The majority of promo product orders are smaller runs (200 pens, 500 ball caps, etc). These are purchased from onshore stock or local factories. China or offshore manufacturing comes into play with extensive customization and increased quantities. Once buyers go offshore, they realize their expectations and demands aren’t necessarily upheld or even understood by the vendors. Let’s talk the change of mindset that’s necessary for sourcing promo products offshore.  

In 2016, most buyers will say, “sure I know there’s cultural considerations, you have to be careful with China or (insert country here), yes doesn’t mean yes, I got it, I got it.”

But then, once they put their hand to the plough and start dealing with the vendors and money is on the line, you can hear their screams for mercy.

They fall apart like a $2 suitcase.

There’s a knowing in the head and an experiential knowing. The experiential knowing doesn’t come from 1 order or even from many orders. It comes from seeing patterns, learning from mistakes and adapting.

Experiential knowledge means you catch yourself before making the same mistake. Because the last mistake still stings. It means remembering what it took to make the last order a success. Exact steps aren’t necessarily applied but the same principles are.

The last post covered initial obstacles when importing promo items. Although not unique to this industry these obstacles are prevalent in a large dose.

After the initial obstacles, there’s the ongoing change of work habit that’s required if you want the project to be a success.

Offshore suppliers, even when positioned as promo products suppliers aren’t necessarily experts in the industry

Did you find a promo products supplier that’s familiar with the requirements of YOUR product, for the intended industry in YOUR country?

You see they may make that item, but it was for a different country and with looser requirements.

This rings especially true for US and European importers of promo products.

This rings double-especially true for suppliers who WANT to supply promo products to the US and Europe.

You ain’t in Kansas anymore

 Many buyers in sourcing their promo products approach the offshore vendors in the same manner they approach their domestic vendors. This is a recipe for error.

  • The structure of supplier – distributor – end user is unknown to offshore suppliers.
  • Therefore vendors don’t realize the relationships that are cultivated and how 1 bad order can destroy that relationship. Not to mention reputations tarnished.
  • China vendors have the mindset that items are sold off a shelf, online or out of the back of a pickup truck. There’s little to no concept that if mass production has problems, then redos and discounts do nothing for a promotional product campaign.
  • Whether you’re working with a general vendor or factory direct, have it ingrained in your mind that your supplier probably doesn’t know too much about your industry.

    How does knowing this help?

    It’ll slash assumptions.

    You’ll stop taking things for granted.

    You’ll err on the side of properly providing your vendor the detail they need to know.

    Importing promotional products and doing it right is going to take a different type of control that you may not have faced.

    It comes as a bucket of cold water to many would-be importers when they realize the level of service and communication is nothing like they expect to receive.

    Take certifications. The supplier isn’t going to diligently inquire with you about what certifications are required for your country and your industry. In fact, if you bring it up, they may treat it like an afterthought and then reveal to you after it’s too late that “they used the cheaper material that won’t pass testing”.

    Throw all assumptions out of the window. Know your requirements and include them in the initial RFQ.

    You’ll have to bring them to the supplier’s attention a few times until they acknowledge the safety standards.

    Take updates.  You won’t hear from your vendor as often as you’re used to domestically or as often as you’d like. If you don’t stay on top of them, they’ll make decisions on things they should’ve signed off on with you.

    This is something, that for the most part, you’ll have to train your vendor on and communicate your expectations to them over and over.

    Take timing. This is another area that buyers assume the vendor understands.

    Timing is critical in the promotional product industry.

    Vendors don’t fully grasp this.

    They think, “what’s a day or 2?”.

    They’ll use unanswered questions as reasons for delays.

    Thus the reason above for exhorting to stay on top of them when it comes to updates.

    Until you gain traction with a vendor, never say to yourself, “they didn’t update me”.

    Think more in terms of, “I’m going to get updated and find out all the facts. It’s up to me!”

    This is why it’s so important to gain traction with the same vendors. They’ll learn your work routine and you’ll learn their’s.