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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.

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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

Hmmm, I wonder what percentage of the foot traffic is husbands who could earn brownie points at home by "rescuing" a wife's favorite pair of shoes?
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B) get replacement shoes while yours are getting fixed.

This will remove the "planning" required to bring a pair from home. Lets people come in with what they are wearing *right now* as they pass the sign.

Also, if these replacement/temp shoes are REALLY GOOD (like mine, hint hint) the Shoe Hospital can usually sell those too for a nice profit. We have a B-Grade stock for exactly this purpose - demos and customer experience for in-store purchase - works in 90% of cases.

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Guest Dominik


Hi Nev, love this experiment. Have you got any updates? Were u able to measure the impact? I´m sure there´s plenty of folks who´d love to hear!



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Wow really awesome work. That sign was just bad bad bad. Love how you actually get out there and get your hands dirty, awesome blog Neville!
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Guest Charles


It's a shoe hospital...right? How about an emergency room for injured shoes?
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B) How about an imagination grabber like "What if your old shoes could look like this? Check out how inside."
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A) I think you can break 15 for a full double at 16. Great stuff.
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Guest Charles


If the new signs increased biz by 25% that's an additional 2 walk-ins a day. Every biz in America would like a 25% increase. Over 90 days I'd bet on 3 more walk-ins per day. "We fix The Hole In Your Sole" or "Shoe Surgeon On Duty"
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Guest Beverly Winston


If these signs were placed in areas where women frequent, they would get more sales. Women break more heels on their shoes than men. Just a thought.
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Guest Michelle Ferguson


1. Having those signs hanging above the doorway on each side of the Shoe Dr. sign... so that cars driving by can glance over and notice.

2. Putting those images into a newspaper ad...but perhaps he already does so.

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Many of these ideas are great to use. I think he could get more walk-ins if he used mobile ads today as more people are on their cellphones while they are walking past this Shoe Hospital. His ad could feature the same ad as what is on the sandwich board. His mobile ads could feature an about us button to learn more about them.
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Guest Bethany


At least 8-10. As someone who thinks a lot about shoes, I would likely assume that "Shoe Hospital" is some kind of cobbler. But their original sign seems geared toward insiders - how does someone know what a heel special includes?? The new sign shows the difference they can make and would motivate me to walk in and ask what they can do for my favorite pair of pumps. Brilliant idea! Show > tell!
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A. I'm thinking it would be at least 33 walk-ins per day.

:: 3 per hour x 11 hours.

B. A copy that says "SAVE your OLD shoes" (with the images you used) is the best I could think of. It talks about saving the shoes, but it also tells the reader that they can SAVE rather than buying new ones.

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Guest the passive income thing :: Kopywriting Kourse


[…] –The time I got a homeless guy to sell bottled water for me. –Those 5 days I went homeless on the streets of Austin. –That post and video I made how I crash parties to meet rich people. –That time I bought 100 lottery tickets to see what would happen. –When I illegally conference-crashed and met the Prime Minister of Malaysia. –When I changed a street sandwich board sign and got 50% more walk-in’s. […]
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Ha. I was gonna do same thing for my fathers barbershop business

I want to apply the methods here to see how much business increase we can see

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OO [eyeballs looking down pac man style]

What are your shoes saying about you?

Refresh your shoes, costs LESS than new

Look your best. People notice

Please come in. We'd love to meet you

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Guest 29 Advanced Digital Newsletters That Help You Learn | PR blog


[…] This bloke cracks me up. His posts are like nothing I’ve read before. One the other day was on writing a sandwich board! And how small tweaks to signage can have a huge impact on ROI. You gotta read it. […]
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Guest Charles


One board has 3 pairs of heels and 1 pair of men's loafers. Get rid of the picture of the men's loafers and add another picture of a woman's pair of heels.

There's already 3 pics of heels on one side, why not make it 4... all heels. Have a "heels side" of the board and a "boots and loafer side." 4 heels pictured on one side will drive up the numbers. Guaranteed.

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Guest Print Ads vs. Online Ads: How to Buy, Measure & Experiment With Print Ads


[…] You have to choose your offer and write an…advertisement. There’s plenty of resources & classic writings on doing this on and offline. […]
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Guest Neville


Thanks Mark! It's funny because I didn't even want payment, but they wanted to contract out more of the signs.
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Guest Neville


A.) The pic DEFINITELY makes a huge different rather than words!

B.) They were actually pretty big if you could see them in real life. The pictures don't quite do it justice.

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