Disclaimer: The following method is one I use on occasion to reach out to industry thought leaders and the like for non-spamming purposes only. Use this information as you will, but please, use it wisely and respectfully.
Whether you're a job candidate that wants to open a direct line with human resources, a link builder that wants to get in with the marketing or IT departments, or you simply misplaced the email address of someone you just met, chances are you've wished for a little black book full of all the most elusive email addresses.
The good news is that you can easily find these email addresses relatively easily and quickly. The method shared below accomplishes this by using two free resources: LinkedIn and the Rapportive add-on for Gmail.
If you already have the first and last name of the person you seek, you can skip down to the section on using Rapportive to narrow down their email address, as originally described by Rob Ousbey from Distilled last year.
Find Out Who Holds The Position
In our example, let's say we're interested in getting an up-and-coming website to join our ad network. To do so, our goal is to reach out to someone in the advertising department with the authority to make such a decision, or at least open the conversation so they can connect us with someone who can.
To find out who holds key positions, we'll turn to LinkedIn. While not every professional uses LinkedIn, there are over 200 million that do, so it's a good place to start. We'll use the advanced search function to search by company and department.
You can be as broad or specific as you'd like by using the Keywords or Title fields. You can try to guess their title (i.e. Director of Advertising or Head of Advertising), although I usually prefer to put the name of the desired department into the Title field to bypass guessing their company's naming conventions.
Be sure to select "Current" in both drop-down menus beneath Title and Company in order to eliminate people who have moved on. Also, if you're seeking someone at a business with multiple locations, you may want to narrow down your search further using the postal code field.
Depending on the size of the company, you may need to narrow down or broaden your search to find an appropriate contact within the company.
Tip: LinkedIn will only display the first name and last initial for 3rd degree connections to entice you to upgrade your account. To get their full name, simply copy their first name, last initial, company and the position they have listed and paste into Google. Google will display their public profile without the "Out of Network" filter LinkedIn adds if you go through their search function.
We've now answered the question as to who we should contact. Now all we need to do is track down their email address.
Find Their Email Address
I first became aware of this method from a Distilled post from Rob Ousbey last year, and it is simply awesome.
First, make sure you have a Gmail account and hop on over to Rapportive and download the free add-on for the browser of your choice. Rapportive essentially takes email communication a step further by automatically tracking down social media accounts and pages associated with the email address in the "To" field of your Gmail composition so you can further foster your online relationship with the person you're already emailing.
The concept is simple: Rapportive scours the internet for the email address you've typed in. If it finds a match, you'll see information populate the sidebar of your email. If it doesn't, you won't see much of anything.
Of course, not all companies use the same naming convention for their email addresses. Small companies or the addresses of early founders might contain a first name only, followed by @example.com. There are numerous variations involving initials, order, periods and so forth such as firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
To help with this, Rob created a Google doc which generates a large list of possible variations once you enter in the first name, last name, and company website (it is a read-only doc, so you'll have to go to File > Make a copy). Once you generate your list, simply copy and paste it into the "To" field of a new email. From there, simply click down the list of email addresses until Rapportive finds a match.
I'll let Rob recap the entire process in his own words:
I actually really enjoy this process and I feel a minor thrill when an actual face appears on the side of Gmail. From here, the ball is totally in your court. Be respectful, don't flood anyone's inbox, and use this method responsibly.