Growing a small business is anything but easy. It requires long hours, grueling work, and, often, hundreds of prospecting emails. The preferred method of meeting potential clients is through a mutual contact, however, almost as a rite of passage, cold calls (or emails) will inevitably come into play.

While there are plenty of guides on how to script your first contact email, there a few reliable sources on how to complete a more primitive part of the process: finding your target’s email address.

Some of your potential contacts will kindly list their email addresses on their website. Many, however, will only provide a general office address for inquiries, especially if the target is a larger business. In many cases, you can easily work around this and contact your target directly with the help of a few applications and a basic understanding of email formats.

First, you will need the following free applications:

  • GmailGoogle has many great tools for growing businesses. Chances are your business already uses a Gmail-based email system, even if your email domain is not @gmail.com. If your company does not use Gmail, you can set up an account for free. Believe me, it’s worth it.
  • LinkedIn—If you are serious about networking or business development, you probably already have an account. If you don’t have LinkedIn, it’s time to get with the times and sign-up.
  • Google ChromeChrome is a web browser that allows you to add many useful applications called “extensions,” including Rapportive. If you are having trouble downloading or installing Chrome, contact your systems administrator.
  • RapportiveRapportive is a Chrome extension that works with Gmail by matching the email address in your recipient field to any LinkedIn account tied to that exact email address. If Rapportive finds a match, it will display a snapshot of your prospect’s LinkedIn account in your Gmail tab.

Together, these applications create an easy-to-follow process that greatly increases your ability to find and to confirm the unlisted email address of your target.

To begin this process, open two new tabs in your Chrome browser, one for your Gmail account and the other for your target’s website. On your target’s website look for any email address. Businesses that do not list the direct email addresses of their employees usually have a general email address for inquiries. As an example, at 24, we list info@24c.co on our contact page. The purpose of finding this email address is to identify the domain (the @24c.co portion of the address) the company uses. Another good place to look is on the media or public relations page, because even large companies usually list the direct contact information of their media contacts.

Once you have identified the email domain, go back to your Gmail tab and open a new email. Now, here is when a basic understanding of email address formats will come in handy. Most companies use a variation of the employee’s name. This can be as short as the person’s first and last initials or as long as his or her full first and last names.

Using the name of your prospect, try each of formats until Rapportive displays a matching LinkedIn account. If Rapportive displays your contact’s LinkedIn from within Gmail, the address is confirmed and you can proceed with the subject and body of your email. Occasionally, Rapportive will not be able to match the email address with a LinkedIn account.

This can be caused by two problems: 1) your prospect does not have a LinkedIn account or 2) her company uses a different email domain for its employees. The solution for both of these problems is a Google search in hopes of discovering the prospect’s address or the company’s email domain on a third party’s website.

While this process may seem overwhelming at first, you’ll easily master it in no time. With a little practice, prospect research can actually be fun and will open many new doors for your growing business.

For more information on business development, feel free to send us an email or give us a call today.