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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 Tina Pelky


Loved this experiment! Big improvement for sure. I would add a little more splash of color, especially for the headline. Also, since the posters weren't too pricey, I would change them out every one to two weeks so people who walk by regularly may notice one sign more than another or "re-notice" the signs again.

Another idea is some verbiage like: "Worn out shoes can ruin your whole outfit...we can fix that!" Followed of course with images.

Great stuff!

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Guest Robert Belland


A) 16

B) The first thing I noticed the sign needed was a big clear arrow pointing into the store. I realize most people understand the board is meant for the store it's In front of, but an arrow will remove any tiny doubt. It's all about removing any possible friction between seeing the sign and wanting to go into the store, right?

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Guest Hubert Sawyers


This is a winner right here. I was going to offer similar ideas, particularly stressing the value point.
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Guest Delmania


So, first timer here, also relatively new to copy writing, so bear with me! I think the sign will bring in around 50% more traffic, so 12 people (up from 8). The design of the sign seems to be a claim ("we do miracles"), some examples of said miracles, and then a call to action. Personally, I might start with a question, like "Got bad shoes?", give a few pictures of ruined shoes, then put a CTA like "we can help" with a image of a single repaired shoe. Get people's curiosity going.

A more minimalist example would just be "Got bad shoes?", a single image of a ruined shoe, and the claim and CTA at the bottom of "We can help. Inquire inside".

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B) You have 2 designs, but from the pics it looks like you put them both on one sandwich board. Put one sign on both sides of the board and get rid of the old sign so you can have a real A/B experiment. Give the first design say, 2 weeks, because the new information will probably create latent demand as people walk by, realize the service, and bring their shoes in a week later. Then put up the other design for two weeks and compare the results. For both signs, ask people who came in why they came in and what they thought about the sign, and use it for your next iteration of A/B designs.

Have fun!

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Prior to reading your estimates of 15, which is almost doubling traffic, I was thinking that 12-13 per day was a good goal.

The reason I thought this is that I am on Chapter 17 of the Boron Letters (I printed them out like you said!) and I remember an earlier chapter talked about targeting your audience to get a better response rate.

The street sign doesn't target previous customers, nor people who have purchased similar items recently, frequently, or necessarily at a higher price point. The signs are targeting, well everyone who walks by.

So I think to increase from 8 to 13 ( about 60% daily increase) is really good and achievable.

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Guest Joey Ndu


A. 18 ish

B. Add a seasonal element. It was just the first day out fall. "Repair your fall shoes now and they'll be better than new"

*Pictures of boots, etc

Also, some shoe hospitals do belts and purses, too - though that would be better for a second sign

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A) 18

B) Improve it by saying something like "Never be ashamed of your shoes again" come in for a fast visit... Maybe put some prospect shoes out there so they can relate..... I think people are self concious about their shoes so that will help..

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Guest Amy Spaulding


Hi, Neville,

I love this experiment (plus I think you are a good person for helping this dude).

A) 17 as conservative estimate; I bet those walk-ins will be more likely to buy though (the service)

B) A few suggestions:

1. Clean the sign that says SHOE HOSPITAL above the store; it looks grungy and makes me think, Eww. Easy fix.

2. Featuring boots (repaired, polished, re-dyed) is great in a city like Austin. I think that is a winner.

3. I would show at least one example of a hole in a shoe (or a REALLY worn sole) -- maybe on a boot. Because cosmetic fixes are nice -- I can do most myself. But repairing a SOLE is a pro's job; and I would come in for that if they were my favorite shoes. (I LOVE the images). I think they would need to be changed up now and then so that people continue to stop and look -- especially the regulars.

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First, off the copy-writing is definitely better. But, I'm gonna play devil's advocate here and say there won't be that much effect. Maybe from 8 to 10/day.

I just don't believe showing the bottom of shoes has that much effect. After a couple days of walking around on the new soles they will look exactly like the old soles. Do people really look at the soles of their shoes and get grossed out if they are scuffed? I feel like more pictures like the pink high heels at the bottom of the first board would be more powerful.

