Digital marketing is a labyrinth to navigate. Joshua Adams and his team at Rock Paper Simple make being seen – and understood – on the internet easy for your business. Listen in as we discuss the importance of vetting a digital marketing firm and working with people who are willing to be transparent.
Welcome to In The Clear Podcast. I’m your host Justin Recla and today we are talking to one of the members of the Clear Business Director what it means to operate a transparent business. Today we are talking to Joshua Adams. He’s the CEO and founder of Rock Paper Simple, also known as the head honcho over at his company. They are a digital marketing agency that are really doing things more efficiently and differently than marketing has been done in the past. They’ve got a really solid foundation built off of what Joshua’s done and his experience. I’m super excited to have him here on the show today. Joshua, thanks for joining us.
Thank you, Justin. I’m honored to be here and have enjoyed meeting you and your lovely wife and getting to know you guys, what you guys are doing and the impact you guys are making. I appreciate you having me. I appreciate the time. I’m looking forward to our little chat here.
Definitely. This is going to be a lot of fun. First off I got to let you know your business name Rock, Paper, Simple is brilliant.
Absolutely love that. Can you share with our listeners a little bit more about what Rock, Paper, Simple does and maybe where you even got the name from?
Yeah. I always get that question. What are you doing? Where in the world did you come up with that? Really what we do is pretty straightforward. We’re a digital marketing agency. We cover three primary verticals. We carry brands really through all aspects of what they need to do for their digital marketing. We have the branding side of things. We’ve develop a brand component, the actual brand messaging, what is the essence of the brand. We create the core brand guidelines as well as the logo design. Then from there we’re able to develop the web platform, the website itself. The marketing website is really our specialty is developing that marketing platform. Then thirdly and certainly not least is the digital marketing component where we drive traffic to that web presence.
Really what got us started was the website side of things, building a marketing focused platform that wasn’t just a technical product. That was the really core of it. I wanted to create something that was … It was not overly complex. I had worked in agencies that work with partners in the past and we had these agencies that was always so complex. It was always convoluted and super technical. Really the name of the game was to confuse your clients so badly that they just bought a bunch of stuff from you. That was kind of how it was. I remember my partner selling stuff and she’d walk out super excited and I would say, “Half of what you just sold them they don’t even need. You just sold them stuff and that excited you and half of that is not going to help them at all.”
I just had a real problem with that. There was an integrity aspect there. There was the simplicity that I was looking for. I’m just focusing on what worked for clients and none of this other BS. I also wanted an environment that was fun and engaging and you can have a good time with. In previous agencies I was involved with it was no fun. It was really boring. I said, “All right. What can I do? How can I set this apart?” A big part of that was taking my now 15 years of development experience blending that with about eight years of branding and marketing experience and saying, “What can I create that is unique?” There are so many web designers out there, so many people that can throw a website together for you, but I got tired of seeing the website go up and do nothing for people.
Admittedly that was me. I mean years ago I built a website and I charge 500,000 bucks and you had a website and it was a technical product. It really didn’t do you no good because there was no science behind it. There was no marketing behind it.
I love the fact that you hit on that because there’s so many small business owners out there that they think that they just throw up a website, it’s automatically going to generate revenue for you and you don’t have to do anything to start making money from your site.
Right. That’s so not true. Then really it’s in a web developer’s benefit that people don’t realize that many times because it’s easier to sell them something with this idea that it’s just going to magically make them more money. It’s just not the case. When we come in we say, “Well, what makes us different is that we understand business. We understand an entrepreneur. We understand that their marketing dollar is an investment and we believe that their investment in a website is marketing dollars.” We talk about our process, our seven steps on marketing focused website and the key ingredients in building a marketing website not just HTML code and some words on a page or some pictures on a page.
While we’re very proud of our design and very proud of our coding prowess and we’ve won awards for it, what we’re more engaged in, what we’re more presenting to our clients is the marketing component. That’s a big piece of that. Really a lot of where the name came from because I was again tired of the complexity. I said, “I want to keep it simple.” I said, “The name simple has to be in the new company name and I want the name to be fun. I want it to represent having fun. Some humor to it maybe.” 2 AM for some reason the game Rock Paper Scissors came into my head and Rock, Paper Simple just happened. I was punching into the domain search and it was available.
There you go.
