3-Step Data Mining Guide for Small Business Prospects

data mining for prospects

Say you sell supplies to dry cleaners and your sales rep is going to start exploring a new territory. A good strategy would be to “break the ice” with some personalized emails that might be followed up with phone calls before hitting the bricks and knocking on doors. To accomplish this, you would need names to go along with the emails.

(By the way, as long as you are sending emails one-by-one from a private email account, it’s not “spam.” It becomes spam if you create lists and start pumping out emails via any of the automated email sending services.)

Knowing how to do some basic “data mining” is an important skill to have. We’ve published a number of articles filled with tips on how to build email lists, including growth hacking tips and using trade shows as input.

This step-by-step guide to finding prospects is a simple data mining technique that scoops information from public records on the Internet.

For the purposes of my instructions, I’ll continue with the example I referenced at the top. I’ll pretend I sell hangers to dry cleaners and I’m going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, spending one day on the Peninsula – starting in San Mateo. I begin my research on Google with a long tail keyword: san mateo cry cleaners.

google search

1. The initial search. The point of this first search is to capture the URLs and domain names of all the dry cleaners in the area. In some cases, you can go to the website and get the rest of the information you need. However, many times you won’t be able to find out the name of the person in charge, or get a good email address. Through the actual website, your only method of getting in touch might be through a contact form, or you could be forced into making a cold call. We want to get a good name.

You’ll probably want to start a spreadsheet with all the URLs in the first column. Many of you will be wanting to gather this information for many prospects, so you’ll be drilling down on this initial search several times to capture the URLs and domain names.

2. Find domain name ownership. Head over to a site where you can perform a “Whois” look up, such as this one at Domaintools.


Copy one of the URLs from your spreadsheet and look up the public information that’s on file. Sometimes at this point, you’ll encounter a “private registration” where the person who owns the website has paid an extra fee to keep his or her name away from the public.

private registration

However, when that’s not the case, you’ll usually get some good contact information you can use. When we’re dealing with sole-proprietorships – such as a dry cleaner – the “decision maker” in the business is usually the name that’s connected to the ownership of the website.


Obviously, if you’re trying to make contact with a single business that’s part of a larger corporation, you may not get the information you need; your Whois lookup will return some corporate contact information, which won’t be very helpful.

3. Copy the owner’s name, email address and phone number into your spreadsheet. At this point, I recommend a very short introductory email using the name you found on the Whois record. All you’re trying to accomplish at first is to introduce yourself in the most gentle manner and ask if you’ve emailed the right person.

If you want to take this a little further, you can grab the names you collect and search various social media sites to see if you can find the same people and learn a little about their interests. This might help you when you send your introductory emails and it will certainly prove useful when you’re able to meet some of these contacts in person or speak to them over the phone. Make columns in your spreadsheet for social media information.

Let me leave you with one final thought. If this basic technique sounds like it would work in your small business, but you need to look up hundreds or even thousands of records like this, consider writing some concise instructions and outsourcing the work to an overseas worker. This is exactly the kind of task offshore workers can do for you and save you a lot of time and money.