The next several blog posts will outline what I think is the most methodical, efficient way to find a reliable supplier in China: meeting a vendor in at a trade show in China, working with them on samples over an extended time and visiting and auditing their facility before you give them an order.
In a previous blog post I outlined the four ways people generally find China vendors which are as follows:
1.) Popular online B2B sites like alibaba
2.) Factory referrals
3.) Trade shows
4.) Overseas based China agents
As I said in my previous blog post, meeting anonymous vendors online is fraught with risk; getting referrals sounds great but in fact it is very difficult to do and may not always work out as you would expect ; and when you work with agents they pick the factories, not you ( in many cases these are factories they have close relationships with which can be either very good or very bad for you) . So that leaves only one option: to attend a trade fair in China. I believe that attending a trade fair is simply the best way to find a China supplier and put you yourself in full control of your China production, while substantially reducing risk.
The drawback of attending trade fairs in China is of course the expense. It costs $ 0.00 to meet a vendor on alibaba, but it will cost you 3-5 K to spend a week in China at the Canton Fair. Not surprisingly most cost-conscious small business owners choose alibaba. But in doing so they are assuming considerable risk. Giving an order to a vendor you met on alibaba but had never actually met in person is not unlike agreeing to marry someone you had exchanged emails with but had never actually had dinner with. It is not wise. Attending a trade fair in China, on the other hand, allows you to meet the people who are going to play a fundamental role in helping you build your business, your suppliers.
Meeting vendors in person allows you to discuss your product in depth with experts and most suppliers will provide you with valuable feedback. They may tell you ways you can improve your product or point out problems with your current design. You may have a good impression of some vendors and a poor impression of others but all of this will allow you to considerably reduce the risk of buying direct from China. Yes, it is an expensive trip. But over the long term if you find a vendor who you can work with, a vendor who can deliver good quality product to you as you grow your business, it may end up saving you a lot of money. Because you will be able to retain loyal customers who like your product and can depend on your delivery time and quality standards.
Here are the other posts in this series: