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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

Go for the emotional play. No one cares about getting any old pair of shoes fixed. But we all have at least one favorite pair of shoes that you don't want to give up on.....

"Let us fix your favorite shoes"

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Guest Neville


I hope 18!

The store hours are 7am to 6pm I believe, but I dunno if increasing store hours would offset the cost of keeping someone there.

That part of downtown gets relatively low foot traffic in non-working hourse.

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Guest Neville


12-15 sounds about accurate!

Actually it seems people REALLY are satisfied with how their shoes look after. I sent a pair of mine and for $50 they were like brand new (rebuilt soles and everything).

And imagines if you have $500+ shoes like a lot of women's heels, totally worth a few bucks to bring em back to new!

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Guest Neville


Yup, I really like the real-version.....I think that would have a good impact.

However as a cheap tool, I think the sandwich boards provide the most bang for the buck (and also are easier to replicate at other stores).

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Guest Neville


Good idea!

Apparently people have A LOT of favorite shoes, as they bring in like 4+ pairs each time!

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1) - It would have been very nice to have known the actual foot traffic for the area to know what percentage he is currently getting with the average of 8 walk-ins a day. So, as crappy as his sign was, I am going to guess he will eventually nearly triple his current foot traffic, with much higher spurts within the 1st several months for people that frequent the area. I think after the big influx of traffic, he will have even more opportunity finding a way to keep those customers over the longterm.

2) - What you have done Neville is simply pure genius! When I was 1st reading your article I was very curious as to what you would come up with. Great job!

Short Term -In addition to what you have done, all of the following on a small table display:

-1st part: On the left side of the table, a regular 8.5"x11" laminated free report ad stabalized on something to hold it up

- "Free Report Reveals 7 Little Known Secrets You Must know Before Buying New Shoes And Throwing Away Your Hard Earned Cash!" Perhaps some very small copy. Then a line saying "Ask inside for your free copy."

- This report would of course feature his greatest sales pitch of benefits of using both the shoe repair to get them like brand new then the shoe shine services to maintain them. Would need to obviously cater to both sexes.

-2nd part: a weekly rotation of a real pair of shoes, one before and one after. He wouldn't ever sell these. But would be a constant change up of something new on display for the people walking by to look at and maybe even look forward to seeing to what he has done next.

-3rd part: The bribe

"Free Shoeshine's For Life When Used With Our Yearly Maintenence Plan!"

- Find out what the yearly and lifetime value of a customer is, and then decide on how he can couple his services to offer perhaps 3 differnt levels of plans per year for a AIO soluction. Instead of the Saturday only special, get a year long special for x number of visits per month and all kinds of benefits. Make the Bonuses better than the service they are signing up for. Maybe someone wants a daily shine, weekly, and etc. Perhaps a package that would be all enclusive for anything for that shoe. Maybe a package to cover more than one shoe. I'm sure you can come up with something pretty good with that, but those are my 1st thoughts on it. A good example that comes to mind are the hair cutting memberships.

Long Term - Other thoughts:

- I would gather their info so I could also do a print newsletter to at least the customers with memberships and his customers that give him 80% of his business.

- He could do a Dan K 3 step letter to everyone that comes in to get the free report

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Guest Rahul Nayak


My answers (Though I dont expect them to be as good as yours)

1) Since your sign was more visual and lively, I'd expect an increase to about 20-25 MORE walk-ins.

2) I would use a similar concept as yours but I would leave the last shoe part blank and put a call to action in the form of a challenge. Something like "Bring us your most worn shoe and if we cant fix it, we will give you another pair for free"

Challenges like that will get people to get their worst worn pair which will get them alot of business. A Business is only known by its capability to handle worst cases and not the best. If they can fix eve the worst one, they will impress customers and guarantee a testimonial with a repeat business.

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Guest Rahul Nayak


Maybe a referral campaign too. Give out your first receipt number to friends and family and tell them to quote it to the shop. Every 5 customers gets you free shoeshine and 10 gets you 1 free repair!
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Guest Bharat M


Excellent read...

My guess about improved footfalls? Around 14 or so per day. Also, after a while, improved footfall conversion as well. So if 8 guys used to come in, and then maybe 3 DIDN't convert into sales, now maybe 10-11 converts into actual purchases.

As far as suggestions, how about highlighting that old shoes can lead to discomfort (less shock-absorption, uneven heel wear, worn out inners). Donno if that could be pushed through without videos etc, but maybe placing a screen inside the store facing outwards, which will play videos of how things are better once you get your shoes fixed might help push up sales even after work-hours!

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Guest Phaedra Corrente


This is awesome. I'm really eager to see what kind of results the sign will yield!

A) I'm guessing 15.

B) You could throw in a line below the before/after photos saying something like, "X shoes healed this week!" with the number in bold or in a different colour (and, of course, changeable). Similar to the whole "X customers served today!" you see on restaurant signboards. I'm also really for appealing to people's emotions and urging them to rescue their favourite footwear from certain death.

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Guest Neville


Hey Billy!

1.) We did figure out the foot traffic (800 - 1,000 /day)....so his conversion rate for random walk-in's was 1%

2.) Glad you liked it! I had fun doing this experiment too :)

3.) I like the free shoe-shine idea. Might make sense for them to try that when people buy a more expensive service!

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Guest Angelo Rinaldi


Here's a few diamonds in the rough:

1) Picture of Jesus in New Looking Sandals....Underneath it:

"I'm not claiming to be a miracle worker, but I do save SOLES".

Come In for your FREE 2 minute footwear assessment.

*I think the 2 minutes is important, because it sets a time-frame of convenience.

