How to find email addresses to cold-email (for free)?

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I’ve previously written about how to write cold-emails and why to cold-email people like Steve Ballmer.  But, how do you find Steve Ballmer’s contact information?

1) Use Rapportive

Cristina Cordova, who does Business Development at Stripe, writes about using Rapportive to guess a person’s email address.  Having tried this trick a number of times, it’s quite effective.

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Ok, so let’s use this method with Steve Ballmer.  After a bit of quick guessing.  Steve_Ballmer@microsoft.com, steve@microsoft.com, etc, I hit gold.  But, let’s say this method didn’t work.

2) Message via LinkedIn 

Even using the free version of LinkedIn, you can often message people without being a first connection with them.  If you know who you want to email, check out his/her LinkedIn profile.  Find the groups he/she has joined.  Join those groups.  You can very often message people who are in the same group.

Even better is if a mutual contact feels comfortable introducing you over email or via LinkedIn.

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Applying this technique to find Steve Ballmer’s email address, it appears he has 0 contacts on LinkedIn, so we have no known friends in common.  And, he does not belong to any groups.  So this method was a bust this time.

3) Search through online alumni networks

If you attended a school that has an online alumni directory, you can easily find contact information of alums.  Didn’t attend Harvard or Yale?  Beg and plead with a friend to help you look through his/her account.

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Applying this technique to Steve Ballmer, who attended both Harvard and Stanford, I was able to find an email address and a phone number for him (not shown on screen).

But, let’s say we didn’t.  Moving on…

4) Search on Google

When in doubt, guess on Google.  These days, email addresses of high-level people, can be found on the web.  High-level people will often give presentations and post their slides on the internet.  It’s common to post contact information on the last slide.

But, beyond that, if a company has ever had a problem or an issue (all companies do), high level executives will often post their email address in forums asking unhappy or confused customers to email them.

You can use the same technique that Cristina uses with Rapportive to guess email addresses on Google.  Let’s guess Steve Ballmer’s email address.

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You can see that he gave out his email address to the public at a Microsoft event on 2007.

So, 3 of 4 of these methods have successfully given us Steve Ballmer’s email address.  But, what if we still couldn’t figure it out?  You may argue that Steve Ballmer has a much greater web presence than perhaps an executive at a non-tech company.  This leads me to my last point.

If all else fails, guess

If we could not find Steve Ballmer’s address, I would try to look for other employees who work at Microsoft to see if there are patterns in the structure of their email addresses.  A lot of companies use a standard pattern such as firstname.lastname@company.com or firstname_lastname@company.com or firstname@company.com etc.  I would then take my best guess and send an email to that address.

But, I would NOT email 7 different guesses like this:

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This cold-email I received looked so desperate!  If you guess incorrectly and it bounces, you can try again with a different guess.  And, even if your email goes to the wrong person, it can still make its way to the right person.  I once guessed an email address incorrectly, and recipient replied to me and included the right person I wanted to reach on that email.

What methods do you use to find email addresses of people you want to reach?

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