Now I am a content marketer, by action if not job title. I get to put content marketing into action because I’ve been given the room to shape my own role and our companies’ marketing path… What helps to ease that challenge is our leadership is supportive and onboard. I couldn’t ask for more from them. I have the green light and their patience to keep letting this evolve. We all are thinking long term.
Adam Williams is that rare find: The kind of guy who does not seek the spotlight, but nevertheless highly deserves it. Hopefully, this interview will change all that. Adam is an unassuming, multi-talented marketing professional from Denver, Colorado. I will get to into the details of Adam’s story soon enough. First, I want to briefly preface with some impressions that, to my mind, make Adam’s story so significant to those of us in the marketing biz—and, for that matter, for readers outside the profession. Listening to Adam’s experiences in content creation and strategy, I’m reminded of those qualities that continuously emerge as essential to successful marketing practice: A solid mastery of essential skills, a creative temperament, tolerance for uncertainty, and the capacity to balance big-picture vision with agile improvisation.
Adam is Head of Marketing at two companies in the wood-flooring industry: Palo Duro Hardwoods and Lägler North America, both located in Denver, Colorado. Adam also provides marketing guidance for the parent of both companies, the German-based Lägler corporation. Palo Duro has been the go-to distributor for wood flooring, tools, and supplies in the Colorado and the surrounding Rocky Mountain region for over 30 years. Lägler, a family-owned floor sanding machine manufacturer for more than 60 years, sells into 142 countries through a network of distributors.
Read his profile on LinkedIn, and it’s clear that Adam comes to marketing with the heart of a creative. As a strategist, Adam’s facility for big-picture planning is grounded in what he characterizes as the “hands-on-make-it-happen” skills of “writing, photography, social media, graphic design, video, advertising, SEO, SEM, email, the whole shebang of content marketing.”
"Take time to breathe and think … go for a walk"
--Whether near his Denver home, or when visiting the headquarters of Lägler corporation in Germany, Adam sees flexibility as the key to productive creativity:
Look at work as part of life, something fluid and flexible, rather than having hard boundaries to be balanced. If I have ideas at 8:30 p.m., I let those ideas in. And I pick up my sons before the typical end of an 8-5 workday without guilt.
*These photos were taken by Adam's wife, Becca Williams.
I asked Adam, who holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, what drew him to marketing. It’s a great story:
My career has taken a winding path across industries. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how it all ties together and really prepared me for what marketing is today. Strictly speaking by job titles, I’ve been a marketer only for four years. But with the rise of content marketing, looking through that lens, I’ve been working in content for nearly 15 years. That includes journalism, public relations, corporate communications, brand journalism, and content marketing.
Ultimately, I landed in the wood flooring industry three years ago through what might have been the best possible introduction to it and the people in it. At the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), I was exposed to so much of the industry in a two-year period of time, and from a point of view that advocates for the whole industry in an unbiased way. It helped me to learn from a broader, more balanced perspective than might otherwise have happened.
I went through wood flooring installation and sand-and-finish training courses, getting a sense of what top-skilled flooring contractors need to know and what they live daily. I met professionals – contractors, manufacturers, distributors – from around the world. That led me to my current companies in 2015, when my wife and I decided to make a family dream of moving to Colorado happen.
The Path into Marketing
I’ve never officially held a position an employer has posted as ‘content marketer.’
Adam did not seek out marketing as a self-conscious career goal; he didn’t step into the role. Rather, he did what enjoyed, engaged his strengths, and the emergent needs of digital marketing coalesced around him:
I’ve never officially held a position an employer has posted as ‘content marketer.’ But, in actuality, some of those corporate opportunities were grounded in content, like being editor, writer and photojournalist for a couple branded quarterly magazines at a Fortune 100 company. No one called it content marketing there.
I’ve been interested in content marketing for a while. I look at it as an opportunity to build honest relationships with an audience and create win-wins. It’s a chance to put some depth and substance behind the brand. It’s also an opportunity that suits a range of creative interests and skills: writing, photography, video, social media, graphic design, email marketing. Now I am a content marketer, by action if not job title. I get to put content marketing into action because I’ve been given the room to shape my own role and our companies’ marketing path.
I’ve been in my current role for a little more than a year. I was hired for the broad idea of marketing as a new role. I think there were some quiet reservations by those hiring me about the blueprint I sketched out for how I’d go about doing the job, and how I’d add value. In fact, I was asked: “But what will you do in six months? How is this an ongoing full-time job?”
