Let's go back in time, to the early 90's. Overalls with one strap hanging down were the fashion trend, everybody was quoting Terminator 2, "Hasta la vista baby," ... oh, and the first web page was written. From there, the whirlwind of technology (and fashion trends) we've witnessed has been exponential. Ebay was born, Microsoft blew up, video conferencing was born, Gameboys went full color, pets became digital, Google was born, and we realized we didn't have to see another human, if we didn't want to, and we didn't have to sacrifice productivity either.
Why Emails Aren't Enough
At the end of October, I'm heading to Hong Kong for the Global Sources Summit, the only eCommerce conference where you can meet hundreds of Chinese suppliers at the same venue. Yes, there will be speakers (if you plan to be there, stop and see me), yes there will be no-fluff workshops, but there's something way more important happening at this summit: face-to-face, in person connections, between potential partners. Imagine if you could walk right up to your supplier, or meet who will source your next product. Imagine being able to shake their hand, have an organic conversation, the possibility of gauging the connection, initiating trust, and leaving with a full understanding of who you are entrusting your business goals to.
I've always talked about the importance of establishing a connection and strong communication with sources, especially overseas, and how ideal it is to have someone on the ground. Why? When something goes wrong, they can drop into the factory or warehouse, talk to someone directly, figure out what's going on, and offer solutions in real-time. But prior to that happening, you have to actually have a supplier or product source, and unless you've got a really good referral from someone doing exactly what you are (doesn't happen often,... or ever really), then you need the opportunity to actually meet some of the potential candidates.
Matchmaking For Business
We seek out matchmakers for so many areas in our lives, why not business? Meghla Bhardwaj, from Global Sources, was sharing some of the benefits of attending the Hong Kong Summit, and matchmaking came up. One of the services that will be offered to attendees is free supplier matching, so you can be sure that you are looking at the right suppliers, with the right qualifications. Man, oh man, do I wish every product designer had this kind of opportunity. My articles on sourcing don't quite paint the entire, massive, image of what an entrepreneur goes through to find the right partners. Even worse, some entrepreneurs don't find the right partners, and that 7 out of 10 failure rate destroys another could-be success.
Amp Up Your Success Rate
Whether you are traveling the globe to find suppliers, or on your first round of market research, I cannot stress enough the importance of developing connections and establishing relationships with your strategic partners... even especially if you're in different time zones. That way, when (not if) something goes wrong, you have the open lines of communication, or the trust, or the accessibility to figure it out quickly without losing much. Harvard Business Review conducted a study on the value in the face-to-face ask, and concluded that a face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than email.
What data, and my decades long career tell me are the same: the human connection is not only a business necessity, but it is here to stay.