{Thoughts on Shops} Earnest Efforts Gives Natural Woodworking Their Earnest Efforts

Earnest Efforts is the amazing natural woodworking shop of Earnest, Ellie and Myrtle (AKA Rick and Heather .. and Myrtle) of Winston, Oregon where they create the most amazing boxes, baby rattles (their baby rattles are currently sold in over 75 stores in 4 countries), drawers and shakers. Their gorgeous pieces are created with sustainably harvested Oregon woods, certified non-toxic wood glue and they finish all their woodworking with beeswax – they never use stains. No trees are ever cut for their work.  They truly walk the walk with their eco-friendly efforts!

Earnest Efforts Banner

Earnest Efforts Banner

Earnest Efforts Natural Woodworking

Earnest Efforts Natural Woodworking

Their banner definitely sets the stage for the natural offerings of their wonderful shop. It feels a bit generic though. Some pictures of their work in here would definitely get their banner more in line with their very distinctive brand- a stronger font for the shop name might better represent the strength of their makings, too.

No matter how good our pictures are and Earnest Efforts are very good – most of the time some tweaking can create something that can really pop off the page. I would also try to get more pictures from different angles and more close-ups. I know it goes against the grain (couldn’t resist) for some of us to use pictures that do not show our entire item, but sometimes it is that picture that makes the viewer think- “what is that?” – that draws them in. You don’t want a whole first page filled with “what is that?”, but some close ups from interesting angles can make your items really stand out.

Some pictures showing the items in use can also help the customer visualize how they would use the item and how it would fit into their home.

Earnest Efforts does a great job with their extra photos by incorporating pictures of themselves, their work space, the Oregon coast and woods.  This definitely helps to personalize their work and their shop and creates a memorable experience for their shoppers.

Without the ability to touch, hold, smell and handle their products like they would at a show or ina  store – customers have only images to interact with, so the better our photos are and the better job we do of making them eye catching and interesting the better we will do online.

Some small tweaks to their front page can create visuals that really pop.

Earnest Efforts Natural Woodworking
Earnest Efforts Natural Woodworking

Earnest Efforts does a wonderful job giving their shop a distinctive, authentic voice. They include photos or stories from their adventures with each box, rattle & spirit shaker they sell. They have a wonderful blog where you can learn more about them. One reason their shop has such a strong, cohesive look is that their brand is truly who they are and how they live – we even learn they were both working artists who met at a craft show – so there is a little Oregon love story thrown into their makings! Sometimes when makers have trouble with their branding (Earnest Efforts doesn’t) it is because they just haven’t found their voice yet (and that is ok, too – this is a process – there is no finish line for any of us) – when makers have found their voice though and are truly creating what they love and believe in it really is a beautiful thing!

Myrtle from Earnest Efforts at a Recent Show

Myrtle from Earnest Efforts at a Recent Show

Now, they are already doing many things right and obviously their Etsy shop is just one part of their business – they do shows, sell wholesale, etc and they have wonderful makings created with experienced and skilled hands and eyes – cutting the wood in such a way as to maintain and highlight the natural beauty of the woods.

Some things I would suggest to increase Etsy sales would be – creating some more interesting visuals for their products including photos of the items in use, playing with their tags to see what happens when they move items from woodworking into housewares, etc and tag for who would be using the item (etsyonsale has a great tool for changing multiple tags at once which is a great way to see what works – keeping in mind that typically things slow down in the summer), use your photo as your avatar (they have a great pic of the three of them as one of their alternate photos) and create a more personalized banner with item photos and a stronger font(s).

I would be sure to incorporate some tags that someone who understands and is seeking out natural woodworking would know (specific processes, materials, etc) because Earnest Efforts is likely much more eco friendly and organic than many woodworkers and there are ceratinly niche buyers looking for that.

