On resiliency, big goals, and the art of building websites.
Adcock Creative Group is a highly successful culmination of web design and graphic design business services. The husband and wife team of Jay and Melanie Adcock has been operating this full-service agency since 2009.
The Adcock’s agency was formed when both Melanie and Jay were laid off from their respective jobs at a large church in Mobile, Alabama in November of that year. “When the economy tanked in 2009, it was either lay off one of the church pastors or lay off the two of us… We got laid off. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to us,” says Melanie.
When this challenge was presented to the Adcocks, they saw it as a perfect opportunity to start their own business. Instead of serving at one church, they could now help many churches.
Adcock Creative Group is Born
Adcock Creative’s first clients were the two churches Melanie and Jay had worked for in the past. “Both became instant clients,” she says.
Growth came quickly, Melanie says. “If you know anything about Southern Baptist churches, it’s like the ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.’ One of the pastors from the church that laid us off left to become a business pastor at a church in Augusta, GA. We got a contract with that church as well. Then we signed on more church and ministry clients and it just took off from there.”
“We got laid off. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to us. We replaced our salaries within 18 months.”
The Adcocks replaced their salaries within 18 months.
This was when Melanie first discovered the WordPress platform. It was 2010 and she needed to build a membership website for one of her ministry clients.
The first thing she noticed is that there weren’t a lot of choices for building membership sites. She needed a database-driven site and decided to reach out to a WordPress developer named Mike Schinkel for advice.
Mike’s advice was to take a look at WordPress for building a membership site, which she did.
“The first plugin I ever bought for WordPress was Gravity Forms. And I still have that $99 per year developer license. The second WordPress product I bought was StudioPress. For that, I purchased a lifetime license that really paid off for years to come. And the third product I bought was BackupBuddy,” Melanie recalls.
Melanie says the key thing she learned early as an IT director was the importance of off-site backups.
“The third product I bought was BackupBuddy. It is the easiest WordPress backup plugin to use and it does everything I need it to do.”
“Backup Buddy is the easiest WordPress backup plugin to use, and it does everything I need it to do. I love the iThemes training. That’s what keeps me coming back,” says Melanie.
One of the lesser-known benefits of BackupBuddy is that it works great for importing and exporting websites to or from a local development environment and staging sites for clients.
Today, the Adcocks still work mainly with churches and ministries, doing full-service marketing work. But beyond church clients, they’re also working with nonprofit organizations and retirement home communities.
One of their newest clients is a local Fried Chicken restaurant, which they run a local marketing campaign for. Before us, they had no website or social media presence. We grew their Facebook page from 0 to 1500 followers in just three months. As Adcock Creative Group continues to grow, Melanie says, “We have our hands in a little bit of everything.”
The Challenges of Working With Clients
Melanie says that the biggest challenge they have working with clients is getting website content from them. So, she decided to start writing a lot of content for clients herself. I include it in the proposal as a line item.
“When they start having success with their website, I start looking at other ways they can improve their business.”
Melanie explains, “I had a client and we were getting ready to redo her website. I said to her, ‘Let me send you a list of what you really need on your website. And this is what you need to write. And these are the questions that need to be answered on these pages.’”
It only took Melanie about 15 minutes to write out the mock content on the key pages. She turned it over to her client, telling her the rest of the content on her other pages was fine.
“I showed her how she could avoid talking about herself and start talking about her clients. She loved it.”
Getting clients to write their own content for their About pages has proven to be one of the biggest challenges Melanie faces. She consistently warns her clients to avoid using their mission statements to describe who they are.
“After all,” notes Melanie, “the only people who really care about a mission statement are the people on a committee who were tasked with creating one.”
Instead, Melanie educates her clients that About page content needs to be focused on the site visitor.
When Melanie isn’t writing the content for her client’s websites, she says that another major challenge is getting a consistent voice throughout the entirety of their website.
“When you deal with churches or nonprofits, you tend to deal with committees. And when you have a lot of different people involved in the creative process, it’s very difficult. The goal is to get one point of view and one voice. For the smaller clients, the biggest issue is most often a lack of time. Also, sometimes they just don’t know what they don’t know (as it relates to effective content writing). So I’d rather hand them text and ask them to tweak it (rather than have them write everything from scratch).”
WordPress Themes and Plugins Adcock Creative Recommends
Recently, Adcock Creative switched from using the Astra Pro WordPress theme to Kadence Theme for creating client websites. Melanie has found that, although she enjoyed working with Astra Pro for many years, she greatly prefers the navigation features of Kadence Theme.
The learning curve involved in switching themes has been small compared to the benefits and features Kadence brings to her web design and development work.
Although she has both Elementor and Beaver Builder sites, she had yet to embrace the block editor. “I still feel it is a giant step backward, although I feel Kadence Blocks is narrowing the gap. I am still not ready to jump in with both feet.”
Some of the additional plugins used at Adcock Creative include Gravity Forms, The Events Calendar, and Events Ticket Plus. “One thing I learned from iThemes Training is to have your starter site and be consistent in your plugin stack,” Melanie advises.
For managing the church end of business for her clients, she uses the plugin Series Engine, Prayer Engine, and Groups Engine. According to Melanie, “These are really well-written plugins for managing churches and are great add-ons.”
And while Melanie says that she still uses the Classic WordPress editor for a lot of her projects, she’s actively working to get more familiar with the block editor. “I’ve started using it for posts on some sites. But I still create templates using page builders,” she says.
For the site security needs of her clients, Melanie trusts iThemes Security Pro to help keep her clients safe from the hacks and malicious attacks that are so prevalent in today’s online landscape.
As the Adcocks move toward retirement age, Melanie tells us that her biggest goal for the future is “…to still have our business but to be working in it and not for it. My goal is to build a team where I can step farther away and let it supplement our retirement income. Basically, I’ve got five years (to make that happen).”
She goes on to say, “I get a lot of satisfaction out of just doing the work, which is why I haven’t stepped away from it yet. I used to be an art teacher for 18 years and I kind of stopped doing personal art. This (building websites) became my art. Additionally, I was always labeled as ‘the anal-retentive art teacher.’ I had the cleanest and most organized art room in the county.”
“You see, I’m artistic and creative but I also like order and neatness. I think web design is kind of the best of both worlds for me. And because I also have an IT background, servers, and things like that are easy for me as well.”
The past and current success of Adcock Creative Group goes to prove that running a website design and development agency using WordPress was the perfect career solution for Melanie.
We look forward to seeing where they go from here.
Learn more about Adcock Creative Group
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