More thoughts on reaching out to vendors before fair time

I received an email a couple weeks ago from one of my customers who is going to be at the Canton Fair and she asked me if it was OK to go cold.  In fact, a lot of people attend the fair without ever having so much as looked at the Canton Fair exhibitor’s list.  A company I used to work for was like this. When they attended the fair there was absolutely no preparation at all – unless I was going with them. Why someone would want to plop down $ 5,000.00 to attend a trade fair but not prepare for it I have no idea.

In fact, one of my favorite pastimes at the fair is to see who on the fair shuttle bus has prepared extensive notes on vendors and mapped out the show.  You can always tell who is prepared and who is not. The women are much better than the men at this and the Europeans better than the rest of the world.  

Most importantly, if you go to a trade fair without any preparation then you are increasing your risks of a disaster at production time. In fact, there are many vendors at the trade fairs in China and Hong Kong that you would just not want to do business with.  These vendors are synonymous with bad quality, late delivery, poor communication etc. You can begin the process of eliminating bad vendors  by contacting them before the show.  Vendors that do not reply to your emails, even after several attempts on your part are not vendors you want to deal with. Vendors that reply to your initial inquiries but then disappear after you ask them to quote on a product or make a sample for you to review at the fair are not vendors you would want to deal with. Giving people the benefit of the doubt has its risks.

Over the past month, in preparation for my trip to Guangzhou, I have reached out to over one hundred vendors of toys and plastics . Of these one hundred I would say 10-15 have turned out to be pretty good at communicating and showing interest in developing a business relationship with my customer (s). But among the companies I have reached out to so many have proven irresponsive or simply not helpful to the point that I would not recommend dealing with them. Would I have known this had I not reached out to them?  Yes, but only after a frustrating and costly sample or production order.

I do not envy the overseas buyer who will meet vendors like this at the fair and who, after receiving promises of low cost, quality product and cooperation will return to his/her respective country feeling that  they have found a good vendor in China only to realize,  after their order is a month late and they have lost an important customer,  that this was not the case.  

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