They rank super-high in Google for natural woodworking  – I would check and edit the item titles to make sure they get the rankings they need on each piece -adding some specific, searchable words into the titles can help draw shoppers from outside of Etsy who are not searching in Etsy’s handmade category (“spirit shaker-purple heart” could become something a shopper might search such as “hand carved spirit shaker – purple heart” or “reclaimed wood spirit shaker – purple heart”, etc). Really take a look at each piece from a customer perspective and think about what they might search for if they were looking for that exact piece.

Google AdWords - Natural Woodworking

Google AdWords - Natural Woodworking

We can see from a check of the search term “natural woodworking” on Google Adwords that Earnest Efforts might want to try some wording that more people are searching for. They want terms that have a good number of searchers, but not so many that they will be lost. I might try “natural timber”.

Earnest Efforts Maple Burl Wood Box

Earnest Efforts Maple Burl Wood Box

People don’t always know what they want as much as they know how they want to feel and so delivering to their demand is really more about creating new possibilites for them and allowing them to feel good about their choices.

Earnest Efforts could try getting very specific about an item’s usefulness and function with their marketing.

This shop is a very smart  form and function mix for a time when 85% of us are inclined to buy less stuff and 70% of us are determined to remove the clutter from our lives. People don’t want to just shop until they drop anymore; they want to experience the things they buy and a maker has a real advantage when their makings have great function as well as form.

Maybe this maple burl wood box could be marketed as a keyholder for someone’s front door – a photo of this on a front porch, tagging and titling as a keyholder, including a gift tag for someone who has just bought a new house, etc. Sometimes people love the aesthetic of something but just need a little push in the direction of how they can use it before they commit to buy. It is also often a good idea to think in terms of gift giving because even during times when people spend less on themselves they still buy gifts for other people. Try getting specific with different boxes by marketing them with specific things they are designed to hold and see what happens. The more each item’s functions and usefulness can be promoted the better.

As always I would like to say that these are just one person’s opinions and we all know our own work and our own intentions with that work better than any other person.

The good news is – there is no one way to do this.

(this is also the bad news because there is no set of steps we can follow to get there, but that is OK because we can do this our way)

The only things I know for sure is that you need great photos (because you need to stand out in a crowded marketplace and because it is all your customers have to go on, they can’t touch or hold or try on our work) and great products that create repeat buyers and you need some kind of networking going on and, yes, you need your own authentic branding. I know alot of people hate that word and feel that it puts them in a box- even though our shop is kind of a box – but, at least it is a box that we get to create in any way we choose to.

When you are authentically yourself with your work, your branding will grow out of that, you really will never have to do anything that feels fake or false with your branding (if you do it won’t work for long anyway – that’s why the thing that works for one person will never really work for anyone else) – branding is really just a fancy word for growing into your process and into your authenticity as a maker – it has to happen as you evolve you really can’t stop yourself from becoming branded (and now I’m picturing all of us stampeding away from cattle prods – ugh).

A great big thanks to Earnest Efforts for volunteering their amazing natural woodworking shop – I hope everyone will visit this shop and take a look at their beautiful work!

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  1. love this shop so much AND your wonderful reviews are always so helpful to everyone ..thanks

  2. Myrtle, how sweet. I want one!

    Great advice. Love the color enhancing.

  3. Thanks Heather- your work is amazing and it was so interesting to learn more about it- I hope something helps in some way! xo

    Thanks Karuski – yes, I think if we stay authentic with our marketing and keep in mind that people want and need handmade goods we never have to worry about feeling like we are selling out in any way- just that we are selling! xo

  4. WOW!!! Is it just me or is this the best Etsy shop review ever? I can’t thank you enough for such a thorough and helpful review. You obviously put in a lot of time & thought into the job and I appreciate this. You have a gift!!! I was really needing this fresh perspective and I’m excited to get to work! Thank you. Have a glorious & prosperous day, Heather

  5. Such a nice shop review with wise words about authentic marketing. I enjoyed a lot, thanks!