The Bulletproof Method for Finding Email Addresses of Influential People

As entrepreneurs, we often have to hustle hard to reach influential people in our industry.

Whether they are journalists, venture capitalists, or top level executives of big corporations, we know that a relationship with them could be beneficial for everyone, but first we have to get in touch with them.

So what do we do?

Sometimes, we get an introduction from a friend or an acquaintance. Other times, we catch our targets at a conference and elevator pitch the hell out of them.

Often, however, there is no other way but to send a cold email.

But you know what influential people all have in common? They rarely disclose their contact information.

For example, to write my "14 Renowned Experts […]" post, I had to reach out to about 60 influential founders and startup marketers in North America.

Of course, I didn't know most of them, so cold emailing was the way to go. But once I started researching my targets, I realized that I'll have to get creative to get their contact information.

And today I want to show you my method that will allow you to get any influencer's email address with a 99% success rate.

Ready? Let's do this!

The Basics of Email Guessing

First, let's discuss some basic assumptions.

We're talking about influencers here, so they probably don't have email addresses such as pinkbunny1955@yahoo.com.

They most likely have an email address under their companies' domain names, and those companies are likely to have guidelines for creating emails.

So, the email address will usually a) end with @company.com, and b) begin with something descriptive, such as a person's name or position.

Here are some of the most common corporate email structures:

  • Firstname@company.com -- most founders use this format
  • Lastname@company.com
  • FistnameLastname@company.com + variations with "." and "_"
  • FLastname@company.com + variations with "." and "_"
  • FirstnameL@company.com + variations with "." and "_"
  • Position@company.com --  for example, "CEO"
  • Department@company.com --  for example, "media" or "community"

And that's about it. Companies rarely get creative with this, which makes your and my jobs much easier.

Using Rapportive to Go from Guessing to Knowing

Now that you have a clear understanding of how companies come up with their emails, you can use one simple yet powerful technique (and tool) to turn your educated guesses into bulletproof knowledge.

Rapportive is a small Gmail plugin which presents you with insights into people you're talking to. It is usually used to learn more about the person you're corresponding with, but it has other cool features as well.

Go install it, I'll wait…

Now, if you click on someone's email in your Compose window or Inbox, a little widget on the right side of the page will appear and show you different social media profiles that are using that email address.

So if you enter your target's contact information, for example Firstname@company.com, Rapportive will try to find any connections between that email and the social web.

See where I'm going with this?

If the email address you're entering is real, it is highly likely that there are social media accounts associated with it. If your guess it wrong, however, Rapportive won't show anything.

Here's an example, using my contacts…

Rapportive Email Insights

Now, all you need to do is test out every email address on your list and see which one is in use. It's that easy.

For example, when I was looking for the contact information of the 60 founders I've mention in the beginning, it literally took me under 10 minutes to find most of them as they all used Firstname@company.com or Firstname.Lastname@company.com.

Go try it out for yourself…

When Rapportive Fails

Of course, Rapportive is no panacea.

Sometimes, the address you're looking for isn't connected to any social media. This often happens when a person is a new addition to the company.

But, fortunately, I have a few backup plans for you…

Backup plan #1: Research your target.

As you may have noticed, we haven't even started researching your target yet.

So go open a new tab and google something like "Name email address" or "Name contact info." You may find your answers on forums, blogs and even Quora.

If that doesn't work, check out the company's website, your target's personal blog and social media. Hopefully, you'll find what you're looking for.

Backup plan #2: Try all of them.

Still no luck?

Here's another idea. This one comes from Brian Wong of Kiip, and he has used it successfully to secure meetings with top influencers in the sturtup space.

Remember the list of all possible emails we've outlined above? Well, we're gonna contact ALL OF THEM!

Just compose your message and then type in all of those variations into the "Bcc" field. Then, take the address with the most potential to be real and type it into the "To" field.

Using Bcc to guess email adresses

This way, when you send your email, there's a high probability that at least one of the addresses will work, and you'll reach your target.

At the same time, since the full list of emails is hidden, the person won't feel like you're spamming them.

Backup Plan #3: If all else fails, go social.

If you're reading this, it means that none of the above options worked, and your inbox is full of "Delivery Failed" messages.

Here's when we go back to social media. And the most straightforward way would be sending the person a quick tweet and asking for their contacts.

But if you want to avoid such premature outreach, you can try a couple of other paths as well.

First, you can add your marks on LinkedIn. If they approve your request, you'll get access to all of her contact information. But if they don't, you're facing a penalty from this social network.

Gary Vaynerchuk's Contact Information on LinkedIn

So before you click "Connect," make sure that the person has 500+ contacts, which usually means that they aren't particularly selective about who makes her acquaintance.

Of course, you can also pay LinkedIn to get its premium InMail feature, but what I've found is that lots of influential people don't check their messages often enough to justify the expense.

But let me know if you have more success with this.

An alternative to LinkedIn would, of course, be Facebook.

If you can find the person's profile, check if they have a short vanity URL. Mine, for instance, is facebook.com/abasov.

Now, every user who has such a nice looking link, gets a similar email address as well, such as abasov [at] facebook.com.

Sending Emails to Other Inbox on Facebook

The messages you send to such addresses will land into the person's "Other" inbox. And truth be told, they often go unnoticed. So I would only use this tactic as the last resort.

Again, if you had tried everything and nothing worked (which is a ridiculously rare case), just ask the person directly on Twitter. I'm yet to hear one "no" when doing this.

Let's Hear Your Ideas!

Have you faced a situation when you needed to get in touch with an influencer, over email or otherwise? How did you go about it? What was the result?

Let me know in the comments!

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