Five somewhat sneaky ways to find a prospect's email address

16 October 2015 Jon Norris

You know sometimes there’s someone you absolutely, positively have to get in touch with? That golden goose of a prospect who could open the door to leads and sales beyond your wildest dreams? We’ve all been there.

It can be frustrating, and there’s no foolproof way to make sure you can get your pitch in front of that person, but an email is still your best best. Of course the more senior the person you’re trying to get in touch with, the harder it will be to find their email address. But if you’re still not having any luck there are a few cunnings ways to find your prospect’s email address.

Domain formats are your friend

Large organisations will always have a standard format for their email addresses. The most common is firstname.lastname@website.com, but smaller companies may just use firstname@website.com, and many use different punctuation.

For example the Guardian newspaper’s domain format is firstname.lastname@theguardian.com, so I could make an educated guess that their new Editor-In-Chief Katharine Viner’s email address is katharine.viner@theguardian.com. I don’t know for sure, but it certainly makes sense.

If you know your prospect’s full name and their company’s domain format – bingo, you’ve (probably) got their email address!

Personal websites are a goldmine

Many high-profile businesspeople have their own websites which they use for endeavours away from their 9-to-5. Bill Gates famously has Gatesnotes, his personal blog, Joel Gascoigne (who cofounded the wildly popular social tool Buffer) blogs at Joel.is, while high-profile investor Chris Dixon writes at cdixon.org.

While businesses might not give out their executives’ email addresses publicly, the executive themself might have decided to publish their address on their personal site. You can also try putting their URL into a whois tool, which surfaces publicly-listed registration information for their domain name. Some high-profile business leaders use a proxy to register their domains to hide their contact information, but many don’t.

Search Twitter

If your prospect is active on Twitter they may well have published their email address publicly, either in their bio or in a tweet.

To save yourself having to sift through thousands of tweets use Topsy to search their tweets specifically (in the Advanced Search options) for an email address format – for example search for @website.com.

Bear in mind some people write their email addresses in a plain text format (firstname dot lastname at website dot com) to stop spambots picking them up, so search for that too.

Email isn’t their only inbox

LinkedIn was built to help you make business connections, so why not use it? It’ll be the work of minutes to find your prospect on LinkedIn and send them a message. Depending on how you’re connected LinkedIn may restrict your ability to send them messages. Fear not though – just take a free trial of LinkedIn Premium (you can take a free one-month trial once a year) and their inbox will open up to you.

Plus, if they have email alerts on for messages on LinkedIn your message will end up directly in their main inbox anyway.

Just ask

Sometimes a straightforward approach is best. After all, if somebody doesn’t want to make their email address public they might have a good reason. Send them a LinkedIn connection request, Twitter message or email through a generic company contact address explaining what you want to talk about. Be honest, be succinct. You’ll be surprised how often the simplest methods work best.