They trusted me enough when I told them content marketing offers a never-ending line of opportunities, that the benefits continue to build over time. I basically was saying, “Trust me,” and they did. Fortunately, things have gone well, and I think that trust has only grown. So, we keep driving forward.
My role is to provide strategic and creative leadership for how we communicate with our audiences, and then to execute on those ideas. But I don’t do this in a bubble. I enjoy the autonomy I’m given, but I want the leadership team and technical experts to be in the know, and to be part of the process. I want our sales teams to see what we create as resources that make their jobs easier.
Given his background, I wasn’t surprised to learn what Adam considers the most rewarding aspect of content marketing:
The creativity. The layers of telling a company’s story. The efficient use of content we create to serve a number of ideas.
For example, when I shoot a video with one of our technical experts, it starts a line of dominoes of creativity and content for us. The video leads to a blog post. That calls for visuals, which also are used in the email newsletter and on social media. Ideas from that can lead to use in print ads and other things.
We recently published a short-short film made at our parent company’s factory in Germany. It highlights the craftsmen behind one sanding machine, in particular. That machine, called the HUMMEL, is an icon in the industry. It is known worldwide. The guys who use this machine have attachment to it; it is the heart of their small, family businesses. Some use social media profile photos of themselves with the machine, and some even have a tattoo of it. (You can find that vide here: https://youtu.be/nyMecIK3eqI)
As a one-man shop, every creative aspect of that video was in my hands. For better or worse. Story, concept, shooting, editing, writing the voiceover script, doing the voiceover … everything, except being on camera. I say for better or worse because I’m so aware that a pro film maker would do better than me. But, like for countless companies out there, it’s a money and timing thing. I enjoy pushing my creative skills and to figure out the technology, like working with Adobe Premiere Pro, to make cool things happen. That learning process was something I started a few years ago while at NWFA.
Creativity and the Purpose of Content:
Adam’s creative efforts remain grounded in delivering practical value: Namely, supporting sales and providing clients useful content:
I look at marketing as support for our sales and management teams’ goals, but I also expect marketing to take a leadership role in what that support looks like.
With our content, I want us to focus on being of use to our audience. Offer solutions, build relationships. Prove our expertise and genuine interest in our customers’ success. By doing a good job getting our messages out and building relationships with our audience, sales will follow, and in a long-term way.
As a creative one man-shop, Adam’s work brings inevitable challenges. When asked what he considers the greatest challenges in his work, the constraints of bandwidth become a pressure point. Adam explains that he still “struggles to set a reasonable pace”:
There are best practices and components of an ideal content marketing structure that I know we’re not using. It simply isn’t feasible, yet.
We’ve moved quickly in the past year to bring Palo Duro and Lägler N.A. into the digital world of marketing. That includes launching a new, device-responsive website for each. Both sites include a blog. We’ve started a monthly email newsletter for both. We’ve added seven social media accounts, between the two companies, to the one that pre-existed my arrival.
That is a lot for me to keep up with, of course, but more importantly, it’s created a challenge for us to integrate marketing and sales efforts with those digital opportunities and the content in mind. It’s a new perspective for everyone at these companies, and in an industry where content marketing is so rare.
What helps to ease that challenge is our leadership is supportive and onboard. I couldn’t ask for more from them. I have the green light and their patience to keep letting this evolve. We all are thinking long term.
We concluded with some takeaway advice. Adam’s advice reflects what I have come to see as his uniquely strong mix of unassuming pragmatism and reflective insight. He titles his list, “some things I do”:
- Focus on being useful and consistent for our audience
- Focus on quality over quantity … being busy doesn’t equal being productive
- Take time to breathe and think … go for a walk
- Look at work as part of life, something fluid and flexible, rather than having hard boundaries to be balanced. If I have ideas at 8:30 p.m., I let those ideas in. And I pick up my sons before the typical end of an 8-5 workday without guilt.
- Use to-do lists as daily reminders, but not as a be-all, end-all tool of controlling the day; be flexible to let quality rule, rather than quantity of tasks completed
I sincerely thank Adam Williams for his time and for his wonderfully thoughtful responses to our questions. You can find Adam at his website, or via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/contentmarketingstrategist/ and Twitter at: @leadwithcontent