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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

Guest Neville


A.) Ended up being a 50%+ increase in walk-ins!

B.) Hahah, I like it, but it would be too "clever." But great suggestion Michael!

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Guest Neville


A.) I know they did decent business with the shoe shine thing, but it wasn't the bread and butter for sure.

B.) I'm skeptical of them dedicating their time to an Instagram account. It seems the offline marketing worked super-well for them already. I'd rather have them invest more time into refining that across multiple times than posting Instagram pictures.

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Guest Barb Gray


@Dejan's idea made me think of including a picture of 'Nick' (owner) handing over a couple of pairs of shoes on the sandwich board and instead of a bunch of examples, just focusing on owner and 'non-descript' shoes, but ones you can identify with ... so you would see something like this image but with adult shoes (http://www.bigstockphoto.com/image-96287180/stock-photo-man-holding-old-worn-white-baby-shoes-in-his-hands) --- the point is that you're focused on the shoes and owner's 'working' and capable hands. The photo could have a soft diffusion around owner's face so focus is on shoes and hands. And copy would say something like, 'Come inside for a couple of minutes, and let Nick show you why eventually, everyone takes their shoes off in here.' I'll be happy to do the photo shoot! ;-)
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B) All of the women's shoes on your sign still have perfect heels. That's ABSURD. The one problem most women have is not the flat part of the shoe, but the heel. That little black bit of plastic comes off, or the whole heel comes off. Same with my cowgirl boots. I destroyed the plastic part of the heel by walking in them so much.

True, it's nice to get the tops polished, but without a good heel, it's impossible to walk!

Both types of photos are necessary, and you only have one type.

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Guest Eleanore


B) I would explain more benefites of repairing your shoes:

1 - time and money saved by not endlessly traipsing around finding another pair of shoes that fit at a price you like.

2 - environmental benefit, saving resources in production and shipping of new shoes.

3 - money saved, by investing in a higher quality footwear and repairing, the overall cost per wear is lower.

4 - Market shoe repair as a 'shoe service' much as you might get your car serviced thereby improving the look of your image and the durability of the shoes.

5 - Raise awareness of expert advice inside shop and specialist products available in the Shoe Hospital

6 - possibly brand the shoe hospital more closely with their name

That's my inital ideas :)

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Guest Michael


A) 12

B) Before & after are great. Add "FREE Tip Sheet: 5 Ways To Make Your Favorite Shoes Last Longer" Inside ... Plus ask about our VIP Discount! (Inside they get their Tip Sheet & and can leave their email to join the VIP Discount Bonus Club).

Get's the name out on paper. Builds their email list for mailings.

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Guest Mustafa


Excellent case study!

Thanks for sharing.



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Guest Chad


Hello Neville:

Very interesting and informative case study. Thank you for sharing with us.

1) I would hope that the walk-ins would increase to 20 paying patrons a day.

2) Are flashing lights or LED lights allowed in Austin? Maybe red LED lights outlining the Red Cross symbol, or red/white flashing lights (like an ambulance) since this is a shoe hospital. Have the lights flashing either in the window or possibly attach to the hand-held signs. Attaching the lights to a hand-held sign would take a little bit of work, but it could be worth it.

3) I would add a financial amounts to the shoe advertising signs. For example: "Are your $500/pair of boots looking like this? (insert pic of worn out boots or boot soles) Restore them for a fraction of that cost. Come inside let's discuss."

4) Trying to think outside the normal box here..... "Do your feet look like this with a new pair of shoes? (inert pic of bleeding feet, blisters on toes etc.) Save money and your feet with new soles for your boots and shoes. Come inside and see what we can do for you...."

Thank you.


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Guest Chris Peters



B)What about a picture of some ridicliously nice shoes that are beyoned bringing back from the dead with a caption like "They don't sell these anymore" or "Visit the shoe doctor before it's to late"

or even better maybe some ridicliously nice shoes that have been repaired with the caption "They don't even sell these anymore"

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Guest Kevin


A) 14

B) Take a minute to see what we can do for YOU. (Bet we'll have you out of your shoes faster than airport security!)

