Me, Nigerian Prince Magnet

My spam filter’s on the blink.

Must be. Because this week, I’ve been swamped by those emails from “Nigerian Princes” trying to hack my bank account.

They’re landing thick and fast now – like 3 or 4 an hour. Just this morning, I’ve had:

…A “Prince” deposed in a civil war, with nowhere to hide his assets.

…A “lawyer” seeking relatives of a Mr Abdul Daniel, deceased.

…And a “19-year-old girl” fleeing her war-torn village to study in the UK. Apparently she’ll be “very grateful” if I send her the airfare…

I mean, come on. These things are so transparent. (Well, the first two are. The third one sounds okay, so I’ve sent her the cash and some raunchy pics).

No, but seriously…

It amazes me that this stuff is still doing the rounds. But clearly, it’s working. The scammers know they’ve got themselves a money hoover, where they flick a switch and suck out the wonga from their spam list. Time and again.

And despicable though this practice is, it does say a fair bit about direct marketing. Not the scammy part, but rules you can follow without crossing over to the dark side.

“Rules, JD? What rules is them?”

Well these 3 rules, for starters:

The evil nurks know, you don’t break a winning formula. Let it run and run, and keep making money till the list runs dry.

Do you do that, in your own trademark non-evil way? By letting successful ads stay online, till your return starts to dip? By mailing winning promos to your customer list, till they beg you to stop?

Well, do ya?

For Evil McScumbucket and Co, it’s all about the numbers. I’d guess they get one or two suckers from say 50k emails, so they keep expanding their lists to work the numbers in their favour.

True, how they get those email addresses, and mail without permission, that’s all stuff that’ll get them on the Naughty Step. But the principle is good. You want more sales? Use the ads and promos you’ve already got, and build a bigger list.

Most scammers’ emails try to get you on side by uniting with you against an injustice or common enemy.

“I don’t want our evil government to get their hands on this money”…or “I saw my parents and my sister massacred, and they were coming for me”.

It’s all designed to get your dander up, till you yell out “That’s outrageous!”

It’s the Blood Boil Trick.

It’s appalling in the hands of scammers, who use it to help their victims feel responding isn’t selfish.

But in your more ethical hands, it’s a good device. Find the common foe. Take a stand. Appeal to their sense of what’s right.

As long as you’re telling the truth and offering some value, the dial flips back from EVIL to GOOD.

But look – I’m not your moral guardian. Not here to sermonise, and tell you what’s “allowed” and what’ll get you a spank.

I’m just saying, scammers use these – and other – marketing devices to deceive. But in your hands, those same devices can simply persuade.

And I’m only scratching the surface here. There’s a shedload to be learned from these guys. If we care to look…

Meet the Author

James Daniel

You might not know who James is...but you've probably read his copy. Through high street clients like Hidden Hearing, or big gun marketers like Jonathan Jay and Chris Cardell. His words are out there, pulling in new business every month. What else? Well his books, Do You Talk Like That at Home? and Direct Mail 101 will help you squeeze out more sales. Oh yeah - and his next book Before You JFDI will help you plan your next campaign. Get on the list for a free advance copy here.

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