70 your boots could got this to this" - just a thought.

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Guest Nigel Garner


Oh I forgot to mention that a repainted shop front is well overdue. Lose the dark forbidding cave entrance and go for some lighter shade of something modern looking - I appreciate that may take some time and money but I'm not sure if I would want to go somewhere like that unless it was a pub/bar.
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Guest Deviyanee Cassidy


It's a shoe hospital right? So why not something that plays on that using imagery. Kiss your shoe boo boo's better! Admit them to the shoe Hospital and get them back good as new! Or something along those lines. lol. Sorry, not great at this but that's my suggestion to throw in the pot.
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Guest Natasha Minson


I'd add hospital style imagery on the boards. Nothing to big that it takes away from the shoes, just something to tie back to the business name.

I also agree with Nigel Garner's comment about the shop front. I love black, but that store front would suit swords and armour better than shoe repair. If they do spruce up the store front, those colours could be incorporated into the signs (including the one above the store that is in desperate need of a wash) to tie it all together.

Tieing it all together might then allow the signs to be moved a little way away from the store (if the council rules permit), or a second set of signs, so potential customers get the chance to see them twice.

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Guest Paul Andrews


I think (unless I've missed something in the long list) the human touch is missing.

It's all about shoes, but it should be about shoes and people.

How about an image of a woman/man/woman and man holding up their shoes and some copy such as "Shoe Hospital saved my shoes. Why not save yours?". They could be barefoot with loads of shoes scattered at their feet.

If regulations allow, even a full size standup, or a fill-height poster in the window. To be fair, the show frontage and interior is dark and uninviting.

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Great stuff, Neville! I think that walk-ins will increase to about 15/day.

On another note, I'm glad that the copy on your new sandwich boards is grammatically correct (unlike your article, unfortunately). It would have been terrible if you had used "shoe's" as the plural for "shoe", like you used "walk-in's" as the plural for "walk-in". I cringed every time you wrote "walk-in's". That's over 13 cringes, which almost made me stop reading your otherwise excellent article. If I had read your article as a business owner, I'm afraid that I would not want to hire you to write anything for my business because your poor grammar is very unprofessional.

My tip for you would be to pay more attention to what you write. Maybe invest in a short refresher course in basic written English with regard to pluralization and contractions. For example, apostrophes are not used to make something plural (1 cat, 2 cats - not 2 cat's). Apostrophes are used to indicate possession (the cat's food dish) or a contraction (the cat's asleep). Also, "Here's some pics" is horrible grammar. Please consider writing "Here are some pics" next time. It will help people take you more seriously, I promise.

Thanks for the good information and entertaining case study.

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Guest Carolyn


Amazing business case Nev!

Also add a dark frame around your street sign, trust me this works but I don't know why.

Add a few balloons to catch the eye of passersby.

Another eye catcher is a stand up sign that rotates with the wind.

The Shoe Hospital is going to be RICH RICH RICH and BUSY BUSY BUSY!

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B) I think you're missing a portion of the AIDA technique. You've accomplished (A) through a compelling headline and visuals. You've accomplished (I) through challenging the customer to make a judgement call about how good the shoes look from before to after (similar to why we LOVE looking at before and after pictures of people). You've nailed the last (A) - asking them to come inside. I don't know if you've accomplished (Desire) here. As a walker-by, my shoes may not be represented on the board or I may not think I'm the right customer. I suggest another line of text stating someone to the effect of, "Give your shoes a make-over" or "Brand new shoe looks without breaking your bank."
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To flesh out the hospital metaphor, instead of before and after you could use "sick" and "healthy". Or "Before seeing the Dr. " and "After seeing the dr. " Shoe shines could be the Dr.'s "prescription". "a shine a day keeps the dr away!" And on and on.
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B) the new sign you put in is awesome, and i love the fact you didnt have to work hard, all you did was take their own images and posted them so everyone could see!

i saw that the first sign is still out there, i think you should get rid of the first sign and put something up that describes not only what they do, but one that actually describes what is on sale.

for example: instead of 1/2 price on heels (i dont know what the reg. price is so how do i know what kind of deal i get) put down the original price for heels say $75 for heel repair (with a pic of broken heel) and a sale on that, whatever is good for the store. take out the line "no Limit" and instead explain what that actually means or write a call to action "Come in and check out some other amazing deals!!! (you can spell deals with a z "DEALZ" for some extra Pazazz... giggity!)

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What would happen if you would just put a picture of a nice looking shoe and write underneath it in big letters


I wonder what reaction that would have

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Guest Eleanor


After years in retail, I'd say you'll get a little jump of walkins say +25%. BUT, if you want to double it, you'll need to clean up the overall message. Your new sign is great, but it conflicts with the others. The shop front needs an identity (read unified message). The idea for shoe shining offer is great, but FREE doesn't put food on the table. Save your shoes idea is great too... Play up the "hospital" analogy that they have used for their name so that there is a real branding for the place. (if they have cash, they could paint the shop front to look like a "shoe emergency room" :)
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a.) Foot traffic walk--ins from 8 to 24 with the new signage...
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How nice of you to do this for the shop.

B. You could be sexist and say something like: "Ladies! Think how happy your man will be when you fix the shoes you already have instead of buying new ones!"

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