I bought it and then you had that immediate reaction of, “Oh, maybe I wasted my money. It’s a really bizarre name. Is anybody going to like it?” 3 AM you go through these things. The next day I blasted it out to my friends and to my colleagues and everybody without fail was like, “Oh my gosh. That’s perfect. You have to use it.” It certainly beats some of the other name ideas I had on the list like Simple Media which is funny because actually a local company came … Actually just started I don’t know long ago with a similar name, Simple Media. Oh my gosh. I’m so glad I didn’t use it.
Yeah. No kidding. That’s awesome.
That’s where all that came from.
That’s absolutely awesome. Joshua, you’ve been at this for a while. What’s one of the biggest mistakes that you see business owners making in regards to hiring somebody like a website developer?
There’s a few big ones and the biggest one would be not knowing really what they want and not knowing what you need. They don’t stop and think what is it that I’m trying to accomplish. They need a website. Somebody told them. It might have been their colleague or it might have been a friend, it might have been their marketing director, whoever. Somebody’s saying, “You got to get a website. The last time we built it was in 1988. We need to do something,” right? A lot of times we get down and we have to kind of back them up and say, “Well, what are you trying to accomplish? Is it just brand awareness? Is it credibility? Are you trying to generate leads? Are you trying to generate sales right from the website? What are you trying to accomplish?”
A lot of times they go with somebody who can build them a great technical product. These guys are great programmers or even great designers, but you end with a website that maybe looks good and maybe works really good and has some cool technology in it that really doesn’t matter. They end up with a website that really doesn’t market them. It doesn’t tell their story. It doesn’t have call to action. It isn’t concentric. It doesn’t track anything. All those things, right? I’d say the biggest thing that people miss, the biggest mistake they make is not figuring out the why. Why do they have a website and why are they getting it built by this company, right? If they can’t answer those questions, maybe they ought not do it.
That’s really anything with business. When you talk about why do you hire people, why do you expand, we’re talking about expanding our office into a bigger space, well, you have to ask yourself the question why. Is that a good investment? How is that going to help us grow? All of those things. When you’re looking at a website or branding project or digital campaign, you got to ask yourself why. What is the point of doing this for the business? If I spend this money, is there a good investment outlook for me, right?
Yeah. I absolutely love the points that you just made. Those are conversations that we have with business owners all the time in particular around the website. We tend to pick out the website designers quite a bit. It’s one of the reasons why we’re so excited that you’re part of the Clear Directory is because there are a lot of website developers out there that are like you just said. Yeah, they might be able to build you a site, but they don’t necessary know what it is they’re doing. SEO is another arena where we … I can get a SEO and they get you on the front page of Google, but ultimately if they don’t know or understand what that means or what goes into it, recognizing that there’s a lot more than just being on the first page of Google that goes into being able to sustain that.
It’s a lot of work on the backend to make your website work. I love the fact that you highlight the point that just start asking questions and asking why. That’s absolutely brilliant. If you’re just joining us on the show, we’re talking to the head honcho over at Rock Paper Simple Digital Marketing Joshua Adams. When we get back, we’re going to dive a little bit more into Joshua’s lessons in business right after this commercial break. Welcome back to the In The Clear Podcast. I’m your host Justin Recla and we are talking to Joshua Adams of Rock Paper Simple Digital Marketing. He’s the head honcho over there. First off, I got say Joshua is an absolutely fantastic guy. We’ve connected with Joshua at the Business Acceleration Summit out in Florida.
Met with him, my daughter Neva Lee Recla automatically fell in love with him. Absolutely connected. He’s just an absolute hoot to be around first and foremost. If you never met Joshua and you ever get a chance to, he’s just an all around great guy. We’re back here with Joshua talking about digital marketing and really some of the things that business owners should be doing, the things that they typically do but shouldn’t be doing. Joshua, let’s take a look at some of your business history, some of the stuff that you did. The show’s all about transparency in business. What are some lessons that you’ve learned along the way that really kind of standout, that really have taken you to where you’re at now?
