Marian the Librarian: finding business prospects in a library data base

Ya Got Trouble. You need to find more business prospects in your  target market. Where are you going to look? More important, where are you going to look for free?

And that rhymes with P and that stands for PPLC: The Pinellas Public
Library Cooperative, Pinellas County libraries that have banded together save costs and share revenues. The PPLC gives you free access to a very useful data base from its web site. All you need is a PPLC library card. That’s free, too.

If you live in a different county, your library probably has access to this data base or one like it.

Following the process is a little bit like following the plot of The Music Man, but your effort will be rewarded.

Go to the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative web site ( and click on ‘Databases’ at the top left of the page. You’ll see there are several choices.

Click on ReferenceUSA. Now comes the first hurdle … enter your PPLC library card number. If you don’t have one, go to your local Pinellas County library. Within ReferenceUSA, there are two data bases, one for businesses and one for individuals. Go to the business data base. Then select custom search. (As a side note, there is no listing in the individual data base for Harold Hill in River City, Iowa.)

Now you have a bunch of choices that can be useful in different phases of your search. The choice you will probably want to start with is ‘business type’. Click on that. Then you get to choose key words, or SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) codes, or the newer NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) codes. Since most people have no idea what these codes are, we’ll start with key words. (For more information and a list of the SIC and NAICS codes, see

Key Words. Let’s say your target customers are colleges. Choose NAICS codes, and enter the key word ‘college’. You will see that the first six digits of the NAICS code are 611310. Enter that in the space at the bottom. Other key words may display more than one code. You can enter several codes in the spaces provided.

Geography. Next, choose the geography your business covers. You have lots of choices here, too: State, City, Metro Area, ZIP code, County, Street Address, or Neighborhood. This gives you the flexibility you need to choose your business’s specific target area.

Gary, Indiana. Searching for the metro area Gary, Indiana is actually a bad example because it’s included in another metropolitan area. So let’s select the metro area of Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL. Select that and click on ‘View Results’. Reference USA will tell you there are 120 business listings for colleges in this metro area, 78 with email addresses.

More than 76 Trombones ? If the list is too large to handle efficiently, you can go back to the ‘custom search’ page and change the geography, or add new limits based on business size. Business size covers number of employees and sales volume. Use one, or both.

Print or Download. Use the buttons above the listings either to print the data, or download it to an Excel spreadsheet or comma-delimited file. Whatever you choose, this system prints or downloads 25 records (one page) at a time.

Want more detail ? Armed with this information, you can go back to the ‘custom search’ and look up more information about the business. Click on ‘company name’ and enter a business name. This will help you to pick out the most qualified prospects.

Then back to LinkedIn. Do a people search for the executives of your target companies, or a company search for the company names. See who in your LinkedIn connections works, or has worked, at the company. Read their profiles and their posts to learn more about them and their needs.

Next – It’s all on the street where you live: creating a local listing for your business with Google Maps.

Want to know more? Call the Pinellas County SCORE chapter at (727) 532-6800 or email