Which is better, meeting a vendor online or at a trade show ?

What people are saying about Mulberry Fields
a very interesting blog…” – a company in France

I saw a post the other day in one of the most popular China blogs and the blogger was talking about the best way to meet vendors in China. Of course this is a topic I am passionate about having worked in product development and sourcing for many years. Much to my surprise, the blogger omitted to mention trade shows as a way to meet manufacturers in China and he seemed to say that online sourcing followed by on-site vendor visits was the way to go. He is a lawyer and not a manufacturing person so it was an understandable omission. But I put in my two cents to the discussion and here is that two cents accordingly.

I personally think going to a trade fair in China is the best way to get started. You really can get a good idea of your product cost/design and production by spending time talking to a lot of vendors over several days. Some of these vendors will leave you with a good impression, some with a bad impression, some you will find too big, some too small. But you really come back from the trade show knowing a lot more about your product and its cost and feeling confident that you have actually met people who can help you grow your business.

The problem with online sourcing is that you really have no idea who you are dealing with as often you are just exchanging emails with an account manager or salesperson. Even if the quotes are good and you get some good samples back, you can show up in China and find the vendor to fall far short of your expectations. Of course you can meet someone at a trade fair too who, when you visit their factory, falls short of your expectations. But this is not as likely to happen because a trade show booth can in fact tell you a lot more about a vendor than a website. It also sends vendors a strong message that you are active in China and are looking for options. If on the other hand a vendor knows you have spent 3 or 4 K to visit them, after only having met them online, they may simply regard you as having deep pockets which is not the impression you want to give vendors.

Finally, I would add that for the most part vendors need to see actual physical samples of your product to give accurate quotes. The quote you get based on a picture is most definitely not going to be the cost you pay when you go into production. If you are FEDEXing samples to multiple vendors in China trying to find out who can do your product the costs will add up. I have had customers spend hundreds of dollars on one sample shipment. When you go to a trade show though, it costs absolutely nothing to hand a sample to a vendor and ask “how much?” Often vendors will just borrow your sample for few days and return it to you while you are in China.

I have written a lot on trade shows and sourcing online. Here are some of those posts.

Preparing for the Canton Fair
The Canton Fair
Sourcing online: Not the best way to find a vendor
Sourcing on alibaba




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