Michelle’s Successful Consulting Corner - August 2010

by Michelle Long August 18, 2010

Find New Clients for Free Through Your Library

Have you ever bought a mailing list or leads?  Did you know some people spend thousands of dollars buying lists from Salesgenie, InfoUSA, USAData or others to help get new clients?  In this article, I’ll show you how you can create your own mailing or contact list for free using ReferenceUSA.

Perhaps you’re a Fishbowl or MISys VAR and would like a list of manufacturing companies to contact.  Maybe you are looking for new tax clients and would like to do a direct mailing to a certain neighborhood.  Or maybe you’re an ISP and want leads of businesses with more than a certain number of employees to see if they may be ready for QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions.  Using ReferenceUSA you can create your own list based on the criteria you specify.

What is ReferenceUSA and how do I access it?

ReferenceUSA is “a premier subscription database available to libraries, educational institutions and government agencies.”  Many public libraries, schools or universities have a subscription to ReferenceUSA and many of them have the option to access it remotely (from home with a library card).  Here in Kansas City, I can access ReferenceUSA via the Kansas City Public Library, Mid-Continent Public Library, Johnson County Public Library or via a community college or university. 

For the public libraries, they all require a library card to access ReferenceUSA remotely.  Some of the libraries will allow you to request and activate a library card online and you do not necessarily need to be a resident to get a library card.  For example, the Kansas City Public Library will issue cards to residents of Missouri and Kansas.  So, the first step is to check with the public or school libraries in your area to see if they have a subscription to ReferenceUSA and then get a library card.
On the library website, look for research resources or databases to look for ReferenceUSA.  For example, here’s the Kansas City Public Library page:

Figure 1

You may want to check several libraries to see which ReferenceUSA databases they have available.  For example, here’s the Kansas City Public Library and you can see they have US Businesses, Residential and Healthcare.

Figure 2

Whereas the Mid-Continent Public Library has many more ReferenceUSA databases available.

Figure 3

Thus, check with various libraries in your area to find one that subscribes to the databases you need.  As you can see in the above image, the Mid-Continent Public Library includes the Canadian databases, as well as OneSource (which you can get the RMA Industry Averages from and more) and one for New Businesses (possibly a great source of contacts or leads for you).

Searching with ReferenceUSA

Now that you’ve found a way to access ReferenceUSA it is time to start searching!  You need to know what it is that you want a list of – residential addresses (perhaps for tax clients), new businesses, a certain type of business or industry (retailer, manufacturing, contractors, etc.), businesses with X number of employees or sales volume, businesses within a certain geographic area, etc.  It is important that you identify your target market to guide your search and provide good results.

If you use the Residential database, you can search for home addresses within 1/10 of a mile or 1 mile from an address you enter.  For example, I could enter my home address and get a listing of all my neighbors within the area specified.   If you click on the custom search tab (as indicated below), you can create your own search form by checking the boxes that you want for the search criteria.  Notice you can search by median home value and median home income too.

Figure 4

More importantly for many of us is the ability to search for businesses.  Let’s say I want to search for Contractors (type of business) in my metro area (geographic) with 1-4 employees (size of business).  As I check each search criteria, I get a search window to enter the relevant criteria. 

First, I’ll search for the type of business as shown below.  As I enter Contractors in the field to lookup, it will give you a list of results—just click on the one(s) you want to select and it puts it in the Selected field.

Figure 5

I can add more search criteria to refine the results so I don’t get too many.  So, I’ll search by Metro Area for the geographic area and 1-4 employees for the Business Size.  As shown below, when you check a field on the left, then a box opens on the right to enter the details for your search.   Once you have entered your search criteria, click on View Results as indicated by the arrow.

Figure 6

When I view the results of the search, I had 30 names which isn’t too many, but perhaps I wanted more or less.  If you click on Revise Search you can change some of the criteria to get more or less results.

Figure 7

If I revise the search for just a couple of cities (or zip codes), now I only get 4 results as shown below.  In the image below, you’ll see where you can download or print the results.  You can click on All (as indicated with the arrow) however since it is free, you can only download 25 at a time (one page of results).  To download more than 25, go to the next page and download them.  It will put them in a new file so you will need to combine the files yourself.

Figure 8

When you click to download, you’ll be able to select the file format and level of detail to download as shown below.  If you need to download more than 25, click on the back button to return to the search results and go to the next page. 

Figure 9

When you are in the search results, if you click on the name of a company you will find a lot of information available about the business.  For example, you may want to know more about the business demographics, management, nearby businesses or competitors.  You can expand them individually or all of them.

Figure 10

As you can see below, the business demographics provide details about the number of employees, sales volume, number of PCs and more.  I don’t think this data is totally accurate for all companies, but it can provide guidance for you.

Figure 11

If you’re looking for contacts and leads, then you may want to look at the competitors as well (shown in image below).

Figure 12

Now you have a tool to help you get contacts and leads whenever you need them for free.  Spend some time identifying your target market to determine the search criteria you need to enter and start searching!

This is the inaugural article in Michelle Long's new regular column Michelle’s Successful Consulting Corner. Keep an eye out for more business solutions in the coming months. If there is a topic you would like to see addressed in a future column, please email questions and suggestions to Michelle.

Michelle Long is a well respected leader in QuickBooks consulting and helps coach entrepreneurs and small business owners to start and grow their own business. Her first book, Successful QuickBooks Consulting: The Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Growing a QuickBooks Consulting Business, has helped thousands of consultants launch their business.


  • Jeff J says:
    August 20, 2010 08:07

    Great Article!! Thousands of $$ of info here. Thanks

  • Carla D says:
    August 20, 2010 20:15

    Thanks Michelle for the great tip. I already have a library card to our community college and their foundation is my client! I'm there at least twice a week.

  • Cheryl P says:
    November 13, 2010 14:01

    Thank you Michelle! I plan to use this avenue for my marketing efforts.

Please log in to add a comment!
QuickBooks & Beyond Blog

Latest Articles