Have you recently brainstormed a product idea? Then you’re probably keen to find a manufacturer who can help bring your idea to life. The question is, where do you begin?
Many entrepreneurs find themselves struggling when it comes time to actually choose suppliers. Whether you plan on sourcing products from overseas or partnering with a domestic producer to develop your idea, good manufacturers aren’t always easy to find.
In this post, we’ll point you to some places for reliable manufacturers and explain how you should approach them when making a product for your ecommerce business.
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How to find the best manufacturing companies
Finding the right manufacturer for your product is necessary to effectively launch and meet consumer demand. After all, manufacturers define your product’s quality, cost, and packaging and shipping. Follow the steps below to find the best suppliers and manufacturers for your business.
Do market research
A lot of today’s manufacturers have profiles and catalogs on the web. You can access them through various different channels, including the following:
Alibaba is the ideal place to connect with manufacturers from China. Simply enter your product’s name/category and browse through the various wholesalers and manufacturers. Although retailers commonly use Alibaba to find existing products, you can also use the platform to find vendors for custom manufacturing. Watch out for trading companies offering to handle the production—they operate as middlemen and won’t be able to manufacture your goods.
Searching Google is another effective way to find product manufacturers. However, you’ll need to look beyond the first few pages of Google search results. That’s because many suppliers aren’t up to date with the latest internet and SEO trends, meaning their websites are likely to be outdated and have sparse information.
Plus, you’ll want to use a variety of search terms when looking for manufacturers. For instance, you can use words like “distributor,” “wholesale,” and “wholesaler” to expand your choices. Moreover, it may help to familiarize yourself with Google’s search shortcuts to enhance the quality of your searches and, consequently, your results.
While searching for manufacturers, don’t forget to check online supplier directories. Many are freely accessible and contain profiles for hundreds or thousands of suppliers, manufacturers, and wholesalers. Here are some of the popular ones for both overseas and domestic suppliers:
Directories for overseas manufacturers
Directories for manufacturing companies
Referrals can be a powerful source of leads for product manufacturing. Ask friends and professional acquaintances if they have any recommendations in the area you’d like to pursue. Look for individuals with business experience and see if they’re open to sharing their contacts.
You can also join Facebook groups and other online communities where online retailers discuss business. See if anyone has a glowing review for a manufacturer. Getting a recommendation means the manufacturer likely has a good setup and would be capable of meeting your production-related needs.
Searching for your products by their NAICS code can also help expand your list of potential manufacturers. NAICS is the North American Industry Classification System, and nearly every product you can think of is tied to it. You can find the NAICS directory online or at your local library. Here are the websites for Canada’s NAICS code and the United States’ NAICS code.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few manufacturers, the next step is to vet your potential business partner. Browse their Facebook page reviews, check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if any complaints were filed, and query the company name “+ reviews” on Google to see if anything unusual comes up.
Reach out and gather info
Once you’ve shortlisted a few manufacturers, you’ll want to dig a little deeper before choosing a supply partner for your business. Reach out and communicate to answer the following questions:
- How versatile can they be? Is your manufacturer open to accepting custom orders at different volumes? Do they have the resources and technology to mass produce your items? Having a versatile manufacturing partner is key to generating profits from fluctuations in product demand.
- What are their lead times? Delivering items quickly is crucial to generating high customer satisfaction levels. If your supply partner is slow at creating and shipping products, customers will likely get frustrated and ask for a refund. Work with manufacturers who can deliver your products in a few weeks to keep customers satisfied.
- What are the costs? There are multiple costs to consider when choosing a supplier, such as the production and shipping costs. This price may reduce depending on the number of items you buy in one order. You’ll also need to consider minimum order quantities and how many items you’ll need to purchase each time. These will have a direct impact on your choice.
- Are there additional fees? Certain companies will have “set-up” fees for maintaining the equipment used to produce your goods. Find out if the manufacturer you’re considering levies any such fees.
- What are their ethical guidelines? Sustainability, eco-friendliness, and ethics are crucial considerations when choosing any business partner. If your company wants to be deemed ethical, the partners you work with need to have the same values. Evaluate your manufacturer’s impact on the environment and how they treat their personnel.
- What are their policies? Different manufacturers will have specific policies that dictate how they work with their partners. Some will have policies that allow you to return products without fees when you notice a defect. Others will have policies related to the costs of shipping and duties.
- Can they grant exclusivity? While most manufacturers will work with multiple brands at once, some also provide certain levels of exclusivity. For example, if there’s tooling involved in creating your product (i.e., you buy a tool for them to manufacture your item), they’ll likely agree to use it exclusively for your production. You can also inquire about private labeling, where a manufacturer labels the goods with the retailer’s brand rather than their own.
Communicate your idea
When speaking to your manufacturer about the services and support they can offer, you must ensure they fully understand what you’re asking for and what you need them to deliver. Some manufacturers have a product development strategy that allows them to assist you with things like 3D modeling and prototyping products, which can be ideal for new businesses.
If your manufacturer doesn’t offer these services, you’ll need to find other ways of communicating what you need through reference photos, digital files, mockups, sketches, and instructions. You can get assistance with communicating the details of your design from freelancers on sites like Upwork or Fiverr or consider working with product designers and CAD specialists.
Another option could be to bring a product manager or local designer into your team. You can work with them to create custom models and prototypes. Product managers can even assist you with researching and creating new products in the future.
Don’t place a full order right away. Order a sample first to test the quality of the finished product. Once satisfied, date and sign the sample.
You can also save one or two samples to use as control samples. These are forensic samples used to assure quality and consistent design specifications.
Control samples also make it easier to present your case to a manufacturer if you're unhappy with one of the products they send in the future. You’ll be able to compare the item with the control sample to demonstrate where the manufacturer deviated from the standard set.
Between the time you order a sample and when you agree to full production, negotiate terms for payment and minimum order quantities.
When negotiating, focus on your needs while accounting for the manufacturer’s business. The goal shouldn’t be to exploit your manufacturing partner, but to come to an agreement where both of you can profit.
Place your order
Finally, it's time to place your order. But before you hit the Buy button or sign a contract, do a full quality control check to ensure every product adheres to your standards. Once you feel confident about your partner, send your order to kickstart the production process.
Finding a reputable manufacturer for your online store
Sourcing manufacturers and suppliers is a time-consuming process but one of the necessities of starting a business. As you try locating the ideal supplier, have patience and perseverance to find the best fit for your new venture.
How to find a manufacturer FAQ
What does a manufacturing company do?
A manufacturing company processes raw materials and turns them into finished goods. They work with both small and large businesses and use labor, tools, and machinery. Large-scale manufacturing facilities are recommended for the mass production of goods, where assembly processes and advanced technologies allow for a higher standard of quality control.
What is an example of manufacturing?
The clothing industry is a great example of manufacturing. Clothing production relies on many different manufacturing processes, such as fabric receiving and relaxing, laying, form layout, cutting, screen printing, sewing, and conducting quality checks before making a garment.
How do I find overseas manufacturers?
You can find overseas suppliers through the following websites and dropshipping suppliers:
- Global Sources
- Dun & Bradstreet
How do I find a manufacturer?
You can find a manufacturer through the suppliers and directories listed above. Some popular resources to find manufacturers include:
- Free online directories
- NAICS codes
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