5 Strategy Lessons from a 419

Successful marketers, entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals must think like con-artists to gain the confidence of their clients, attract new prospects and eventually become rich doing what they love.

But exactly how does a successful con-man think? To answer this all-important question in order to write this post from an insider’s point of view, I sought the advice of a very successful con-artist with a fleet of choice cars, a string of exotic looking girl-friends and properties in choice locations. After days of pleading and a promise not to disclose his identity, no matter how much pressure or threats from the EFCC, we had a fruitful 2 hour heart-to-heart discussion and this is what I have discovered.

The art of the con begins with gaining the complete confidence of the mark. The mark here refers to the (client) or according to local lingua, the “maga” [sic]. The con artist knows that to gain the confidence of the mark, he must first create a winning proposition that is irresistible. So he goes about creating marketing materials to ensure that he can attract the right type of maga.

Case Study One: The Pretty Ghost Model.

Objective: Attract male suckers for a pretty face. ‎

Strategy: The con-man will get a number of pictures of a pretty model from Facebook, and then ensure that he gets them published on the Page 3 of The Sun newspaper. This newspaper has a circulation in excess of 200,000 readers across Nigeria, most of them business-men, civil servants and politicians. He’ll also include a nice sounding name, email address to match the name and a phone number. Potential magas will get to buy the newspaper, and if they’re interested in the pretty model whose interests as listed will include- travelling, meeting new people and acting. The maga (or magas) will call the phone number listed there.


At this point the call will be answered by a nice sounding young girl with a sultry voice, all the better to increase the appetite of the lewd callers. She will speak on the phone for hours with him and cock-tease him to say the least. The end-game is to ensure that he begins sending her money for flight tickets and hotel bookings in advance. A pretty face on a newspaper like The Sun can attract over 50 male callers and gain at least Two Million Naira over a week. Total cost of this “job” is less than N5,000 which is the cost of the phone and sim card.


Case Study Two: The Online Lover

Objective: Get $50,000 in one-month.

Alluring a foreigner online has never been easier especially through social media. So the con-man will create a user profile of a painfully pretty girl with the right face, name and location on Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In. The smart ones will ensure that the fake Facebook account has a history. So there will be several pictures uploaded on various days alongside posts of “I’m tired of this Paris hotel” and “Weather for two, who’s up for tea?” With this he begins to create followers and make friends online in order to build credibility.

After a while, her new “friends” begin chatting up this pretty stranger who’s always available online. After assessing the net-worth of the men who have shown interest in her judging from their place of employment, college attended and other pictures that reveal an individual’s networth. She shows him that she trusts him by first giving him details to a fake online bank account, which has been set up earlier with an alibi that for some reason she’s offshore and can’t log-in from a foreign nation. She asks him to assist her in making money transfers to non-existent bank accounts. He sees a flaterring and mouth-watering balance. If at first she only had his interest, now she has his attention. She has also simultaneously gained his confidence and trust.

Fast-forward down a couple of weeks down the line, and the con-man (lady) subtly insinuates that she is in a fix, and needs a soft loan of a couple of thousand dollors as she’s mistakenly entered a series of wrong password and has inadvertently been locked out of using her internet banking. However her mother is currently in a fix and needs urgent money to settle medical bills. Of course the maga believes this to be true and due to the trust she has given him, he feels obliged to return her vote of confidence and also show her that he’s a boss. So he immediately transfers the requested money to another bank account. And he’ll never hear again from her forever after.

I also learnt from the ever charming Mr. Con Man that since a lot of fake avatars are online appealing to men. It’s better to pose as a handsome male model and fleece gay men. The reason? Gay single European, American and Arab men are a lot richer and have a disposable income than those married men with families to feed. Food for thought.


Scenario 3: The Fake Pastor

The one who wasn’t called by God, or perhaps hears a voice and isn’t sure if it’s just “voices in his head” or the great voice which Samuel heard in his sleep, will assume it was the voice of God, and proceed to borrow money from his family and friends, clear his savings account, sell the land he inherited from his grand-father in the village.

After getting as much contributions and unguaranteed loans from his friends and family, the next agenda would be to get a suitable location for hire which he’ll negotiate for an entire year, but pay on a monthly basis. He will also need to buy great sound systems, musical instruments and hire a team of instrumentalists to beat drums, play piano and strum guitars and string the violins.

