Resources: Kip's Tips

June 2007 Great Sites for Getting Background on Clients, Prospects, and Others

Ever Googled someone's name before meeting or talking by phone to see what useful background you could turn up about them? Maybe a referral from a client, or a new prospect, perhaps a journalist you want to build a relationship with, or a center of influence at a company or trade group? For a growing number of advisors, Googling those folks is now standard pre-conversation homework.

The problem is what surfaces in that process isn't always structured in a very organized way - which can mean having to plow through a raft of results to patch together anything meaningful. That's where sites like ZoomInfo and Clusty come in handy, two search tools that take the time and guess work out of organizing information found online.

Long-time readers may recall I first spotlighted ZoomInfo in March 2006. Recently, the site got a major overhaul which warrants giving it another look. Clusty I included in Winning Clients in a Wired World (back then it was called Vivisimo Web Search) as an alternative/supplement to Google worth considering.

What makes both sites useful is how they group their findings into categories, which makes reviewing whatever results they return both faster and easier.


Originally designed to help recruiters uncover job candidates, ZoomInfo scans the Web for mentions of the 37 million (and counting) people it tracks, using what it finds to create a virtual resume for each person. Contact information, work history, board memberships and affiliations, education, Web references – background that can give you a more complete picture of who a person is and in what ways you (or others… think referrals) may be connected with them.

Basic service is free; paid versions give you access to more information, and greater flexibility in transferring that data into your own system.

Two quick notes of caution: not everyone has a ZoomInfo profile, and those that do may be fragmented in multiple profiles. Despite those limitations it's worth checking if people you're interested in show up in ZoomInfo's database. It won't cost you, and you simply won't get the same organized output using a standard search engine.

One cool ZoomInfo feature I use frequently is QuickLists, a way of grouping contacts together for ongoing tracking/access – your "A" clients, execs at the same company, members of a local professional organization, competitors, whatever. (QuickLists also solve the multi-part bio problem mentioned above; you can group the pieces of a person's background together into one QuickList for faster reference the next time.)

Another thing I like: you can use the site's Advanced Search page to look for people at companies within a defined geography or within a certain size range.


Clusty is a broader-based search tool. What makes it noteworthy is that it groups or "clusters" results it finds into logical categories, all by itself. Enter the keywords entrepreneurs "Washington, DC" and you'll get groupings for Small Business, Women, Non-Profit, Association, and Young Entrepreneurs, to name just a few. Click on any of those headings and you'll get a list of subheadings, each with a distinct set of results to help you find exactly what you're looking for.

Google is still my bread-and-butter search tool but when I'm looking for information on people or want help parsing what's out there on certain topics I'm researching, ZoomInfo and Clusty are where I turn next. You should too.

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