Thursday, December 23, 2010

New-Fields - How not to impress your cold call targets

I was sitting at my desk at work when an outside call came in on my direct line. When I answered, the woman at the other end of the line asked for one of my co-workers - a co-worker who works in a different facility.

When I said that I wasn't that person, the cold caller realized her mistake and then mentioned my name.

When she confirmed that she was speaking to her second choice, she began to tell me about an Iraq conference, and mentioned that she had already sent information to me. I told her that I usually don't attend the types of conferences that she described, and terminated the call.

I told my co-worker in the next cubicle (another proposal writer) about the really bad cold call that I had just received. A few minutes later, HIS phone rang....

Two hours later, I received the previously promised email regarding the Iraq conference, with 4 megabytes of attachments.

Actually, the email was sent twice, which meant that I got eight megabytes of attachments.

After this, I began to be really curious about the company sending these - New-Fields. And I found this 2009 article about the company. Excerpts:

Since the fall of 2003, New-Fields Exhibitions, a Dubai-based marketing company with a corporate office in Washington, has organized over a dozen conferences promoting opportunities in Iraq’s reconstruction, security and oil sectors.

So how did the three of us get on New-Fields' cold calling list? All three of us have been involved in some way with sales to the Federal government. I guess that New-Fields figures that anyone who has ever been involved in government sales would want to come to their conference.

Not sure why:

Companies large and small willingly paid the steep delegate fees: $2,000 to $3,000 for a two-day conference, with sponsorships running from $7,000 to a $12,000 “platinum” option. “We never imagined when we were planning our Forum that it would become so central to the current reconstruction of Iraq,” boasted New-Fields CEO Samir Farajallah.

But is it so central?

Last fall, Rob Foster, marketing manager for the oil and gas drill manufacturer American Augers, was offered a delegate spot at New-Fields’ First Annual Iraq Oil & Gas Summit. Mr. Foster not only signed up for an exhibit; he doled out the $10,000 sponsor fee to plaster American Augers’ logo on the summit’s informational materials. But when he arrived in Houston, Mr. Foster was so disappointed that he left the summit a day early. “The event was not delivered as billed,” he says. “They promised a lot of qualified customer types who didn’t show up because of visa issues.” The Iraqis in attendance were mostly “ex-officials” who were now living in other countries “where they could easily gain entry into the States.”

Chris Haney, marketing director for RedXDefense, expressed similar sentiment after sponsoring an Iraq Aviation and Defense Summit in April. “It was not worth the money or the headache,” she says. “At one point I wondered if anybody [from New-Fields] spoke English.” The head of government affairs for another major defense firm, who requested to have his name withheld, attended New-Fields’ Iraq Security Summit last October. “The one-on-one meetings [between company representatives and Iraqi officials] were scheduled seven minutes apart.” He laughed. “What can you do in seven minutes?”

Well, it worked for speed dating, didn't it?

Adam Lichtenheld began to look at New-Fields a little more closely:

The firm’s corporate dwelling, a shared, two-level space on the sixth floor of a glossy building five blocks east of the White House, is temporary and seemingly empty. Guests are greeted by a stern employee of the office leasing company perched behind a wide, cumbersome desk that blocks access to the bright, distinctly-modern, workrooms beyond it. Three unannounced visits from a National Security News Service reporter yielded three identical responses: no one from New-Fields was in. The leasing company employee, who would only identify herself as Dion, said that most New-Fields staff is located overseas—the Philippines, she thought. But when reached on the firm’s D.C.-area customer service line, project manager Carla Torres claimed that New-Fields has a Washington-based staff of approximately 100. Ms. Torres is among the handful of fast-talking women who answer New-Fields’ phones with thick Spanish accents and spell their names (Charlie, Alpha, Romeo…) using brisk military jargon. Both she and her colleague Erica Montero refused to reveal if and when New-Fields employees would be in the office, and turned down all meeting requests. Despite their assurances that “the appropriate person” would respond to numerous inquiries from the News Service, no calls were ever returned.

So he looked more closely:

An investigation into public records with the District of Columbia Secretary of State found that New-Fields’ corporate license has been revoked on multiple occasions, most recently last September, for failing to update its filings. The firm, in other words, is not legally authorized to operate in Washington—or anywhere in the United States. According to the D.C. Attorney General’s office, operating illegally is fairly common among liquor stores or corner groceries. But for an international marketing company that claims to host “the world’s largest and most respected” deal making forums that have “become so central to the current reconstruction of Iraq”?

Read the rest of Lichtenheld's article here.

There's another post, on Cannonfire that talks about a New-Fields swine flu conference which links to a Manta page that claims that the company has between 1 and 4 employees. I didn't have access to revenue figures, but Cannonfire apparently did:

Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $34,000 and employs a staff of approximately 1.

But they (he) still got C-SPAN coverage, which I guess counts for something.

The lesson here? Actually, there are a couple of lessons.

First, note that I never would have researched this company if it hadn't been for its poor sales efforts. If the company had been halfway professional, I would have just declined its invitation and left it at that. But referring to me by the wrong name, displaying a haphazard cold calling strategy, and displaying a flawed e-mail strategy was enough to get me to wonder, "Who ARE these people?"

Second, note that despite all of this, and despite the possibility that this leading firm merely consists of a boss and some telemarketers, the company is still able to put on conferences that get national press coverage.

My Empoprises conference planning sessions are already in the works...
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