Gosh, there’s so many. Where do I start? I’ve learned a lot from other business people that are smarter, older, wiser than myself. It’s been something that I’ve been purposeful with is asking people to lunch and say, “Hey.” I’ll tell people, “Look, I’m not trying to sell you anything. I just want to sit down with you. I want to learn something from you.” Surprisingly people say … Well, they say yes. Just say, “Hey, let me buy you lunch. I honestly want to learn more about you, but I know you’ve been doing at this a lot longer than I am. I want to learn something from you.” That was a big thing that was … You go into these meetings and you have to just be …
You have that natural inclination out of you, one that kind of posturing and let them know how much you do know and what not. You have to kind of let that go and say … Kind of go in there almost as that eager kid that says, “Hey, teach me,” because they will open up to that. People respond well to that. They don’t respond so well to the, “Oh, he knows it all,” and boy, what you can learn from that. Some of the things I know about branding I never would have learned had I not done that and took a branding pro out and just sat down with him and learned from him and just what he has learned. He has learned from some of the best branders in the world. You sit down and you get to learn that from him.
That was a big thing, being open to learning from those that have been there, done that and are wiser and have gone through that stuff. That was a big part of it. Learning just from experience certain things. I’m an entrepreneur since I was a little kid. I have a little strawberry patch when I was growing up. I was eight years old. I think I made 80 bucks off of strawberry plants. Did that. You learn the hard way, right? I mean I did that for like three years I think and then a cold winter killed my crop of 300 plants. You learn, “Oh well, shoot. I’m not working with perishables anymore.” I was like, “Well, forget it. Forget that. I’m going to do perennials because they’re heartier and the partnership with my little brother and he killed all the plants.
All right. Well, partnership stink.” I just started experimenting. I mean I was like 14, right?
When I was 16, I again partnered with my brother. This time it went much better. He didn’t kill anything and we did a lawn care business and that did really well. Just one thing after another. I had a Legos online store business that I did for a while. Took money from the lawn care business and did that. Came down here and actually just briefly took a job while I was kind of figuring out where I wanted to go for a construction company and was very, very quickly a construction foreman of all things. The one thing that doesn’t fit with anything else I’ve ever done. That’s where I learned my leadership. I learned dealing with guys. I had a five man crew. All of them older than me. All of them super gruff construction guys.
We’re in that crew. It was a fine finish company for a while. That really had taught what it’s like to lead people, especially people older than you. I mean I was like 18-19. Here I am third in command of a construction company. That was a little scary. I’ll admit now. I would have been new then. That was a little bit scary. Just kind of learning those lessons. From there I started my first web company in my parent’s garage. I was 18. Yeah. It was right about that time, 18-19, and I did really, really well. It kind of just took off and two years later I merged that with a marketing agency up in Titusville. I tell you what, I wish the Clear Business Directory was around then and I could have checked up on said person because basically long story short, I was promised all these things.
Told there were certain monies in place, certain things in place. I merged my company with this one’s business and found out it was basically going bankrupt. There was no money in the account. Phones hadn’t been answered for three weeks. Now here I was at this point 21 and oh no.
You had no one, right?
I’m a programmer. I mean I didn’t understand any of this marketing or branding stuff. The partner disappears for three months because she’s toast. This is why she did the partnership, right? I have to figure this stuff out. During the day I’m dealing with clients and what not. During the night I’m googling what is branding. Printing. You want to print 500 envelopes on linen. What is linen? As far as I was concerned, linens were bedsheets. You want to print envelopes on linens?
You want to do what?
I figured out that linen was a paper. It was a fancy paper. It’s expensive. See, I had to learn these things. My crash course in branding and marketing and all this concepts came through that. It was through that that all of a sudden it hit me, “Wait a minute. A website’s actually a marketing tool, not a technical tool.” My title at the time was … I was technical director, right, because that’s just how I consider myself. I thought I was a programmer, a technical guy, and I realized that websites were a marketing thing. I hadn’t figured it out. Yeah, I’m still kind of figuring what that meant in terms of offering. I did that for three years with that business, up and down, up and down. I bring the business back and my partner would show up and screw things up.
She’d go off and disappear for three months, get burn out. I bring the business back up and it would crash. After about three years of that and frustration over frustration, I actually discovered embezzlement. She wasn’t paying taxes. She was handling the finances and payroll hadn’t been paid in like … Payroll taxes hadn’t paid in like a year. The IRS really hates you when you do that.
I’m sure you don’t become their favorite people at that point.
They really don’t like you. All of a sudden I had $20,000 to pay and you have two weeks to pay it or we’re taking everything. I went out and I sold $40,000 worth of work and that $20,000 down payment paid off the IRS. That’s what you can do with sales when you’re motivated.
And got rid of a partner.