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I'm going to go with 15 for now, but I imagine that would even increase over time, with the examples on the signs being freshened up periodically. This was so nice of you to do for this shop owner. There are some interested comments already here. I'd say some of them could be incorporated into print ads or inserts, but I think the street sign is best as is. People can take the whole of it in as they walk past.
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How about some "while you wait" action? And a mirror to let them see their shoes.
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A) I'm gonna go with 15.

B) Give them a call to action like "Look down!, Do your shoes look like this or this" with arrows pointing to A and B on the this/this. You'd not only see people looking at the sign, but looking down to their shoes (taking action). If my shoes looked crappy, I might walk right in.

Also, I wonder if the shop owner could get some really cheap throwaway flip flops and also add "leave your shoes here! We won't send you home barefoot!"

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B) Your target customer's eyes are scanning a million things while walking down the sidewalk. So the signboard is competing with tons of things as they walk and text and talk and daydream. 2 ideas one for the signboard and one alternative (still cheap) advertisement :

1. Since your dawesome at photoshop, do a pattern interrupt type image, with the full length of the signboard. Two legs side by side, one man's leg and one woman's leg. But the catch is that the woman's leg is fitted with a big clunky stereotypical man's shoe. And the man's leg is fitted with a slender sexy stereotypical woman's shoe. With the text of "Austin Shoe Hospital - Do your feet feel like this? Come inside and let us help your feet" Maybe it'd be better to have two signs, one with just mens legs and another with womans legs, and have one on each side of the store front.

2. Second idea (you didn't ask for, but I like brainstorming) Create a 6 foot long wooden walkway platform. It would have sides and rails with the walking area covered in some soft cushiony material (maybe carpet padding), but it could be placed right in front of the store and produced for pretty cheap. It would invite passerby's to sign a petition to upgrade the sidewalks of Austin. Go way over the top and proclaim, "Help us cover Austin's hard concrete sidewalks in soft cushiony padding" "Together we can make walking comfortable again", or "Since Austin was founded in 1893 (?) man and woman have been subjected to walking in discomfort, help us end sore feet in this city" The display would invite passerby to try out the walk way and then sign the petition to cover every sidewalk in padding. And then very loudly and sarcastically announce "Or come inside and let us fix and upgrade your shoes so every step is a step in comfort" The idea would be to catch their attention & break their eyes from the routine of passing by yet another store or sidewalk display board

3. One more idea. Back to the sidewalk display board. "Do you suffer from SFS? 89.7% of Austinites suffer from Sore Feet Syndrome (we made that up). Come in today and let us give you a free estimate on a shoe repair in under 10 minutes. Neville Medhora who is not a doctor, but has watched a lot of Scrubs, Doogie Howser, and a few Grey's Anatomy (his girlfriend made him); recommends Austin Shoe Hospital to give your feet the relief they deserve."

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B) Instead of the call-to-action of the sign to go inside the store and ask about "what they do," generate a favorable expectation for the potential customer to try them out by offering a lower rate for their first pair of shoes.

Keep the before and after, because visually it's powerful and it describes exactly what they do. Then, add:

Something like, "We'll repair your first pair for 50% Off"

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A) Double to tripple and then settling on 14-15

B) There is a Teddy Bear Hospital in my town. Which always brings a smile on my face any time I pass by.

Maybe something out of left field like "We are just like the Teddy Bear Hospital but we revive your shoes". More people would relate to Teddy Bears so as a pattern interrupt it is richer.

Related - a whole series of Teddy Bears repairing shoes can be made but that will require artistic/cartoonist skills.

Another angle could be - You've worn them out nicely, they are finally fitting you like second skin, do you really want to throw them away?

Related -What is the price of comfort ?

Another angle - If they can add some cheap posture analysis based on how shoes are worn out. Or periodically have an expert who visits offering that service.

Another - We teach you how to PROPERLY look after your shoes ... Some leaflet is given ... Or better, encourage people to bring the shoes so they are taught and shown on the spot. And sold extra relevant products.

