Understanding your Buyer Persona: Are you better than the Nigerian Prince ?

Last week, my mom who got her new ‘iPad’, ecstatically called me saying that she has won a lottery of ‘$100,000’ and that she has just received a mail on how to collect it. It was quite a task for me to explain to her that it is a fraud and equally upsetting to disappoint her.

I got curious and I set out to search more about the Nigerian Prince Scam or popularly known as the 419 Scam. All I wanted to know was, how do these guys even make money?

Little did I know that I would end up knowing more about Lead Generation Marketing through this. I chanced upon the paper “Why do Nigerian Scammers say they are from Nigeria” written by Microsoft Research labs to find out how they have been successfully scamming people all over the world for several years now. Here is a snippet of what they have to say,“In deciding who to attack true positives are targets successfully attacked, while false positives are those that are attacked but yield nothing.”

For an average e-mail user, the mails sent by the Nigerian Prince would seem to be absolute gibberish. It would not take more than a fraction of a second to delete the e-mail and mark it a spam. But, that is where the success of the ‘Nigerian Prince’ lies. He knows that an ‘average e-mail user’ will never fall for an email scam. So he targets the most gullible. The scammer writes a mail that looks so naive that it gets noticed only by the correct target who is most likely to fall for the scam.

So, unlike most businesses that attempt Lead Generation Email marketing and worry about the fraction of emails opened, the Nigerian prince worries only about making the ‘right buyer’ open the email. In this process, all that the Nigerian Prince needs is a complete understanding of his “Buyer Persona”. Disclaimer: I am not supportive of the intentions of the scammers but that does not stop me from learning valuable marketing lessons from them.

Nigerian Prince vs. Rest of the world

Let us look at a simple formula that captures what I have learnt. This is typically how most businesses look at their Online Marketing efforts as,

Number of Visits * Probability of Conversion = Leads

More often than not, the variables in the formula involved are thought of as ‘Independent Variables’.

But, here is how the Nigerian Prince looks at it,

Number of Relevant Visits  —-> Higher Probability of Conversion —–> Increased & Relevant Leads

The beauty of this approach to Inbound Marketing is that, the core of your success lies in the understanding of your “end objective” and “Buyer Persona”.

CMOs / Growth marketers should learn from the Nigerian Prince

So, if you are the Chief Marketing Officer / growth marketing incharge and if you are,

  • Looking to effect inbound marketing lead generation (or)
  • Worried that your digital marketing activities have very low ROI

then this is what you should be doing.

Set your Goals right

What are you trying to achieve through your online marketing strategy? Focus on the end goal.

  • Is it to increase revenue? OR
  • Reduce customer acquisition cost?

It could be anything. But focus on the outcome NOT the variables (like Number of Emails opened, Number of followers on FB) that feed into the outcome.

Get a perfect understanding of your ‘Buyer Persona’

This is the major takeaway from the Nigerian Scammers. Get a perfect understanding of your ideal buyers.

  • Characteristics
  • Demographic info
  • Where can you find them?
  • What excites them?
  • What are the business problems they are trying to solve?

Understand the buyers who will help you achieve the end goal that you have set for your business. The closer your definition of ‘Buyer Persona’ is, the closer you are towards achieving your Goal.

Create content for your ‘Ideal Buyer Persona’

The subject line of the emails they send out says, ‘Nigerian Prince wants to give you $100,000 as a birthday gift’.  As ridiculous as it might sound to you, to the right victim for the scammers, the content cannot get more perfect than this.

So, write the content for your buyer. Great content is what that can deliver your message in the same language as that of your Buyer.


This is almost always the missing bit. Build your marketing initiatives on a very good Analytics platform like HubSpot that can provide you deep and meaningful insights into how effective your efforts are.

And ask yourself this question, “Am I a better Marketer than the Nigerian Prince?”

Buyer persona evolves

Buyer persona is hard work. It is never a one-time exercise. It is like making a sculpture. You keep chipping away at it, till you perfect it.

Buyer persona is guided both by qualitative and quantitative factors.


  • B2B Buyer or B2C?
  • Who are the influencers and who is the actual decision-maker?
  • Is there a committee that is involved in the buying process?


This is where the role of inbound marketing comes into play. Thanks to inbound marketing software and tools, it is possible to capture passive data points of users who visit the website e.g.

  • Most visited pages
  • Which page has the highest dwell time?
  • Are the users coming from social media or through search engines like Google?

Therefore, as you go about building buyer pesonas do bear the above in mind. Many teams ignore the quantitative factors which their online assets like website and social media handles can so readily provide.

Above, be aware of the mindset of the Nigerian Prince.

Team Znbound
Table of Contents