If you plan to start a business that sells products, you will need to find vendors to provide you with what you need. In many cases, budding entrepreneurs look overseas to find products. After all, it’s typical to receive a bulk discount when you source your products from overseas. Despite international shipping, the costs of buying products from overseas can often be cheaper because of lower manufacturing and labor costs.
When sourcing products from overseas, it's important to know what you are getting into. Here are 5 tips for sourcing products from overseas:
1. Figure Out Where to Source Your Products
Just as there are stereotypes about which countries are good at offering certain freelance services, there are also locations around the world known for manufacturing certain products. Think about the product that you are interested in selling, and then find out which countries specialize in offering that product.
There are some web sites that can help you with this step:
- Background Notes can help you learn more about what commercial ventures and manufacturing industries are in various countries.
- Global Sources is aimed at helping you find the right exporters for your products.
- ThomasNet is another web site that helps you find suppliers and source products.
- Alibaba can help you find contract manufacturers, wholesalers, and importers for your products.
Once you know what you want to source, use these resources to research suppliers around the world.
2. Get Product Samples
You will want to ask for product samples. These samples can offer you an idea of the quality and workmanship you can expect. Look over the product samples to determine what level of quality you want, and whether you are getting a good price for the quality you are likely to receive.
Realize, though, that product samples might not be completely representative. Steve Chou from How to Create a Profitable Online Store points out that sometimes there is inconsistency that needs to be ironed out when you first start sourcing products from overseas. Be prepared to keep working on the situation until things begin running smoothly.
3. Shop Around
Since you have access to different suppliers, and their product samples, make sure you shop around. Don't go with the first vendor that you speak with. It makes sense to shop around a bit, comparing price and quality. Realistically determine what the markup will be on the items you order so that you have a solid idea of your profit margins. It might take a couple of weeks to find a supplier that meets your needs, and offers reasonable prices for reasonable quality.
4. Be Aware that Contracts may not be Final
One thing I found interesting about Steve's post on sourcing from overseas was that he says that contracts are not final. In fact, they are more of a jumping-off point in many cases. While a contract can provide you with an agreement to get started in your relationship with a supplier, you have to understand that the contract might be re-negotiated later on.
5. Take Time to Learn everything you can about the Sourcing Process
It’s easy to make expensive mistakes finding your first overseas contract manufacturer. Did you know you must do background checks on foreign suppliers, check product samples for defects, and get everything in writing? Do you know how and when to pay suppliers?
The best way to avoid procurement mistakes is to learn from an expert who’s sourced tons of products from China and all over the world. Steve Chou has tons of actionable content on sourcing products from Asia for his U.S. based eCommerce stores.
Steve also provides contact information and tips for using his recommended overseas suppliers.
Check out my review of Steve’s course: Create a Profitable Online Store where he shares all his sourcing secrets.