I frequently write about how to write emails that get a response from decision-makers, business celebrities and media personalities.
However, knowing how to write a killer email isn't all that useful if you don't have the email address of the VIP you're trying to contact.
I've found that I can almost always get a VIP's personal email address if I'm persistent and creative. Here's what's worked for me:
1. Do a Google search.
Surprisingly, you can sometimes find a VIP's email simply by searching on "What is [VIP names]'s email address?"
For example, if you enter "What is Tim Cook's email address?" one of the highest-ranked results is an article stating that his email address is "firstname.lastname@example.org" and that he answers his email. Problem solved. (But see #4 below.)
2. Call the switchboard and ask.
If the VIP works for (or runs) a company, call the main switchboard and ask how to send an email to the VIP. Have a good reason ready, like "I have some competitive information he'd find valuable."
While a switchboard operator or receptionists may be trained to route calls into voice mail hell, they usually have a company directory of emails and may not have been told not to provide them to outside callers.
You may also get transferred to the VIP's admin (or the admin's voice mail). In this case, ask whether sending an email is the best way to contact the VIP. The admin might give you the email address simply to avoid putting a call through.
If the admin says that the best way to contact the VIP is by emailing the admin, then treat the admin's email as if it were the VIP's email address. Of course, your initial email will need to seem important enough for the admin to pass along.
3. Check the VIP's personal website.
Many VIPs--especially if they've worked in multiple companies--have a personal website that is separate from their corporate website. If so, that personal website might contain an email address or a contact form.
I might note that using this particular technique landed me a business relationship that's generated well over over $500k in personal income.
4. Make an educated guess.
Most companies have a standard way of assigning emails addresses to employees, including decision-makers and VIPS. The quickest way to find a company's email address naming convention is to check their press releases.
For example, when I searched on "Apple press releases," I quickly found a recent press release that had these contact names on it:
- Colin Smith, email@example.com
- Starlayne Meza, firstname.lastname@example.org
That tells me that Apple's email address naming convention is the currently the person's first name, followed by the initial of the last name, if necessary.
Since there was more than one "Colin," Colin Smith is "email@example.com." However, since there is only one "Starlayne" (not surprisingly) she is simply "firstname.lastname@example.org."
However, since we've already searched and found Tim Cook's public email address, we know that Apple also uses first initials followed by last name (hence "email@example.com".)
Therefore, Tim Cook's private email address (as opposed to the publicly available address we found earlier) might very well be "TimC@apple.com".
As a special case. CEOs often have email addresses consisting of CEO's first name. Steve Jobs, for example, had two email addresses at Apple: "firstname.lastname@example.org" and email@example.com.
It's therefore possible that Tim Cook's private email address at Apple is "Tim@Apple.com" or perhaps (something of a long shot in this case) "Cook@apple.com."
5. Ask somebody who'd know it.
The more deeply you research a VIP, the more likely you are to find people or organizations who have contact information for that VIP.
Has the VIP spoken at a conference? Email the conference organizer and ask how to get in touch with the VIP.
Has the VIP blurbed a book? Get in touch with the author (most business authors have easily-available email addresses.)
Is the VIP on the board of a charity? Contact the charity and ask how to get in touch with the board members.
6. Use LinkedIn InMail.
While LinkedIn claims that InMail is more effective than regular email, I do not think that's necessarily true. However, it is a way to start a conversation.
A regular LinkedIn account allows you to send email to people to whom you're already connected. To email people outside that circle, you need a premium account.
Premium accounts range from $30 a month (5 emails a month) to $99 a month (25 emails a month). Depending on whether you get a response, that email doesn't count against your total.
LinkedIn probably put those restrictions in place to avoid SPAMming, which is actually to your advantage. Targeted emails that reflect research and thought are more likely to get answered.
Once you've gotten a response, I recommend that you ask for the VIP's actual email and continue the correspondence there.
7. Send a Twitter Direct Message.
Normally, you can send Twitter Direct Messages to only people who follow you or with whom you're are already involved in a conversation.
However, some business accounts are set up to receive Direct Messages from anyone. Create a tight message that begs for a response, then request the VIP's email address.
Move the conversation over to email as soon as possible so you won't be hamstrung by Twitter's restrictions on the number of characters.
8. Send a snail mail with a reply card.
Write a note to the VIP asking for his email address and provide a self-addressed postcard. To ensure that it gets into the hands of the VIP (or somebody who opens the VIP's mail), mark the letter "personal" and send it with a signature required.
I realize that it sounds crazy to use snail mail to get an email address. After all, if you've already got the VIP looking at your letter, why not just put your message (e.g. your request to meet with the VIP) into the letter?
Simple. Most VIPs aren't going to call you and set up an appointment based upon what you put in a letter. However, a VIP might be curious enough to give you an email address, if you make it easy to do so.
Once you've got the email address, you can get into an online conversation with the VIP that will eventually (and naturally) evolve to the point where it's appropriate to ask for a meeting.
9. Purchase a list.
Finally, if all else fails, there are vendors who provide lists of the email addresses of executives. Such lists can be pricey and you have no assurance that the emails are up-to-date or even accurate.