Ever waste half a day in a fruitless search for the email address of an editor or marketing manager? Well, I recently found a simple email lookup system that reliably reveals whether you have the right address.
There’s one catch here: If the person you seek doesn’t use any social media, this system won’t help you sleuth out their address.
But since most folks in business are on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+ — some social media platform or other — this system is highly useful.
There are four free things you need to use my system:
- A Gmail address (just get one, if you don’t already have).
- Google Chrome as your browser.
- FullContact for Gmail, a Gmail extension for Chrome only. (Heads up: You may need to refresh your Gmail after you install.)
- An email permutator that suggests all the likely possible email address formats for any given name (I use a free handout from Rob Ousbey at Distilled that you can download from this page). You could live without this if you’re highly creative in guessing emails, but I found this tool a real time-saver that helps you easily track which versions of your target name you’ve already tried.
You may know that I’m not very tech-savvy, so I want to reassure you these are easy installs to do. I was able to get this hooked up on my own, and didn’t even cry once. Here’s a look at the download page for FullContact, for instance:
See? You can click that button and follow the prompts. I believe in you!
You’ll know you’ve got FullContact set to go when you log into your Gmail account using Chrome, and the little red rolodex-card FullContact logo pops up over on the far right, near your own account graphic:
Once you’ve got that installed, you’re ready to use FullContact to find editor’s emails.
How to use FullContact for email lookup
To show you how easy this is, let me share a couple recent searches I did to find executives at companies where I was seeking interviews. Finding editors at publications works just the same way.
If you know their name and the URL of their website or company, you’ve got what you need.
For instance, I was trying to reach a program manager at Microsoft, for a recent assignment. My first try at guessing his email handle showed it wasn’t an email address he’d used in social media:
See how it says ‘No other contact information found’? That means this address is a dud. The subject hasn’t used it on any social media accounts, so it’s probably not their email address.
When that happens, it’s time to get out the permutator and start running through all the possibilities in a systematic way. Here’s the top of the permutator I use (filled in with the creator’s name and company), but the full sheet has several dozen common permutations you can try:
After a few more attempts, I tried this version of his name:
Bada-bing! See how that little LinkedIn icon appears at the bottom of the result? That means Cory uses that email address as his contact address on LinkedIn.
The more social media profiles appear, the more confirmation you have that this person uses this email frequently — and the more likely that it’s a good email address for them.
For instance, look at how many social-media account hits I get on this address for a Costco board member who was an early Microsoft executive:
The more positive results you get, the more likely that person will be reachable at that email address. Simple as that.
Finding names on LinkedIn
If you don’t know the name of the person you want to reach, you’ve got to find that first. These days, I like LinkedIn for that.
For instance, what if I want to get editor names at, say, Redbook magazine? Here are the first results on that search:
Presto! Names. From there, you do a quick Google search for the magazine’s URL. Then, you’re ready to hit FullContact and the permutator and figure out their email address. Reading the masthead or media kit for the magazine may give you a good guess on their naming convention, too.
One LinkedIn tip — if you’re searching up names on LinkedIn, stop and check to see if they’ve set their profile to accept free InMails from all comers. Sometimes, you can hit them up with a quick note right on LinkedIn, and skip the email-finding process for now.
Obviously, this method is not foolproof. Sometimes, people set up a social media account under an email, and then wander away from that platform, get a new job, and don’t update it. So you get a hit on FullContact for a social media profile, but it’s no longer a valid email.
One twist: I’ve discovered some big companies no longer have predictable email format conventions. Amazon and Microsoft are among the companies that seem to encourage employees to pick any email handle they like. The days may be ending when finding one email that’s email@example.com means you’re set to reach anybody at the company using that same email format.
A pox upon this trend! The permutator may still win for you, if you hang in long enough and keep trying…it just takes longer without conventions to guide you.
All in all, I got way more useful results using FullContact than any other method I’ve tried.
Final tip: Remember, you can always try calling the publication or company to ask for an email address, if you’re really stumped.
What email lookup tools do you use? Share your approach in the comments.
P.S. Want to see a video of this email lookup method in action? I just made one for Freelance Writers Den (and we’re opening for new members tomorrow).