At Inflection Point, a be-the-change philosophy

Turning point: Cofounders Warren Strugatch and Cindy Smith are adding some new inflection to their services. (Photo courtesy of Jim Lennon)
By GREGORY ZELLER //

From the Physician, Heal Thyself file comes the innovative tale of Inflection Point Associates, a born-again marketing machine that’s truly leading by example.

IQ Strategy Group, the Stony Brook-based marketing and PR firm launched in 2010 by Cindy Smith and Warren Strugatch, wasn’t ailing. But clients continuously asked for services beyond the PR pale, so the partners created Inflection Point Associates, incorporating the new company in December 2015, phasing it in over the first half of 2016 and officially introducing it this month.

Their second collaboration folds in the growth-strategy and thought-leadership services many IQ Strategy Group clients required, in addition to traditional marketing and PR services like media outreach, website development and social media marketing.

Basically, “we’ve done for ourselves what we do for our clients,” according to Strugatch, Inflection Point Associates’ cofounder and vice president.

“We re-examined our services and determined exactly what the market needs,” he said. “We were finding that in our marketing and PR projects, we were not only telling the story of the products and services, but really looking at the client’s connections overall: What is that particular market looking for, and how can we connect to it?”

Cindy Smith: Good reasons to change.

Cindy Smith: Good reasons to change.

Smith, president of the defunct IQ Strategy Group and the new entity, said those ancillary services back at IQ were born out of marketers’ frustrations, most commonly with logistical support and other non-marketing issues.

“They go out and do a great job engaging customers, but then you find that delivery times aren’t right or there are customer-service issues,” Smith told Innovate LI. “So then, as marketers, you’re throwing bad money after good, marketing products when those others things aren’t fixed.”

And once a product or company has a bad beyond-the-sale reputation, Smith added, it can be hard to bounce back, especially in an era of trigger-happy bloggers and instant online customer reviews.

“It’s too late to take a product that’s been out in the market and just market it better,” she said. “So customers asked, and we started to get involved much more upstream.”

Inflection Point Associates is built to work with two specific verticals: startup companies and existing firms in need of “rejuvenation.” The new services – including organizational-structure reviews, in-depth market analyses, growth-plan collaboration and a thought-leadership program designed to promote visibility through “opinion-changing, pace-setting content” – benefit the different target audiences in different ways, according to Strugatch.

Warren Strugatch: If you build, no guarantee they'll come.

Warren Strugatch: If you build it, no guarantee they’ll come.

“With startups, it’s almost the opposite of ‘build it and they will come,’” the VP noted. “You really have to have a clear understanding of what the market expects, and what it might expect if you bring a market or service into it.

“People don’t know what they don’t know,” Strugatch added. “You really have to look at how your product might meet consumer expectations.”

When it comes to existing companies in a rut, “we try to figure out why they’re stuck where they’re stuck,” Smith noted.

“There might be internal issues stopping growth from happening,” the president said. “It might be a logistics issue, or maybe they don’t clearly see the opportunities out there.”

Failing to recognize opportunities is an enemy of growth that comes in many forms, including parochial thinking that prevents companies from considering new marketing techniques or customer groups.

Another formidable opponent companies often face, according to Strugatch: success.

“Often, the success of the past restricts the success of today and of the future,” he said, referencing the cautionary tale of a Long Island manufacturer that cruised from the 1970s to the 1990s, “but still makes the same products the same way, and guess what, that market has disappeared.

“It’s not that the products aren’t good,” Strugatch added. “It’s the disconnect between what companies are offering and what customers need and expect today.”

Such thinking came into play when the partners helped a Long Island-based logistics company overcome its longstanding focus on price points – a marketing approach that was slowly sinking sales – and adopt more of an “industry veteran” gravitas.

“We encouraged them to envision themselves as experts on true logistics,” Strugatch noted. “We showed them how that message could be more advantageously spread through social media, and we developed a social media campaign that addressed a variety of topics and established them as thought leaders.”

Smith said customers’ laments of “this is how we’ve always done this” and “the company was built this way” were the main thrust behind the transition from IQ Strategy Group to Inflection Point Associates – not just a new name but a freshly minted corporate entity, she noted, to reflect a new way of thinking.

“There are always reasons to change,” she said.

And the best reason, Strugatch added, might be that change is often what the market demands.

“This is what people were asking us for,” he said. “While we were doing their marketing, they were asking us for thought leadership over here, and can we help them with this over there, and what do we think about this?

“When the market is literally telling you ‘this is what we need,’ you have to go with it sometimes.”