In November of 2006, a few great minds came together to create the Lehigh Valley's best-kept secret. But that was then, and this is now … the secret is out!
To better understand how Liquid has evolved over the last ten years, I sat down with a few of our key players who have been here since the beginning. Jim Ludlow - President & CEO, Doug Mancini - Executive Vice President, Steve Luvender – Senior UX Designer, and Larry Wolfe - CTO & Chief Architect.
As a newcomer at Liquid (I joined the team in June), hearing the story of Liquid firsthand from my colleagues who’ve been part of it from the get-go was fascinating and enlightening. I’m excited to share what I uncovered with you!
LINA: WHAT MAKES LIQUID STAND OUT FROM ITS COMPETITORS, THEN AND NOW?
Steve: Both then and now, Liquid's difference is how much we've truly cared about our clients' businesses, and how we can not only provide a solution to a problem, but we're also always thinking about ways to solve their other business challenges. Much of the competition has a "sign the project, do the work and move on" mindset. It's one thing to say you're a true partner – everybody says that – but Liquid backs up that claim, and that's why our typical client relationship lasts many years.
Doug: Liquid was founded by creative thinkers, funneling that creativity through the medium of technology. Technology is our roots, our core, our DNA. We built our creative services around that. It’s not an afterthought, but the very foundation of what we do. In the beginning, there were traditional advertising agencies that didn't have the technological capabilities to do web work well and the development shops that knew the technology but didn't have the creative and strategic background of the ad agencies. Liquid was founded to bridge that gap, bringing the best of both worlds together.
LINA: WHAT SERVICES DID WE OFFER 10 YEARS AGO THAT HAVE EVOLVED AND MADE THE BUSINESS STRONGER?
Steve: We’re totally infatuated with innovation and constant improvement. We’re not romantic about how we do things – meaning, if there’s a better way to do something, we’ll do it without hesitation. Our shift to Responsive Web Design is a great example. Before 2010, we’d gotten traditional website builds down to a science. Then, Responsive Web Design came along – we saw the opportunity, and started building responsive, mobile-friendly websites before anybody else in the area. It quickly became our policy that every website project would be a responsive website by default. This was before our clients were asking for responsive websites or competitors knew what it meant. Our willingness to not only adapt, but innovate, and our ability to listen to everyone’s ideas, has made Liquid a leader.
Jim: From the very beginning, we believed that digital was the future for everything, and that’s clearly been borne out today. We apply that foresight and expertise to helping our clients add a digital layer to every workflow and process. It was important then, and it’s becoming more and more critical now.
Larry: User experience (UX) is ever evolving. Ten years ago UX was really focused on what happens when a user lands on your website. Now, UX actually starts well before anyone knows about your brand. The seeds of awareness are no longer a shot in the dark and hard to track, but are instead specific, targeted and require nurturing in order to return results.
Doug: An area where we saw a tremendous need for us to evolve and fill a hole was in content marketing. Our content management services have evolved to content development and content creation. Ten years ago, we relied solely on the client to provide those elements to us. What we found, though, is that content creation is the area where our clients struggle the most, and that's an area they need us to step up, step in and take the lead.
LINA: IS THERE ANYTHING WE DID THEN THAT HASN'T CHANGED?
Doug: Our services have all grown and evolved, but the core of what we do hasn’t changed. We solve business problems with creative solutions brought to life through custom code.
Jim: The constant in our industry is that everything is always changing! We have always upheld a commitment to that sea of change. We're on a mission to help guide our clients through the digital migration journey that every organization must get through. Every client has a different rate of adoption. We still see organizations trying to hold out and block the transition, which I think is detrimental to their shareholders and their customers.
Steve: Our core values have stayed the same. Do the best work possible, and do what’s best for our client's customers – because that's what will pay off for the client. I'm entirely convinced that Liquid is successful because we’ve been driven by consistent values and setting goals. We continue to ask ourselves why we are doing the things we do – the answer must always be that it is in the best interests of our client.
LINA: WHAT ABOUT THINGS WE DID EARLY ON THAT WEREN’T A SUCCESS?
Doug: Software. We tried our hand at being a software company early on, and initially it was very successful. Content Management Systems were very new, and we saw a need to give our clients a solid CMS that would meet their needs, so we built one. As CMSs became more common, and the major players all got into the game, it became apparent that it wasn't the right place to put our resources. We had a choice to make; dedicate a significant percentage of our staff to the project permanently, or pull out. We chose to leave software development behind so we could stay focused on serving our clients and solving their problems.
Steve: Outsourcing. We’ve found it far more effective to keep things in-house.
LINA: HOW WOULD YOU SAY TECHNOLOGY HAS IMPACTED OUR BUSINESS?
Jim: Everything we produce is zeroes and ones. Digital-related technology and how it makes business better is what Liquid has always been about.
Larry: Technology is the infrastructure on which we apply our knowledge and experience to make our clients successful. It’s a tool we use to connect people and brands in ever changing ways.
Steve: Technology doesn’t impact our business; it drives our business. I joined Liquid before the first iPhone came out, and before Facebook was open to the public. Ten years later, those things are at the core of our business. We’re totally driven by technology evolving, and we’re always going to be successful because we’re willing to stay ahead of the trends instead of just doing what we’d always done in the past.
Doug: It’s impacted us in every way. In the beginning, we were actually quite constrained by technology. Creatively, there were just a lot of limits to what could be done and what you could develop. As technology has evolved and the world has shifted more and more to digital, those limitations have been lifted. In the past, you couldn’t do the same things on the web that you could in traditional advertising, but now the script is flipped. We can do so much more and be so much more creative because of technology. It makes the impossible possible. So creatively, we feel freed by the developments in technology.
The same is true with strategy. In the web’s infancy, strategy was just figuring out how best to build a website, but now it’s completely integrated. Everything we do is driven by strategy. Our approach to any project is to make decisions based on data and a big-picture strategy. We believe transparency is critical on both our side and the clients’, and shooting blindly isn’t going to produce the results we want to achieve.
LINA: WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT LIQUID AND OUR SUCCESS OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS?
Steve: We’re always working for our clients. We’re always passing around links in email and Slack asking each other, “Hey, could we apply this thing to this client?” or “Do you think this client could benefit from using this service?” The infectious, constant knowledge sharing and push for innovation is an attitude everybody holds, and when we can apply it to what our clients are doing, they’re happy because what we’re doing is producing true results, and we’re happy because we have a tremendous platform for showcasing our skills and collective strengths.
Larry: Our collective experiences have contributed to an incredible store of knowledge, ideas, and innovation that each and every client benefits from. From best practices to bleeding edge, we help drive your next success.
Doug: It’s important to know that we wouldn’t be here today without our customers. They have taken calculated chances on us and allowed us to try new things and push boundaries. They have allowed us to work with them as true partners and prove our value. That’s the biggest thing for me, just thanking our customers for all of this. I couldn’t ask for a better staff, and we have a customer base I wouldn’t trade for the world. It’s also important to note that a successful company is not possible without a strong foundation. Without a well-versed architect like Jim, we wouldn’t still be here today. He maintains a structured financial backbone and is always looking out for the wellbeing of the company and its employees. As our President & CEO, he is humble, dedicated and passionate, and that is what drives the success of Liquid.
COUNTDOWN TO 10 YEARS
Missed #8? Check out “We Care about Our Community.”
Keep following along as we count down to Liquid’s 10-year anniversary with “10 Things You Should Know about Liquid.”
About Lina Lobach
Lina is the Client Experience Manager. She assists clients in understanding what their experience will be, and helps guide them throughout their journey with Liquid; making every engagement smoother and simpler on both their end and ours.