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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

    1) 12 in the next week, perhaps 16 the following

    2) the issue is that most people aren't walking around with their old shoes. What if there was a way for people to drop off the shoes they are wearing now, and wear a borrowed pair of sandals home? Then, when they pick up their shoes, they just return the sandals they borrowed, or if they like the sandals, they pay for that as well?

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    Guest Patricia Phaneuf


    It's likely that the new signage would increase walkins by 14-15 people per day. I agree with all the great suggestions and would second:

    1. Pricing info (If competitive and reasonable). I hate asking prices.

    2. Some kind of discount for newbies-25% off first repair.

    3 Mention of a loyalty program (maybe show and image of a card with "get a free X# of your shoes)

    4. Family discounts

    But, with all the new customers generating more cash-in addition to the signage, I would do the following-

    Clean up the store. Organize (most shoe repair places are notoriously messy, old school and not particularly inviting).

    Once the inside is more inviting (including smelling better) I would invest in a very cheap computer set up to run a video in the window. Get people to the window to see what's going on inside. Some people are nervous about walking into a place like that where they don't know what goes on inside-let them see its all ok.

    1. SHOW before and after images in living color.

    2. Have a couple of 1-2 minute videos showing how to take care of your shoes: shining, using shoe trees, storage etc.

    3. Show how to tell what good shoes are. What materials are shoes made from? How long should they last (like tires on a car-we know they should last x thousand miles)


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    I 'd suggest to improve to answer typical 2 questions come into customer's mind.

    1) How long does it take to repair my shoe?

    unless "life threating" time where I have to repair my shoes, i will allow typical quick repair of said 30 min. From the high building around the corner, I guess the "shoe hospital" is in downtown area where I am either rush for meal or transport. Time is a limit for these people.

    2) Is worth to repair my shoe?

    Customer may afraid the price is high to repair and wonder if the target customers are those who spend a lot for their shoe. If the Ad adress it with keyword like "worth", "affordable", "reasonable", people won't hesitate to check it out.

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    I'd wager that you'll get a small uptick in the short and medium term to maybe 12-13 total (around 50% improvement) and then it will lull back to the rough original of 8-9 after 6 months or so... that's still a good ROI though.

    Why not use a sign that calls attention to a current and overlooked problem and offer an immediate solution? Something like "YOU FEET HURT! COME IN TO IMPROVE YOUR WORN OUT SHOES" on one side and maybe "YOUR SHOES ARE UGLY! COME IN TO MAKE YOUR SHOES LIKE NEW AGAIN" on the other side with a few sample photos (and prices vs. buying new shoes).

    I'd also suggest that you tag the board with the website - or maybe http://bit.ly/shoes (or whatever) so that people who are in a hurry can possibly get a mindworm about it.

    My $.02

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    a) I'm thinking 13 walk-ins on average

    b) Maybe add a line like "NEVER buy the same pair of shoes again!"

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    Hmm....I think you'll get an average of 11 per day. I like conservative estimates because best case scenario is I underestimated the success of the sign.

    The way I'd make the sign better is simple- I'd make the before/after pictures attachable by velcro, so I could test the effect of different types of shoes over the span of say...2 weeks. So in a month, the first 2 weeks I might leave the sign as is and track walkins. 2nd half of the month, I might swap out the heels pictures for more specific, easily recognizable designer heels. Next 2 weeks, I'd throw some rare reconditioned Basketball sneakers on there.

    Doing it that way would let me optimize what pictures went on the sign.

    The other big improvement would be to apply your initial questions to the website, and see if the copy/pictures on there could be improved.

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    A) I'm going conservatively with 150% (so 12). That's still remarkable for a small biz.

    B) Add some sort of guarantee: "We fix it or it's free."

    Also, as others have pointed out, a common objection is hassle/time, i.e., "how long is this going to take?"

    So perhaps advertising some sort of shoe drop-off/pick-up service as well.

    "Get them fixed in just a few minutes, or pick them up later when it's convenient for you."

    I also like the theme of: "Your friends will never know they're not new." Something compelling along that line of persuasion.

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    Guest Quantella Owens


    Especially since Halloween is coming up! And they could extend it even further with jokes about shoes and turkeys for Thanksgiving or Elf shoes losing their jingle at Christmas.......oh, I can't stop!!! What about bunny slippers at Easter and Dutch clogs on the first day of Spring....:)
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    Hey Nev,

    A) 13

    B) I would take a photo of a close up of the feet of a group of business men standing next to each other talking (wow, that was a lot of prepositions). One guy has ugly, worn out, crappy shoes and the others have nice, fancy, shiny shoes. Then the text can say something to the effect of,

    "Shoes damaging your reputation?"

