11 Steps to a Strong Relationship with Your Manufacturer

Just like relationships with your customers, the relationship you have with your manufacturer can make or break your company.

A strong manufacturer relationship can improve cash flow, reduce risk, make your product development process easier and improve the overall product manufacturing experience. But having a strong relationship with your manufacturer is not as simple as paying them on time. There are many subtleties that you should take note of to build a strong relationship. For instance:

1. Negotiate prices, but respect the fact that they need to make money as well.

Prices need to be negotiated. However, respect the fact that they need to make money. If you feel as though a price is fair, don’t push for the extra 10 cents.

Read on for 10 more steps I have used to establish strong ties with all of my main manufacturers. One example of how strong my relationships are is that despite being a small company, I am able to order product on credit.  One of my manufacturers has sent me well over $100,000 USD of product without any advance payment, and I pay them anywhere from 30-60 days after receiving it. This is only possible because of a strong relationship built on trust and respect.

Here are the top 10 ways to build a strong relationship with your manufacturer:

2. Show You Trust Them

This is especially difficult when manufacturing with a new manufacturer, but showing trust will help establish a strong relationship. Granted, trust should not entail a hands off attitude, as it is important to be intensely involved in the manufacturing process. A good example of how to show trust in your manufacturer is by transferring money for samples without making any mention of how you are risking your money by trusting them, or anything along that line. Your new manufacturer is in the same exact position as you and is not sure whether or not to trust that you are a legitimate business that is looking to make a product with them, so show some trust and it will be reciprocated.

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3. Don’t Use a Condescending Tone

As the saying goes, treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you. Even if you are frustrated, you should not talk or write to your manufacturer in a condescending tone. Even in the instance that they are not a native English speaker, many manufacturers have years of English experience and can pick up on if you are talking to them like you would a child. Be professional, be clear, but don’t talk down to them.

4. Speak to Them on The Phone at Least Every 2 Weeks

This time frame will depend on what you are manufacturing or developing with a manufacturer, but despite the ease of email, it is important for you to connect with your manufacturer over the phone, even if it is just to check in and say hi. This personal connection beats 100 emails and helps build a strong personal bond. Use your phone calls to get to know the personal life of your contact. Learn about his family and what he does for fun. If you are looking for a long term relationship with your manufacturer coupled with great service, this is a must.

5. Explain Everything Thoroughly

It is very important to explain everything incredibly thoroughly. Don’t leave anything open to interpretation if it doesn’t have to be. Use diagrams and pictures with arrows and explanations whenever possible.

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6. Be Detailed Oriented…Be Picky

In line with the need for explaining everything thoroughly, don’t be afraid of being picky. If a sample was made wrong, even if it is a small mistake, point it out and have them fix it. At the end of the day, you want to be happy with your manufacturer and not resent something that wasn’t done correctly. Being picky about your product is a good way to ensure you are happy with your manufacturer, and as a result, have a good relationship with them.

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7. Talk About Your Business as a Collective “We” With Them

Manufacturers like to feel like they are part of something bigger than just making a product for someone to sell. Although not everyone will share the same desire, many manufacturers like to feel like they are part of your team. Talk about the product you are making in a collective “we”, also, consider asking them for advice. They may know more about your industry than you think and can help you stay on-trend and up to date with the latest technologies.

8. Wish Them Well on Their Holidays

If your manufacturer comes from a different culture than you they will have different holidays. Make sure you wish them well on their holidays. I’ve never met an Indian manufacturer who hasn’t wished me a Merry Christmas, why then would you not wish them a Happy Diwali?

9. Tell Them a Little About Your Personal Life and Aspirations

You don’t have to go overboard here, but sharing your personal life with your manufacturer will put a personality to someone they may not ever meet face to face.

10. Invite Them To Visit You

Be careful how you do this, but mention to them that they are welcome to come and visit you if they ever find themselves in your neck of the woods. I say be careful, because you don’t want them making a special trip for you unless you are making a boat load of product with them. However, sometimes manufacturers will come to visit all of their customers during a certain time frame. In this case, have them come to your office!

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11. Thank Them For a Job Well Done

A sincere thank you goes a long way in every culture and every business.

Don’t wait until you’ve begun doing business with a manufacturer to use these strategies. All of the above points should be used from the very first communication you make with a perspective manufacturer.