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Change words, change the impact

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.

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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

Great experiment and great sign ideas from all. However, my take, based on the images provided, is that the shop is cluttered and daunting. My guess is that most of the potential clients are women and the owner should make the shop appear clean, organized and inviting. Kind a a dry cleaner approach with a small front counter with bright colors and the guts of the shop behind a wall unseen to clients. There should not be a disconnect between the clean message of the signs and the perceived service from the street.
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Guest Julie Joyce


Awesome example of how something simple can be brilliant! And how amazing outcomes change when we remember to put ourselves in the customer's "shoes" and make it easy for them to understand what we can do for them. Thank you!
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Guest Christine Marsh



Perhaps you will have fun with this comment in that you are hearing from someone who has made hundreds of signs by hand for a variety of companies.

1. You have talked about the value of simplicity - simple imagery - in many of your posts, and you are right...

Get rid of the photos. Replace with fun yet clear drawings.

2. Always talk about what they save, rather than anything

to do with percentages. Very few people these days

have the brain power to deal with percentages in their head.

3. The sign says "Shoe Repair while you wait."

Eeek! No one wants to WAIT!!!

Talk about what they want.


"We awesome your shoes in 30 minutes for $35!

Money back guarantee!"

Other ideas (guessing on prices)

"We caress your shoes for only $65 - Save $45!"

"We doctor your shoes for only $65 - Save $45!"

"Let the shoe healers change your life and feet for the better!"

"The Foot Angels."

"We make your feet happy again!"

"Experience Austin's #1 shoe repair!"

"Experience Austin's Best shoe repair!"

"The shoe doctors are in!"

3. Make it fun and simple, but also clean and professional.

4. Here is an image I made up for you.

If you want the larger files, let me know.


Thank You!

Christine Marsh ~ R.C.V.S.E. - (Redhaired Creative Visual Solution Expert)

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B) I think signs like that should attract more than just "walk-by" traffic. There are "drive-by" traffic as well. If the sign picture/text is not big enough, the drive-bys won't be able to read it. I'd want to make the text bigger and just 2 pictures instead and have more pictures inside the stores as examples for the walk-by traffic. It'd create curiosity by showing not so much, and if you want more, come in to see.
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Adding a price or price range under each picture so people know it's worth it budget-wise to repair their shoes/boots vs buy new ones.
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I can't read all the replies (too many), so excuse me if this has been mentioned.

How about a plexiglass box with a pair of heels (target women?) in it, one that is old and one that is restored. Actually show them the real work.

I think 50% increase, so 12.

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Affix to top of sign, maybe an arrow pointing up with a CTA/or attention statement.
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Guest Mike Herleman


Hi Nev,

I'm going to say 31 people will walk in per day, mostly during the lunch hour where they will ask about pricing and turn around. Then within two weeks, having that information they will drop off and pick up before & after the work day.

To make the signage better, post drop off times 6:30-8:30am. Or, add a free consult/assessment of your shoe closet.

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Guest Mike Herleman


Add a limerick, mantra or phrase,


Oi Oi Oi ! , Tony Llama sez. We 'heel' Jimmy Choo and Vibram too !!

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One month has passed. Would enjoy seeing the numbers. How did the hospital do?
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Guest Mike Herleman


Add a limerick, mantra or phrase.

Like; Oi Oi Oi ! Tony Llama sez. We 'heel' Jimmy Choo! And Vibram too!!

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Gonna go with 18 for A. For B, something tying into the Hospital name could go over well. "ER for shoes" or similar with the Before/After?
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Why not move the shoe-shine guy outside? It gives passersby an additional reason to look at the storefront, while simultaneously increasing their revenue from shoe-shining. Additionally, the shoe-shiner can become a sort of salesman by up-selling his customers, or by directing pedestrians into the store.

Choosing a proper layout would be important to make sure that the new signage isn't lost behind the shoe-shiner. Also, I'm sure the guy wouldn't want to be outside all day, so having him out there for the morning, lunch and afternoon rush should suffice.

Any who, keep up the good work, Neville.

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Guest Prakash


b)Attach old and new shoe on top of Sandwich board. So people SEE how the shop can give new life to old shoes.
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A. 20 approx

B. A real example of just one shoe in a 'healed' or 'treated' pair.

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Guest Neville


Hmmm....that could be maybe a more "advanced" strategy for later on. For now the easiest hanging fruit is to get people AWARE of the service!
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Guest Neville


That sounds about wild!

That's an interesting angle to take for the future. I think once people start realizing what the store can do, and that message gets out there, then another message about the benefits of good shoes can go out.

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Guest Neville


Hey Phaedra!

The result was about a 50% increase in walk-in's.

Lol....I actually like your suggestion a lot! It would be cool to see "X shoes healed this week" and then show a single before/after picture.

Good suggestion!

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Guest Neville


Bahahahhahahahahahhahah!! 1 and 1a were my favorite!

Seemed to be the easiest to make and the most bang for the buck.

Amazing suggestions.

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I think it should jump to 12 fairly quickly. Then to 15+ as people see it a few times and start thinking about what shoes they could have fixed.


B. Something about save your shoe's life. Total recovery in 48 hours (or whatever their turnaround time is.

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Hi man,

Just letting you know that I heard you on the conversion podcast from leadpages and was blown away with your web copy knowledge. Just thought I would drop in and take a look at the blog and this local business marketing post was truly brilliant. Just shows how any business can be helped by cleverly placed, strategic wording! Signed up to the newsletter. Can you point me in the right direction to getting your 10 buck ebook with templated copy strategies?

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Guest Lyman Perrine


This is a great case study! I manage an Outdoor sign business and we sell these types of signs.

This type of information is a gold mine for my customers.

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A) 18+

B) "Fancy some NEW shoes for a fraction of the cost of buying new shoes?"

"Shoe lovers! We can make your shoes look like this:"

"Spot the difference: New shoe [pics of new shoes on the left side] Our shoes [pics of repaired shoes on the right side]"

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Guest Bubbie Gunter


Back from the dead makes me think.... (pic of old shoes - the Walking Dead LOL)
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