At the end of several guest lectures he delivered at Princeton University, Tim Ferriss used to give students a highly unusual assignment. The task? Find a way to contact celebrities and business luminaries.
Not C-list celebrities, mind you. We’re talking household names.
To incentivize full involvement, Ferriss “promised the student who could contact the most hard-to-reach name and ask the most intriguing question a round-trip plane ticket anywhere in the world.”
So what happened?
Students got in touch with celebrities and business leaders way higher up the celebrity ladder than they imagined possible. Students struck up conversations with many famous names, from former President George Bush to Google CEO Eric Schmit.
(The first time I read this concept, I emailed my favorite author with a few questions about his work. By that evening, he’d emailed me back with a long, kind response! You know I told all my friends.)
Finding Emails for Outreach
Now that you’re all inspired to contact that seemingly out-of-reach investor, client, or hero, I want to give you some practical tools. I recently had a conversation with lemlist CEO and co-founder, Guillaume Moubeche, to discuss the best practices and tools for cold email outreach.
How is an email address built?
Most decision-makers in business today don’t let just anyone know their email address. That means their contact information doesn’t typically live online for anyone to find.
Before you begin scouring the internet for companies and email addresses, it’s helpful to know how they’re constructed. If you can’t find someone’s email online, there are certain patterns you can apply to piece together an email address.
Guillaume says there are 34 common pattern possibilities. These are variations of your first name and last name, with the company URL at the end. Common patterns include:
And so on.
Name + pattern = direct contact
The good news is, if you’re going the manual route to acquiring someone’s email, most businesses will tell you their pattern. All you have to know is the name of the person you’re trying to reach. Then, you just find another employee’s email address and copy the pattern.
Here are some ways to know a company’s pattern
Notice how the emails are structured when you:
- Subscribe to their newsletter
- Contact a salesperson and request their email
- Search the Contact Us page (and similar pages on their website)
- Open white papers and case studies (often contact information is located at the bottom)
- Look up the company on Linkedin and view the employees who work there. Then Google several employees by first and last name and see if email addresses are returned.
Once you find an email address, simply plug the name of your contact into the pattern.
Finding email addresses faster
Above we discussed the manual way to deduce someone’s email address based on their name and company. But that method is hard to scale. If you want to receive contact information for a lot more prospects much more quickly, there are services for discovering contact information. Guillaume recommends these tactics:
Buy a list:
In this case, another team has already done the hard work of finding lots of relevant contacts. Now all you have to do is buy that list and start prospecting. The biggest problem with this method is high bounce rates. Many of these list companies don’t have the latest contact information, which means you may waste time crafting emails to old email addresses.
Use an online database:
Databases scrape data from the internet — mostly LinkedIn — to find up-to-date contact information. For a variable fee, just type the criteria of your ideal list into the database. It will provide a list of potential contacts. The most accurate databases are also, unsurprisingly, the most expensive. Their contacts tend to have been updated every 3-6 months for ongoing accuracy.
Tools to find email addresses
Pattern finder: Remember those 34 patterns I mentioned earlier? Free tools like Metric Sparrow automatically do the pattern finding for you. Just plug in some basic information, click Permutate, and start testing potential emails.
It’s best to pair your database with a verification tool. Zerobounce, Dropcontact, and Bouncer are well-known tools for validating emails. If you really want to get gnarly, Every Market Media will clean, validate and perform data hygiene on your email contact lists and other marketing databases.
Partner shoutout! If you want prospects to engage with your email once they open it, try using a tool like lemlist. After all, the founder was kind enough to help us write this article.
Did you miss our first email outreach post? Learn how Guillaume suggests creating buyer personas for email outreach. More articles coming soon — stay tuned.