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Guest Mark "Elmo" Ellis


Hey, man, good job on the sandwich board ad! Was there any possible opportunity for the shop owner to offer something for free? If you could get something like a free shoe-shine or whatever, it may have increased response. If he had flyers printed up that someone could hand out in front of the store telling people how to take better care of their shoes, that would be cool. On that ad, he could have coupons etc. Also, if he could give away something for free in exchange for the walk-in's email, or address, he could have easily started building a great database of customers. Yeah, getting them in the door is cool, but what are you going to do after they are in there?

The list is gold.

Anyway, love your site. Thanks for the incredible inspiration, my friend!


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Guest Brigitte


No suggestions for improvement because I think this is brilliant! I know this was several months ago, I'm curious to see what the walk-in numbers are now vs. the 8-per-day they were before the new sign was implemented. Also, why leave the old sign out? The new one is such a vast improvement, I'd let it stand on its own. "Get to work, sign!"

I've stood on that very corner, watching buskers during SXSW. LOL. Love Austin!

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Guest Doppler


I don't know if someone already suggested it (too many answers :)

50% or more of those who walks in front of the shop do that everyday. The shop-owner could take pictures of the worsts shoes that pass in front of his desk everyday.

Then, he may photoshop them and use it as a simulated Before/After case.

The thing is YOUR shoes will be showcased on the sandwich sign, which may induce a stronger connection with the benefit (or can rise the anger of pro-privacy guys)

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Guest Logan Williams


Nothing to add here. I haven't read all the comments, but I reckon you hit an average of 14/day as far as walk ins go.

Someone else suggested changeable signs, which I would definitely get behind for various seasonal promos and for split testing.

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A) 22

B). Use image that conveys 'comfy like an old pair of shoes but looks like a new pair.


image of embarrassing broken heel

Moment and glamorous restored sophistication.

Scruffy heeled shoes on a business man to immaculate presentation in a meeting.

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Guest Kenneth


Those damn signs?!?

You killed it Nev, great job. Very interesting article, will be pondering on it for days.

I'm going to say 18! A little over doubly because you nailed it!

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Guest Mark Elmo Ellis



Your site is my absolute favorite to frequent. I used to go the Neil Patel's and Jon Morrow's sites first, but they now take a backseat to yours.

You're like the David Blaine of copywriting, you go into the streets and actually do this stuff. You simply lay it out in easy to understand terms and writing and add fun pictures. You ought to make videos like this too.

Man, that would be AWEEEEEESOMMMEEEE!

Please, keep them coming and don't change your format.

Years ago, my favorite magazine was Mother Earth News. It had regular paper for the inside pages and the cover was the usual cover material for catalogs, but the artwork was done by common folk that were not high-end artists. They also had a huge classified section.

Then they changed it and went to the same format as all the other magazines. Slick pages, and a thinner magazine. Now I buy Backwoods Magazine because they are GENUINE.

So please don't change what you're doing because you are really connecting with folks like me.

I have never done a Pod Cast, but if I ever do one I'd love to have you as my first guest.

Thanks for a great site!


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Hey, I got a Dan Kennedy sales letter last year in the mail and it was about 20 pages long. Despite all of the usual foul language that accompanies these "cool" types of sales letters, there were all sorts of grammatical errors and misspellings through the copy.

I guess it happens.


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Yes, I was thinking putting signs in more places than just outside the store with a QR code that they can scan to be taken to an optin page for a coupon and the location info and open hours maybe.

That way they can capture email addresses and do nurture marketing to potential customers over and over because once I got home I'd likely forget.

Maybe they would be open to having people send them their shoes for repair and sending them back so they could expand outside their local market too.

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I'm not actually gonna read all the comments here, so..sorry if I'm repeating any of the ideas. Ok, let's go:

B) 'Your beloved shoes are passing away? Free consultation inside ->'

'Wanna save your favourite pair? Come inside and let our doktors do their magic. '

'Your shoes have been loyal friends. Don't let them down. Come in and let us save them!'

'You've been stomping on them their whole life. Now you're throwing them away? Let us fix your shoes. '

Also: - the upper sign could use some work, it looks..dirty

- I don't know if this is legal, but maybe some ambulance-like lights could draw some attention to the store

Have a nice day!

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How about...

How much is you career worth?

Interview-Ready Shoes

Same Day Service Available

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Guest Dilip Sharma


Great ! It would be great if you consider showing happy customers' faces in the ad chart. I mean similarity brings more trust. Human - Human !
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