(A buddy of mine, who consults a multinational making shoe polishing and related products, on seeing me with new shoes the other day, handed me a bottle of waterproofing product and the special brush for applying it. I love it when he does this ! )

Related - Seasonal shoe care advice ... Relevant humours messages too - Don't let your shoes get the flu this winter. Or Our Shoe Flu Vaccine is loved by 9 out of 10 shoe pairs we have interviewed ;-)

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Guest James Lopez


Great post Nev,

I actually find this really pertinent and hope to share this with my own DDA and DBA and other local businesses. All of these businesses are thinking "if you build it, they will come" and are putting out sandwhich boards expecting these crappy plastic pieces to magically make customers appear and all I see is ghost towns. I have been wanting to write (or now find) an article that explains its not just the sandwhich board, but the content that makes people read it and ultimately come into the store.

Whale done!

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That's a brilliant idea.

Get them in the door to quickly learn how to shine their shoes to perfection in just two minutes! :)

I was thinking a quick two minute shoe shine for free would be an awesome offer to get folks in the door, capture their contact info and make them repeat customers.


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Guest James Saint


My estimate is an initial surge to 18 to 20 walk-ins with various inquiries about services. Then dropping off to 12 to 14 walk-ins after people in the area get use to seeing new signage.

I agree with some of the other above, the project needs a rotating set of signs that would be changed out weekly. Also agree the store's main signage need a major revamp. Very dated look.

The real question here is can the store owner handle the 25% to 50% increase in business with the shop size that he has and the current level of employees, AND STILL be able to provide the quality of services that he is currently providing.

Good luck with the project.

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Your comment reminded me of a sign I saw on my way to work - another shoe repair place that read: "We save soles! Wake your shoes from the dead!"
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A) 20

B) Get a "topper" to go on top of the sandwich board where you can put that "1/2 price heels on Saturdays" message. Now they can see what the shoe hospital does and it communicates their long-standing promotion keeping the original spirit of the sandwich board intact. I bet heel business on Saturday goes way up.

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Great write up.

B) my suggestion is more of an add-on to the signs. See if you can get the owner to allow you to take over one of the display windows. Then create a "peep-hole" where people walking by have to get really close to see through the hole into the display. make sure there is a lot of contrast (example black paper with a white circle around that peep hole.)

Inside the hole, you see a more of the examples of turning old shoes into new again. Maybe even have a tv with a video running that shows a time lapse video of the process.

The peep hole concept is mainly one of extreme curiosity, so the sandwich board should be playing up the curiosity. "Oooh... what's that behind the curtain? ---> Look inside, you know you want to" or something of that nature.

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Guest Jene Hullett


A) 17

B) Several things I would want to know as I walk by on my way to work are cost estimates...Quickly show Heel Replacements $40. average Heels Women $35. Resurface $50. Boots dye : $50.

Most shoe repair shops do women's purses or other leather accessory goods.

Because I pay big bucks sometimes for purses and have my favorite worn out purse from 10 years ago, it would be valuable to me to

pay for a strap repair vs. a new purse, if shoe hospital does this, promote it on sandwich board.

My shoe strap broke and I'm in a wedding this weekend...so how long do repairs take? Can I get it back in 24hours or is it going to take 2 weeks? This would be important to me.

Add a small take one box (for slips of info around 2" x 5") make this a price list

* based on in store evaluation, phone number, address, website.

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A. I'd say 3-5 more customers a day to walk-in.

B. There's only two ways to get more "random" folks in the door is to have an irresistible offer or get more traffic.

Making an irresistible offer that is easy to access, easily and quickly consumable.


1. How about a Friday shoe shine power hour? Come by before or after lunch to get a quick, free, shoe shine (new customers only)?

2. Make it a one time monthly event where lunch is served so they can come during lunch or maybe even just dessert from Amy's Ice Cream.

Just some thoughts.

What's important is making sure there is a mechanism for capturing lead info at the offer/event onsite.

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Love the signs and how it drives how the value proposition. Call-to-action is great as well.

B) A lot of stores in my neighborhood are chalkboards constantly changing everyday (at least the good ones). Making the boards more dynamic would allow you to change up the messaging. Maybe you have several areas that would allow you to slide in a different images and test which works best for the type of customer walking by. Say there are a lot of hipsters that frequent that street so you test just men's hipster boots on the one side. This would create something that really relates to the audience. If I saw a shoe that looked like mine I might be more likely to stop by.

You could also asses who the majority of your customers are and appeal to them or try and expand your audience by appealing to a new customer base to increase the walk-ins.

Really enjoy reading these posts. Thanks a lot!

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