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One of the best marketing campaigns you don’t know anything about or choose to ignore!

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

In your life, maybe once, maybe twice – you would have received the following email:

On reading this, you would have chuckled a little and then deleted it from your inbox. Or if you are a bit more proactive, you would have reported this as a SPAM. Very few of you, though there is nothing to be ashamed of, would have fallen trap and given the sucker some serious dough.

This is the oldest hustle on the internet – the Nigerian Prince Scam, also sometimes known as ‘419 Fraud’ which has known to entrap a ton of people. The underlying template for these schemes is to ‘pay a little, get a lot’. Only that you never get anything. The royal enterprise of the Nigerian Prince had gone global since the 1980s when a few West African fraudsters decided to dupe the world through a simplistic yet effective snail-mailing scam.

In 2018 alone, this con has raked in more than $700,000 from the Americans alone. The FBI has estimated that between October 2013 and December 2016, more than 40,000 business emails have been compromised and it has resulted in a worldwide loss of more than $5.3 billion dollars.

These young Nigerian scammers are also called “Yahoo boys” as they used to frequently target Yahoo services. They have their own rap song – ‘Yahooze’ by singer Olu Maintain glamorizes the lifestyle of these scammers. They have also become role models for the youth in their country due to a lack of formal jobs and an economy ruined by a series of disastrous dictatorships. Besides, it doesn’t just lure in disgruntled youth - even a celebrated business tycoon Obinwanne Okeke, head of Nigeria’s Invictus Group with business interests spanning from agriculture to real estate, who also featured in Forbes as one of the top 30 African entrepreneurs under the age of 30 in 2016, was arrested for online fraud.

Over the last 40 years, the Nigerian Prince has grown old, experienced, suave, and sophisticated. These scammers have learned new tricks, have formed cultish gangs, and have evolved email fraud into a reliable cash cow.

Though I am gushing about this, I am not asking you to explore this idea as a lucrative start-up venture. As a marketer, we must learn from the best, or the worst – however you judge them. So here are: -

Top 5 Email Marketing Tips from the Nigerian Prince

So why is this email ploy so successful when we, as marketers, are struggling to get greater than 10% open rate and 1% CTR for our email campaigns? At the heart of it, the Nigerian Prince scam is one of the best-known examples of social engineering, where the fraudsters would employ a range of strategies to manipulate their prey in sharing personal/confidential information.

They exploit human vulnerabilities as supreme confidence in one’s intelligence, the lure of immediate gratification or success, or an inherent desire to feel good by helping others. So what can we do to emulate their success?

1) Make your emails personal

The scammers tend to send tailored phishing emails to get the targeted people to share information or click on a link. They are in no hurry – they would stake out their potential prey, study all about them and their organizations – their behavior and the processes they follow. Based on this information, they would design an email campaign that is relevant and tailor-made for them.

So while I am not asking you to send malware to your potential customers, you need to spend a considerable amount of time knowing about your customers - the target personas, their needs, and wants, their online browsing behavior. And then design a campaign factoring all these inputs.

2) Segment Your Database

As already mentioned, the Nigerian scammers spend a considerable amount of time in reconnaissance. If they are targeting a company, they would try to find out who is in the purchase or finance, who would be handling large transactions and would target them only.

As a marketer, it is our job to understand how our customer buys the product. In a B2B set-up (where email marketing is most successful), one needs to understand that there are multiple stakeholders. You need to identify who is the gatekeeper, the influencer, and the decision-maker. Your emails should be targeted towards them.

Segmentation can also be in form of the size of the business, by industry, or the age group. It can be psychographic or demographic – you must identify what works for you and go after it.

3) Content is the King

While it is the same trick, wherein you are duped to pay money to release a wealthy relative of your scammer, it is interesting to note the kind of content and variants of it they employ.

The stories are imaginative, colorful & topical (these scammers now talk about Coronovirus plaguing their rich uncle!) – capturing a target’s greed, assuaging their fears, and building a bond between the predator and the prey.

As a marketer, our content must speak in the language of the customer. Solutions to the problem they are facing and not dumping product info. It must address their need; it also needs to be topical to capture their interests as to how would your product address their need in the changing external environment.

Your content needs to be engaging – infographics, images, anything that would seize their eyeballs, and hold their attention. It is given that the content must be relevant.

4) Test mail copy, subject lines & buttons

Sample the subject line of the emails sent to you by the prince of Africa: ‘Important information on how to complete your recent transaction’, ‘Dear friend’, ‘United Nations’, ‘Idea!’, ‘Payment made for your sofa’, etc.

Our scammers are savvy. They test the subject lines, body of the emails, whether the email should be long or short, and the links and buttons they put in the emails.

Because as Marketers, we know that ‘subject lines’ govern open rates of the mails, the content design as to how our clients engage with our campaign, and the buttons govern our CTR (Click through rate). We can ,do A/B testing for our subject lines, out CTAs and content – and select the most effective.

5) Automate, Automate, Automate

Once you engage with the scamsters’ content, you would find within minutes – your bank account depleted, your laptop fried or your company network severely impacted. They have an automated system to dupe you.

I am not suggesting anything so radical. But “trigger” mails do help. A customer attended a ‘Plastics Conference’ where you exhibited and shared details with you. A ‘welcome email’ with your product brochure should immediately go to him as soon as he inputs his email id on your iPad.

There are various benefits to automation – you can schedule your emails, divide your database, get a thatlot of data which you can use to develop more effective future campaigns.

Marketers tend to consider email as one of the most boring platforms to advertise. Used rightly and in front of the correct audience, email marketing can turn into a goldmine just like the one promised by our Nigerian Prince!

Author: Vismay Harani

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