And then perhaps even..Resting on top of the sandwich board, one shoe that is beat to hell, and next to it the other that is newly restored.

1A) If you are going to push the 2 minute footwear assessment, perhaps a woman suggestively smoking a cigarette with the one leg bent up (like in the old movies when someone was getting a good kiss)"That's the most satisfying 2 minutes I've ever had with my shoes off"...Come in for your FREE 2 Minute Footwear Assessment.

1B) Stick with me on this one...I think it's worth trying. If you've ever driven down I 95 on the East Coast, you know where I'm going with this..Call it the "South of the Border" Approach.

A) Stand in front of his shop, look left and find the shops 200, 150, 100 and 50 yards away, do the same while looking right.

B) He strikes a deal to do the owner of the shops shoes once a month in exchange for this win-win deal:

C) Sandwich board with "Tired, Sore, Aching Feet? You are 200 (*150, 100, 50) yards away from The Shoe Doctor!" or "You are almost there! Stop in for 2 minutes!" Etc, Etc. All with before / after shots and clever puns.

D) The other side of the board (where they are walking away from the shoe doctor) has the shop owners sign. **Place the sign so it is win/win. i.e. foot traffic is already past your shop entrance, no harm in seeing my sign. from the other direction, foot traffic approaching, they are already past my shop, they get to see your sign.

E) If you can really strike a deal with the 50 yards away..."Save Your Sole!! Turn Around..You walked past the Shoe Doctor"

Austin seems like the funky kind of place where you can have some fun with this.

2) On some signs, try a Red Arrow pointing into the shop door.

It's amazing how many people will at least glance in the direction that the arrow points, and that may be all he needs to make another $100 that day.

3) Not really sign related, but move his equipment to the front near the display window so that people walking by see what he is working on. (Social Proof that "Oh! People DO still get shoes repaired"). - Or even.."Oh! So THAT'S what he does."

- I think 2-3 people an hour or 16-24 can be achieved, and 4-6 per hour or 30+ more people a day (Maybe not all paying customers, but they might buy a hat or some shoestrings!!) if the "South of the Border" goes into effect.

I stopped there, and have so many useless shot glasses, hats, etc just because of all the signs, I couldn't NOT stop... Then it became a tradition. I stopped every time because I stopped every time.

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Guest Courtenay


The shoes you LOVED and wore out? Bring them back from the dead!
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Guest Mark Bangerter


Epic post!!!!

I also think that they could do a lot with some branding here as well though.

But what an awesome way to win a client if you are a consultant.

Just do the work first and get yourself hired.

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a) 12 walk-ins per day. I totally agree that pictures make all the difference, even though I understand what a shoe hospital does the pictures makes you visualize what it could do for your own shoes.

b)The before and after pictures is the main success here but the pictures could be a bit bigger, I realize that you want to show different kinds of shoes but you have a tough time seeing the changes in the pictures from any distance.

Also, I'd say free estimates is a great way to get people in.

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Guest Michael Husak


A) This is such a big improvement, I'm going to say 21.

B) So many great suggestions already. What could I possibly add? This isn't much, but did anyone already suggest extending the hospital analogy a bit with, "The Doctor is IN", or "The Doctor will see you NOW."

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Guest Carolyn


Women's high heel shoes often have a plastic piece on the heel. It doesn't grip and women have fallen. It is common. I've had mine replaced with rubber heels. Much better. Also a cheap sole (not soal) can also slip easily so as a solution women scuff their new fancy heels on pavement so they won't slip and fall.

So I suggest a 'no slip solution' to your new high heels and show a closeup photo of cheap and the better rubber sole /heel.

Could also include a 'free' comfort insert.

This would make all women fall in love and be forever grateful with the shoe hospital.

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Guest neil reilly


A: 18

I don't think offering free shoe shines is an efficient use of his time (unless he has a few staff on all the time).

B: I think having an instagram account with the before and after photos would be cool and have the account posted on the sign. It keeps the instagram account fresh and people walking by can check out the account later. It's something that might remind people when they're home to grab those shoes and bring them in.

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Guest Jonathan Tavarez


B) Bigger Font and CTA. Possibly use all CAPS instead. ie. "WE'LL FIX YOUR SHOES!" or "REPAIR YOUR FAVORITE SHOES!"

Two examples is enough and gives you room for larger CTA.

Add a CTA at the bottom such as "COME RIGHT IN!" or "STARTING AT JUST $9.99"

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Guest Marc Spencer


One of the comments above spoke about having a group of men's legs showing off their shoes. An adjustment to that, having all of the shoes be scuffed and worn, except for one pair which was shiny and new looking. The tagline would be, "We'll help you stand out in the crowd."

Also, a tagline that would go with the business name could be, "Your shoes need 10cc's of repair work. STAT!" (Most people know the terms from TV medical dramas. Or perhaps something like, "Don't let your shoes flatline! Get them repaired here!"

Another thing to think about would be having a "split" picture of the same shoe both prior to repair on one side, and post repair on the other side. Kind of showing the 2 shoe before/after images, but having it more blatant to the eyes.

I hope these make sense.

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Guest Roger, in Bangkok


I would go to a nearby thrift store and pick up a couple pairs of really disastrous shoes (better the shoe guy does that, he's smarter!). Clearly label one of each pair "I Was", the other "I Am". Super-refurbish each "I Am" and mount the pairs on each side of your sandwich boards.
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Guest Roger, in Bangkok


Another thought would be to set up a webcam at POS and ask customers to record a short testimonial about the services they have just received... blog it... FB it... whatever it.

I like this project, it makes a lot of sense :-)

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