Article: Why finding a supplier is a lot like dating

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Why finding a supplier is a lot like dating

JUNE 22, 2018
Author: Rob Garrison
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Finding a new supplier. It's a process that sounds easy but in reality can be quite the opposite. Language barriers; differing expectations; international red-tape. There are a multitude of variables each adding further complexities to the process and all making starting new relationship a high-effort venture.
I was recently on the look out for new supplier for a new product I was developing, however quickly found that there's no one-set method to getting it right or even a single approach that works for everyone - a lot like when it comes to dating.

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Approach No. 1

The "crowded dance club" approach

There are several sites that aggregate suppliers in their database, including the likes of Alibaba.com and Asian Sources. However buyer beware - it can be very difficult to know the quality of the supplier simply from a website.
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Approach No. 2

The "match.com" approach

Alternatively, you can use a 3rd party to help you match up with with a suitable partner. Companies like Sourcify will - for a fee - find out about your interests and goals and then match you with a supplier that they have vetted.
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Approach No. 3

The "trusted wing-man" approach

Several importers I know will find suppliers that look like they may be a fit (through the two approaches above) and then have one of their existing suppliers in another category vet them. This is a great approach as the existing supplier is vested in the outcome, speaks the language and knows what to look for.
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Approach No. 4

The "we belong to the same club" approach

Another great way to find a supplier is through a tradeshow that specialists in your product. For example, the MAGIC show specializes in apparel, whilst the Consumer Electronics Show focuses on electronics. There are trade shows for nearly every product category and you can meet relevant suppliers face to face.
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Approach No. 5

The "social media" approach

We live in a data-rich, social world, so maximizing information readily available is a no-brainer. There are companies that mine the import data collected by the US government including suppliers, which you can access via subscription through sites like Panjiva.
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Approach No. 6

The "exclusive matchmaker" approach

According to some importers, the best suppliers don't advertise. They have enough business to keep them happy and will only take on new business from trusted referrals. Never be afraid to ask to be recommended by your existing network to help get a foot in the door.

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