With this great over-head cost, he knows he has to deliver on the goods and miracles don’t happen as quickly as he would like. So he does a quick course on speed-reading and goes through the entire Bible once or twice. Then organizes a week-long crusade, such as the town has never witnessed. He engages the services of an ad-man to create a compelling advert campaign complete with a catchy title like “My Testimony is Around the Corner” or “My Miracle Shall Make My Enemies Wonder” or something of that nature. He’ll go as far as to borrow money from a shy-lock money lender in order to foot the ballooning costs for marketing “Jesus”.

On the appointed day for the crusade, which has been touted to be the next best thing since Benny Hinn, he knows he has to deliver something to make the gathered crowd of gullible Nigerians say, “Wow! This pastor is surely a man of God”. So of course he will hire a few people and strategically place them around the crowd who will make incredible claims of having received miracles such a disappearing migraines, strange swellings in their tummy vanishing and surprising mouth-watering contracts being awarded within 24 hours after attending the program.

Aba pastor

What this does is to boost the faith of all other attendees and they too will start believing and having hope that indeed their own miracle is around the corner also. Hence under such annointing, a few will develop courage to ask their boss for a raise, ask their landlord that their pending rent be reduced or deferred, ask the girl of their dreams for a date, walk into an office asking for a job with confidence etc. The law of probability says, the moment you make a request- you increase your chances of hearing a “Yes” by fifty percent! So of course a number of people will hear affirmative responses and ascribe their luck to the pastor’s prayer. Others who receive a negative reply would feel rejected, but after hearing the testimonies of others, will resign to the fact that it must be thier sins or lack of faith working against them. So they will keep quiet and make resolutions to pay thier tithes to Man of God, become more generous to the needy, avoid temptations and pray and fast more or even hire pastor to pray for them.

And so pastor gets a huge boost in numbers due to the testimonies of others (referrals and social proof) and his bank account will swell from all the donations, tithes and offerings and soon his dreams of having a Gulfstream jet looks feasible in the next 5-10 years.

So from these 3 scenarios, what have you learnt?

1. Marketing is an investment not a cost. So treat it like that. Its pay-off should be measurable and also believable. So invest in your company’s brand outlook- website design or a blog, brochures, collateral materials, flyers, bill-boards (if you can afford it), staff uniforms etc.

2. Get testimonials from satisfied clients and let other prospects know. Show their names, organizations, job titles and photographs if you can.

3. Go to where the market is just like the fake model did in Case Stuy 1. Sounds quite simple and pretty obvious doesn’t it? Yet I’m confused by the sheer number of self-employed professionals this includes life coaches, consultants, comedians, bakers, graphic designers, network marketers, printers, photographers, writers etc who limit their target audience to just their Facebook friends, Twitter followers and contacts on their BBM and Whatsapp. Just because these groups are within reach doesn’t mean they are your ideal market. Just because you have an aquarium doesn’t imply you should only fish there!

4. Aim to gain the trust of your customer like the fake online girlfriend. You show you trust them by giving them something free at first, this could be a book, a white paper, an industry report you published, a free sign-up on your blog, a 30minutes complimentary strategy session, a cup-cake, a free photo-shoot for their kids, the possibility is endless but you get my drift now, don’t you?

5. Before you start a business, register your company and incorporate it, perhaps it’s time you sat down and get a clear idea of what you intend to accomplish. The days of having a company like This and That Nig. Ltd. is quickly fading. People want to work with professionals with a clear idea of what value they have to offer and which market requires their services.

Organisations must have a mission and a commission. Mission without commission is fruitless exertion of energy. Commission without a mission is aimlessly expending energy.

So go out there today and start thinking like a con-man. Gain the confidence of your market and soon you’ll have not only a bigger market share but also a much fatter wallet share.

Please do a favour and share this post with your friends. They might learn a thing or two about marketing effectively.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “5 Strategy Lessons from a 419

  1. Nice ideas bro.But some con men might feel bad as you just exposed their business secrets…lol

    I know a few of them that do exactly what all you mentioned as their full time business.The Christian religious people might not find it funny with the part you spoke about the pastors.Even if its fake most times,the brainwashed folks will fight tooth and nail for their pastors……..

    But I must say that they are great LESSONS especially with marketing ones services.

    • My brother I didn’t expose their secrets oh! Na their fellow G-man expose am, I simply wrote what I heard him say and sought to draw relationships to whatever marketing and branding techniques we use in the legitimate corporate world.

      In any case the wiser we are in knowing these tricks, the more level the playing field.