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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

    A) Twice as many, at least, assuming such good pedestrian traffic, and a growing awareness that "Hey, so my shoes AREN'T disposable? Cool!"

    B) The only thing I would add is a colorful arrow pointing at the door, to power up and add immediacy to the "Ask Inside" message.

    Great post. cool work.

    Link to comment

    I've never "Kopywritten" before, but here it goes.

    A) I would say 18

    B) I would add a saying like, "Like Obamacare, we are "AFFORDABLE."" or "Restoration cures Humiliation."

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    Awesome work, Neville!

    My guess is 15

    And a crazy idea, what if you create a PAIR of sandwich boards, each one with one side of mirror with a sticker says "Did you see what's happening in your shoes? See other side for answer!" , the other side are the images of your ladies and men's shoes, with the text says "We fix it for you!" So when people walk by, they will see the mirror side first, they might even raise their shoes as they see the reflection from the mirror, then walk to the other side of the board to see the service of the store:)

    A pair of them, so you can flip the mirror side of the board for both-side traffic :)

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    a) 17

    b) How about an image of a person wearing their old shoes contrasted with wearing the repaired shoes. I picture myself walking by the sign after a few days looking down at my shoes thinking huh I wonder how much it would cast to fix em up. Oh free estimates cool! :)

    Link to comment

    a) 11

    b) The potential customer's problem needs to be addressed up front, something like "Your shoes are sick (Not in a good way)"

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    What a great fun experiment Neville:)

    don't know about Austin but here in NSW Australia it can be nearly as expensive to repair as it is to buy new and you still have old shoes - why bother? SO I'd show why repair can be better with something along the line of: "Favourite shoes worn out? New shoes too hard to wear in? We can make your favourite shoes look like new but feel like a treat on your feet. Save pain, time and money! Call in today for a free estimate." I'd accompany it with an image of a foot pinched in an really uncomfortable stiletto and another before and after but shot from behind, the first of a badly rolled out shoe ie the heel severely worn on one side, the second with it repaired and another before and after with a comfy pair of shoes revamped and looking fabulous.

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    a) 25x more walk in's

    b) free taco with every order and partner up the deal with local taco dealer yum ;)

    Link to comment

    a) 19

    b)I would replace the ad Saturday

    and I’d write:

    "Just for today"

    (to create a sense of urgency and versatility [you can put on any day])

    An image of a woman's shoe with an arrow pointing the heel

    Add the words:

    "½ Heels "


    Link to comment
    Guest S Abraham


    a) I'll go big and guess 19 people are coming in per day.

    b) I'd say,"Miraculous shoe recovery" instead of "We do miracles on shoes." Given that the store is called "Austin Shoe Hospital," I'd want to use a word I'd associate with a good outcome at a hospital.

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    Guest Hoo Kang


    a) Around 10-15 more walk-ins a day

    b) Is there something small he could do for free or very little costs like the freebies and taste tests like they do at the food court?

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    How about adding a grabber.

    A real pair of shoes on the sidewalk.

    One shoe repaired and one not.

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    Guest Joel Dorantes


    1). 13

    2).15 min. Workshop on how to properly shine & care for beloved shoes @ scheduled times during the day ..maybe 3-6x during business hrs.--->after presentation offer Home "Express Shoe Shine Kit" readily available on your way out and packaged nicely.

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    Guest J.D. Sandifer


    First of all, I love how "A or B" became A AND B for some people. Or even 1 and/or 2... Hilarious.

    Regarding walk-ins, it looks like the store is actually displaying BOTH signs so I bet the number will be higher, maybe 25. Two signs in a row will work even better than you planned.

    Link to comment
    I would put my money on board number 2, for two reasons. 1/ clearer images and less information to process and 2/ a clear call to action.
    Link to comment

    I'd say you're spot on with at least doubling them. If that shitty sign brings in 8, I'm guessing 20 is not too much of a stretch either.

    Solid work, can't wait to see some updates!

    Link to comment
    Guest Nathan Pennington


    Answering the second question about split testing ideas for the signs...I like your new sign content, and others have commented about different content ideas like benefits or using the word "free". So far all good ideas.

    But what about making the signs themselves more eye catching? Something like a red background or a black background (the white almost seems to blend in to the background too much in the picture).

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    Guest Richard J.


    Great post! As someone who is looking for a transition from my current job to something new to do you keep bringing me back to your Kopy writing course. I'm reading the Boron letters and plan on reading your other recommendations. Next stop, Kopy Writing Course. Thanks Neville, keep on teaching ??
    Link to comment
    Guest Ben Beach


    A: 16

    B: Can you make it easier to remember to bring shoes in? Hand out labels for postage or boxes or bags so you can post them or put them by the door. I would always forget to bring them out because I would stop wearing broken shoes. I'd remember when I walked past and then forget when I got home.

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    Guest Marielle


    A: 15 seems about right

    B: I would add one of those plexiglass boxes with flyers. Simple flyer, about the same as the sign (and yes, add an big red arrow with "Ask Inside" or something like that to the sign) with a COUPON (free shoeshine on purchase, Saturday half of heels etc.). People might not have the time or chance to walk inside at that minute, but because of the coupon, they'll keep the flyer and return later. Plus you can actually check how successful something like that is. (how many copies are taken on a day, how many returned, etc.)

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    Guest Matt Peyton


    I would add urgency:

    -With the before/after pics add the copy "From busted to beautiful by 7 AM tomorrow...X spots left". That X is a changeable number card to countdown the available openings for urgent repair work.

    -I like what Jack and Tony said above about shoe shine services. To add some urgency, I would do half off (or value-added) shoe shine "happy hours" before work or during lunchtime. Oooooh...they could offer complementary drinks/snacks. That's the value-add. ARGGH...I'm getting away from the copy...."Shoe shine while you wait. X seats open NOW."

    Quick question Neville...or anyone else...how do you do this without seeming like an ass? How do I approach a business offering this kind of copy help without the undertone of "dude, your sign sucks"?

    Thanks, man.

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    New walk ins @14 a day

    Add a QR code. If they are busy walking to work or a short lunch break they can snag a shot to remind them to drop off shoes later in the week. QR code can lead them to a landing page of monthly specials, new products and a buyers guide for getting the best shoe value. Add a nice video of them reworking some shoes would be great for credibility and personality.

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    Guest Joel Dorantes


    What about a strategically placed mirror so people walking by can see their shoes and reflect on the possibility of restoring them.
    Link to comment
    Guest Farisha Brown


    Maybe playing with the hospital theme a little more. Something like a old shoe on a stretcher with a phrase like, "Come(or for alliteration sake inquire) inside, The health of your shoes depends on it!"
    Link to comment

    Yes! I like the something along the lines of "Save your favorite pair of shoes" or similar.

    I had a $250 pair of shoes that've been wearing down, and I gladly plunked down $50 to have them fully re-done. Great deal.

    And when you consider many women have heels that are $500+ ....a little refresher to keep them looking good isn't out of the question!

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