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
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
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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