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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!

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[…] it’s not that important? This case study shows a shoe repair store that increased their walk in traffic by nearly fifty percent after giving […]
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Guest Charles CM Bannister


A. 22

B: Making comfy shoes sexy again

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Guest Chester


A. 15 - 20..

B. If you could add the time it takes for them to finish the job. Since time is essential to people and you are targeting walk ins.

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Guest Jon Page Acabo


Hi, Neville!

I love everything I read here... the effort you gave in to produce all these contents are enormous. I've read almost all of your content and even downloaded some of your e-books... we'll see how these stuffs help.

I'll get back to you soon to report the results. :)

Thank you.

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Guest Michael


A) 30

B) Make only two before/after pics and leave more space for words. It would be a good thing to catch more attention by writing something like "Did you see this yet?" on top so when people subconsciously walk by and read it they are hooked for another second. It doesn't take long to register the two before/after pictures under the line and then make the call to action like you did or switch it up, just for fun and write something like : "Bring 'em back from the dead" or " Fix your shoes, they just might be in fashion next autumn/summer"

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I work in NYC, so I'm a repeat shoe repair customer. I will replace the soles 3-4X or more before I will consider buying new shoes. And women constantly come in to fix their heels on their high heel shoes.

I think the bottom of the shoes is the most important pic, because that's what 80-90% of customers come in for.

But maybe fewer pics and list more benefits:

- heels replaced while U wait.

- free shine with each repair

- same day service

Also, I will only take my shoes to shoe repair that will replace the whole heel, not just the front half that's worn out. It may be cheaper, but it's bad shoe karma. But IDK if that would fit on a sandwich board.

But Neville, great ideas with your new signs!

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Guest Neville


Thanks Paul! And appreciate the feedback, I didn't realize so many people come in to replace the bottoms of the shoe.

In that case, I would definitely even make a whole Sandwich Board sign showcase before/after of just bottoms of shoes.

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Question A) I think the new signs will double the current # of cold foot (no pun intended) traffic or 16 new customers per day.

Question B) How about considering a sign with all the good things that will happen to your feet once your have your shoes (and feet) repaired at the Shoe Hospital, such as:

- Lose fatigue caused by tired feet

- Lose back pain caused by uneven heels

- avoid ankle twists of old high heels

- Bonus: Socks repaired automatically (due to no holes in your sole)

Just some thoughts.

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"Put the heart and sole back into your fave shoes! Our service is a perfect fit!"
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Guest Rhonda


TA) from 8 to 20 paying walk in customers daily.

This was an extremely cool thing. Also looked like fun. Y'know turning someone's business around by using what he already had, but making it better in simple ways. I can look out for stuff like this too. Opportunities are all over the place.

Thanks Mister

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Hey Neville!

Thanks for the case study. I love them.

However, I have a big problem with this particular occasion: I understand everything he meant except for heels stuff.

I mean - how can you not understand what "shoe hospital" mean? You cannot do anything in the world except for fixing those shoes. The name is creative, but far from being unclear...How can I become a copywriter if I don't understand that people may not get such simple things? I am sorry, but I have a feeling, I have to write like a retard to a retard. That's...terrible.

Secondly, what he means by repair is also clear like a sun in a cloudless sky to me. Have you never seen a broken shoe? Have you never had a broken shoe? Repair means it will be fixed and look better than it is and be wearable again.

But I also agree that by showing the before/after of shoes is great to prove your mastery and attract people.

Heel stuff...that's the point that I would also like to see changed.

Hope to hear your thoughts on that. Thanks!


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Guest Paul


Max some of this is about how people process things - processing language is OK, but processing visuals is often stronger and processing language and visuals is stronger still.

The goal is to make the message as simple as possible so people get it as they walk past. They aren't necessarily paying attention to the shop at all and it's easier to catch casual attention with a picture than text.

I don't like the word retard. It's quite offensive. It's important to have empathy not just with the subjects for your copy but the world in general, and your post shows little empathy or accommodation for your fellow man.

Writing copy is the same in the comments as it is elsewhere, so get your message across in the best way possible and have empathy for those that will read it.

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Guest Neville Medhora


Max, don't be silly.

Just by saying "Shoe Hospital" you immediately understood every single service he provided? Right.

Most people (including myself) understand they "fix shoes" to a degree, but most people will also not understand they can clean up worn out shoes, dye shoes different colors etc.

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Guest Yuyo


Hey man, imagine this:

4:30pm, I leave my job earlier to run some errands in the city center. My boss is pissed off, I am very stressed by the workload. I need to get to X office before 5pm. My wife calls me because our kid is sick. Someone stumbled upon me and and poured over coffee on me...

In a typical bad day (or even regular days) I don't want to solve puzzles to understand what a random sign in front of me claim to be. I really don't care how clever your wording is. "We fix shoes" is much easier than "shoe hospital".

Sometimes it's just about putting yourself in other people's... shoes :)

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Guest Neville Medhora


Great description Yuyo!

If an advertisement is confusing to me, I almost immediately dismiss it because I have no reason to care. That's why those visual boards we made are far superior :)

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Guest Derrick


“Shoes sick?

Let us ‘heel’ them!”

- Austin Shoe Hospital

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Guest Grant


Firstly, someone needs to redesign their CI.

Great read. Visuals are always important and a good CTA is a must. I would've just added a punny headline for some added humour.

'We'll revive any sole!'

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Workers who love their worn in (but worn out) boots would love something like this. (speaking from experience, new boots don't feel right, but the old ones well...nails and dirt do damage)

I wonder how he could get in front of or advertise to all those guys at a good time?

Oh and only way I would try to improve would be to change up the headline maybe to "How often do you look at your feet?" (implying hey! LOOK YOUR SHOES COULD USE SOME WORK) - maybe even with like a face of someone inquisitively thinking, "man...it'd be super awesome-sauce if this place could make ma shoes like that other sign!"

Great post and experiment!

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Neville it is no doubt that your improvements will double the shoe doctors business. However, I am a Realtot in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. I think creating a marketing letter to get people to call to list their home for sale is a much bigger complex problem. Looking for people wanting to sell, not renters looking to by as most can’t afford a house.
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Guest Henry Alexander


Well we have a similar concept here in India.. One old man did that shoe hospital so at first i didn't want to read it but when I checked in it was great.. I'm learning a lot from you that too for free (for now) I think current walk in increases to 15. Also we can add that we take full care of our patients (shoes) and also put a red Cross for hospital.
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