    "I'll get them looking brand new again."

    It's not super clever, but it plays to psychology with real life situations.

    For one side you could have this and the other side could have a group of women following the same concept.

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    A.) 12 per day.

    B.) Use the store's or website's style (color, fonts) on the signs to deliver a consistent brand.

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    Guest Gonzalo Arzuaga


    1. 17

    2. One new sign a week adding a name, and hopefully a picture, of a real customer. For instance: "Marianne got THIS for only $75!" and the beauty before and after picture. "Ask inside for yours (and our great special)"

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    A)I truly believe the sign will bring in 20 or more walk ins a day. There's a store in my area that would benefit from a sign like this. I discovered it by chance, and they do a great job at repairing shoes.

    B)We all have shoes so I'm sure his market is really broad, but what if the ad/sign focuses in on one particular target market. Also as a woman with lots of heels and boots I would love to get a behind the signs look at how the shoes are repaired. :)

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    Guest Eli Gonzalez


    A. 16

    B. Actually have some shoes out there to display. For exams take an old worn pair of shoes and only repair ONE of them. Then place both of them outside( somehow attach them so peoe won't steal them). I believe this will draw even more attention and actually cause people to stop and analyze the shoes

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    1. 12/day.

    2. Place a woman sitting in high heels outside the shop on a stool.

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    A: 22

    B: Let's go 1998 landing page and slap on some blinking LEDs. Directional arrows and movement would be even better. Simply getting slightly better attention should bump the rest of your conversion.

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    Hey Nev! I like how you performed CPR on that sandwich board!

    I'm curious to see how walk-in rates correlate with your new visual (I will guess you will get 2-4 more people daily with this sign). I think you captured the right idea that people do not understand the service(s) offered. Since this is a billboard, you will have a little extra time to educate the casual observer and the pictures may reach out to the people driving or biking by.

    All of my ideas are coming in the form of "clever" writing; may be able to get away with a chalk board sandwich sign (similar to bars).

    Disrupt thinking (a la Monty Python reference) - Picture of shoes that say "I'm not dead yet!"

    Medical theme: Are your shoes dying? Come inside to see how we can breath life back into your shoes!

    Odd: It's cheaper than you think to heal your sole!

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    Hi Nev,

    A) 24

    B) Focus ad on demographic most likely to walk by wanting shoe repair. For example, women. Then give them a headline e.g. Make Your Favorite Pair of High Heels Like New Again.

    Promote favorite High Heel Preservation as well for additional traffic.


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    They'll get 10 more walk ins.

    Add "Drop 'em off on your way to work. Pick 'em up on your way home."

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    Guest Alex Casteleiro


    A) I think you can easily double the numbers, from 8 to 16+ daily walk-ins.
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    Wow! Lots of good comments here. I'd make a HUGE Cowboy Boot (It's Texas) and hang it above the front door, to grab attention. And, they might consider handing out a "Motivating" Discount Coupon to passersbys.

    When my wife opened her Antique Shoppe some years ago she asked me to watch the shop while she went to an estate auction. I noticed that all those who entered moved around to the right side of the store and when I asked if I could help them find anything.....their response was always, "Nope! Just browsing!"

    So.....I went home to my PC at lunch and made up some Discount Coupons. They had "$1" in each of the 4 corners and across the top was;


    "Good for $1 off ANY item in the shop!"

    Wow! I printed some up on Green Card Stock and cut to the size of a business card.....went back to the shop and everyone who entered I handed a card to and said, "Welcome to our antigue shop.....here's a dollar off anything here!"

    The change was AWESOME! Instead of shoppers just scanning the merchandise.....they NOW were "Seriously Studying Each Item, trying to see WHICH Item they could use the Buck on!

    The shoe repair shop could have someone standing outside handing a "Repair Buck" to passerbys (Good for a dollar off any repair!) I'd betcha people would bring by a pair (or 2) of shoes to use the FREE DOLLAR!

    Also.....I gave each one who purchased a "BEE-BACK" card.....with a graphic of a Bee and the words, "Good For $10 off ANY future purchase!"

    The shoe repair shop could also give their customers a "Bee-Back" card, good towards $X off their next service!"

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    Guest Gold shoes - NevBlog


    […] my shoe hospital street advertising experiment I decided to make some cool shoes of my […]
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