- Finding manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers to acquire the items you need to develop your own products
- Pricing, quality, minimum orders, and other considerations in choosing a company to work with
- Directories, trade shows, and other methods to make a connection
Small businesses often rely on a network of manufacturers and suppliers to acquire the materials they need for their products. Distributors are also a valuable partner, both for finding materials and getting your own products into the market.
When searching for a manufacturer, supplier, or distributor, you’ll need to consider a variety of factors. These include:
- Whether they offer the products you need
- The quality of the products offered
- The affordability of the products
- If your geographic area is served
- If there is a minimum order requirement
Affordability is a key consideration, since you’ll want to be able to purchase items at a price that won’t require you to increase the cost of your own products beyond what a customer is willing to pay. However, it’s also important to consider whether the company will be a stable partner and offer adequate customer service. Smaller suppliers can often offer these benefits.
One option is to work directly with a manufacturers, which cuts out any middlemen. Distributors provide products directly from the manufacturers, and can be wholesalers, regional entities, or importers. Checking with several options will allow you to compare prices, and you may decide to work with multiple distributors to acquire different types of products.
Companies can choose between either domestic or international suppliers. Domestic companies can offer high quality and faster shipping, but also tend to be pricier and have more limited options. International suppliers can have lower costs, but also involve longer shipping times and other hurdles, such as language barriers and customs clearance.
There are several online directories available to connect companies to suppliers. For example, Thomasnet.com connects companies to more than 500,000 North American manufacturers. Alibaba is a similar directory linking companies with manufacturers in China.
Traditional methods are also useful for finding distributors, suppliers, and manufacturers. These include subscribing to trade publications, attending trade shows, or joining a trade association.
In addition to supplying you with the materials necessary to make your products, distributors can make your completed products available to a wider marketplace. You can seek referrals for this purpose, including consulting with retailers you’d like to work with to see how they acquire their products.