Well, not yet, but paid it all off. Somehow I stuck it out a little longer and it happened again, right? I was like that’s enough. I’m out. I resign as representing agent. I resign as president of my own company. At this point I had already basically given an ultimatum about a year prior that if you’re not even here, I’m president. This one I was president which is actually a bad move because now once I did get out, the IRS did still come after me and say, “Well, she never did pay any of this stuff. Because you’re the president, you owe 60% of everything she screwed up.” I walked away from the business I get nothing. No clients. Nothing. I literally had $700 to my name, $30,000 in payroll tax debt and rent was due. That was what I started Rock Paper Simple with.
I took $300 and put it in the business account, $400 in the personal account and said, “All right. Here we go.”
Well, I love that because since that I mean that was a yes, it was definitely a tough lesson learned. The fact that you were able to uncover it when you did was awesome because we’ve seen a lot of people that just … They tank. They don’t have anything. From there though you’ve been able to create Rock Paper Simple and just in the last couple of years you’ve received multiple awards and you’ve been highlighted as one of the top 10 or top 5 of entrepreneurs under 40.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yup. I was top 10 finalists of 4 Under 40 they call it. They award four entrepreneurs under 40, awards for leadership, entrepreneurs and et cetera. I was honored to be in the top 10 finalists this year. That was awesome. My team here is a big part of that. I won’t take credit for all of that. I have a fantastic team. We’ve won ADDY Awards every single year we’ve been in business. We’re a team of 10. This isn’t something that one guy sits here and does. This is a team of very talented, very, very dedicated people. It’s been a pleasure working with them, getting to lead them. I tell people my job for them is to empower them. I have a slogan hanging over my desk. It’s empower talented people. I tell my team that’s my goal is to empower them.
That’s important, right? If you don’t build a business like this, I mean we’ve had … Our second year we grew, I’m sorry, 100%. The third year we grew 150%. Those are the kind of numbers you don’t do by yourself, right? It’s been a great experience. We were able to create a very, very unique product. We have methodologies for everything. We have the four keys to a marketable brand. We have our seven steps to a marketing focused website. We have our marketing cycle. We have keys to how we do things. It’s very, very different. We’re very transparent about how we offer those products as offerings. Our digital marketing side of things is so transparent compared to what people are used to for agencies.
We basically come to them and say, “What is your budget? You want to spend X amount of dollars with Google, Facebook, your digital space. Great. We’ll manage that budget. You spend it directly with Google.” Everything’s transparent. We just have a management fee and then we report on ourselves. We set up call tracking numbers and lead tracking conversion pages, et cetera, so they know all the numbers. The contract even gives them an out after three months if they don’t see progress, right? The way we present things, it’s very, very unique and very different. Again it’s been a pleasure to be able to do that with the team that we have.
That’s fantastic. I sit down and I’ve spoken with you myself directly. That’s the one thing I truly appreciate about you is the concern for the client and making sure they’re not getting involved with you if it’s not a good fit. That level of integrity of business is found within the members of the Clear Business Directory by all means, but especially in the website in digital marketing industry it’s rare. I’m honored to you have you a part of the Clear and help share your story because I know you’re out there assisting entrepreneurs and business owners in getting their websites out there, getting their businesses out there because that’s really what allows them to have an effect on their client’s lives. I appreciate that.
Joshua, can you share with our listeners where they can find you outside of looking at your profiles at the Clear Directory?
Sure. Sure. The easiest way is RockPaperSimple.com. That’ll jump you right to the site. You can find us on social media. We’re pretty active on Facebook. Facebook.com/RockPaperSimple. Then of course, here in sunny Melbourne, Florida. We’re here off of Sarno Road. If you’re local, come visit us. We have a good time. We actually pretty regularly schedule what we call Rock Paper Simple Hangouts. Keep an eye on Facebook for that. We haven’t had one in a while. I’ll say complaining about that why we haven’t had a party in a while in here. We’ll have to get that together. We always have that open to the public. We typically invite our friends, colleagues and clients to that, but we’ve had plenty of people walk in.
We actually had a programmer from Disney come over to the last one and just hangout with us. He saw it on Facebook and said, “Oh, I’ll go check it out.” He came over from Orlando to hangout with us.
Very cool. Very cool. Well Joshua, thanks so much for being on the show. If you’re in the Florida area or if you’re looking for someone to help you with your digital marketing, Joshua is the guy. Find him again on his website Rock Paper Simple or in the Clear Business Directory. Until then, before you get involved with anybody, make sure that business is in the clear.