No wonder you're superexcited. You've finally got the design of your latest and greatest product nailed down, and you're sure it's going to be a huge win for your small business. Now all you need is to find the right factory to transform your idea into a market-slaying product. Time to pick up the phone and arrange some meetings with manufacturers, right?
Not so fast, say the experts at Maker's Row, a startup that helps match designers and craftspeople with American manufacturers. In a recent post on the company blog, Stephen Meyer, co-owner of family-owned leather goods manufacturer Pergamena, reports that those looking for a factory often show up to discussions unprepared to make the most of the meetings. Before you waste your time or the time of a potential manufacturer, you need to get a few things straight, he insists.
1. What's important to you?
Every business offers a different mix of strengths and weaknesses, and that includes manufacturers. In order to find the right one to partner with your company, you need to go into any discussion with a clear sense of exactly what capabilities are most important to you and whether your potential partners are strong in the areas that you most value.
"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," Meyer writes. "Once you have done the research and are ready to meet, make sure to stress to the manufacturer why you are approaching them."
2. What's your vision?
Remember, when you meet with a manufacturer, they're not just introducing themselves to you; you're also introducing yourselves to them. Be prepared to talk cogently about your brand and your vision for the future 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," Meyer explains.
3. What's your pace?
"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," Meyer says. Therefore, it's imperative that you come in to the meeting with a timeline in mind, including when you will need material samples, prototypes, whether you plan to test the product before committing to a production run, etc.