Planning Your First Meeting With A Manufacturer

Planning a face-to-face meeting with a potential manufacturer is an essential step to realizing the creation of your brand or product.  Not only does it give you the opportunity to see the facility and equipment available to produce your goods, but it also lets you know if you are compatible with the manufacturers themselves in terms of their work ethic and personality.

However, while finding a manufacturer that will fit your style and needs is a vital early step in the growth of your brand, it’s also something you shouldn’t go into without a little planning.

Here are three things to consider before meeting with a manufacturer that will go a long way to making the process easier and faster for both parties:

What Do You Expect from the Manufacturer?

As a materials manufacturer, we have met with dozens of small and mid-size designers intent on starting or building their brand.  Among all of these people, our most successful relations have started with the ones who have known what they are looking for in a manufacturer.

Whether it be turnaround speed from order to completion, quality in the goods manufactured, business model, history, reputation, location, flexibility, versatility, or any combination of these qualities, it’s important to research a manufacturer before taking time from both your schedules to meet face-to-face.

Once you have done the research and are ready to meet, make sure to stress to the manufacturer why you are approaching them and what you have heard or read.  Having this knowledge beforehand allows for any misinformation to be dispelled and helps establish the relationship.

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Where Do You Want Your Company to Go?

Just as it’s important for a manufacturer to know what’s expected of them, it’s as imperative that you offer your own expectations of your company.

This doesn’t mean you have to have exact projections and numbers of how successful you plan to be (though it never hurts if you happen to have them).  Instead, focus on what is necessary for the manufacturer to get a sense of your potential as a customer, which in turn lets you know to what extent they are willing to work with and for you.  While some might deem you too small or large to work with, others will prove to be a perfect fit for your size.

Take a little time to write down a few short and long term goals for your company that you can share with the manufacturer, such as having a product saleable by x date, being able to reach a certain percentage of your target market, or focusing your sales on a specific region or segment of your industry to start.  Even if you plan to stay small, or have no idea of how successful your brand will be, this will serve as a gauge to let both parties know if they’re compatible.

How Fast A Pace Will You Set?

As a designer for a new or growing brand, timing can often be the single biggest factor in a successful product launch.  As a manufacturer, having as much forewarning as possible about an upcoming deadline is one of the most helpful pieces of information a designer can offer.

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It’s important to decide how fast you hope to push your brand or product before meeting with a manufacturer.  Consider writing out a timeline for when you will need material samples or prototypes complete, deciding that you want to test the market first before committing to a production run, or marking out what products you plan to release for what future seasons.

Even a rough estimate of how quickly or slowly you hope to progress will prove invaluable for both you and the manufacturer in terms of planning and scheduling for production.

Meeting The Manufacturer

Once you’ve gone through these questions and have a general sense of how you would answer them, you’re ready to start meeting with manufacturers. Voicing these considerations as you begin looking for a manufacturer that best fits your brand will not only show them that you have a sense of direction and potential for your business, but will also help you weed out companies that won’t be a good match to help your brand grow.