It’s officially that time of year again. Over 120,000 people from all over the globe are heading here to connect with the right manufacturers and scope out new products. With tens of thousands of factories, trading companies, and export agents, it’s the largest manufacturing tradeshow in the world. If you’re looking to make a product, the Canton Fair is the place to be.
At Sourcify, we’re at the Canton Fair everytime, managing existing relationships and building new ones. It’s the best place to meet with dozens of the factories we work with all in one place.
And there’s a reason companies small and large attend the Canton Fair: when relationships can make or break business in China, meeting a manufacturer face to face can go a long way.
In this article we’re going to walk you through what you need to know in order to attend the Canton Fair like a pro. This consists of pre-show research, during show tips, and post show follow ups. Let’s get started.
Many attendees don’t reap the full benefits of the Canton Fair because they don’t follow the tips below to maximize their efficiency while at the show.
Pre-register for the show. This may sound obvious but it is something many buyers forget about doing. Pre-registering and printing out your confirmation will save you from standing in hours of registration lines and get you started on the right foot.
Start researching potential factories online. Use the exhibitor product index to take down names and booth numbers of manufacturers that relate to your product.
For example, say I am looking for a factory that produces rechargeable batteries. I would first go to the exhibitor product index, then enter a search for “rechargeable battery”.
After clicking on the first option we are able to see the factory’s address along with a map of where it is located within the show.
Mapping out the booths you want to see ahead of time is key. The venue is huge and this will save you a lot of time and hassle.
Get a headstart by contacting your suppliers before you go. In addition to the booth location you are also given the factory’s email address. Emailing potential factories prior to the show will help you start creating a relationship and give you an advantage over other buyers at the fair.
This also means they will be expecting you at their booth at some point during the fair. Feeling invited when you arrive will make your experience with them that much better.
Packing For Your Trip
Tackling the Canton Fair can be stressful as is. Make your life easier by ensuring that you have all these items before you arrive in China.
- VPN– If you haven’t been to China before, you may not be aware that many functions such as Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and more are all banned. Buying a VPN before your trip will allow you to access these sites while in China. Here is a list of some great VPNs for China.
- Business cards – Bring more than you think you’ll need. At least a couple hundred.
- Smartphone and portable charger– Take pictures of the booth number and product. You’ll be using your phone a lot for both notes and pictures. Bringing a portable charger can be a lifesaver.
- Wheeled luggage– You’ll be collecting a lot of catalogs and samples from different suppliers. You’ll be doing a lot of walking and carrying a backpack or briefcase can start to take a toll on you.
- Comfortable shoes – The venue is huge and you’ll be walking a lot. Try to find some shoes that are both professional looking and comfortable.
During Trade Show Tips
The first goal you want to accomplish at a trade show is meeting as many product related manufacturers as possible. Being diligent in your pre-show research will help you accomplish this.
The next goal is figuring out the right questions to ask. I’ve put a list together of some of my favorite questions to ask vendors at the show.
- Are you a factory or trading company?
I like to lead with this question because I prefer to work directly with factories. Trading companies add their own margins and make the product more expensive. Another way to tell if the manufacturer is a factory or a trading company is by looking at their products and seeing if there is a common theme.
Going back to my battery example, if you show up at the booth you researched before attending the show and they are also selling shirts, iphone cases, selfie sticks etc. there is a good chance they are a trading company.
If you know where in China the supplier is located, this map of China’s manufacturing distribution can also give you some insight into whether they are a factory or trading company. For example, if they claim to be manufacturing batteries but are located in Jiangxi province (known for ceramics) you might be speaking with a trading company.
- Which countries do you export to?
Asking this question can help give you insight into the quality of the product. If your market is America, your customers are more likely than not expecting a higher quality product. If the factory you are speaking to exports the majority of their products to Africa or countries in the Middle East this should sound off some alarms.
Chances are this factory’s supply chain is configured around low quality standards and will not be suitable to sell to American customers. I tend to look for factories that have experience producing products in North American markets with similar quality standards.
- Can you private label for me?
This is important for Amazon private label sellers. Some manufacturers may only produce private labels if you meet their MOQ (minimum order quantity), which they often say is a few thousand at the Canton Fair.
To see if they’re willing to produce at a lower minimum order quantity, it’s time to bargain a bit. Tell them you understand this is a small quantity and the price will be higher than normal, but that you’d like to test the product on your site that sells thousands of units a day.
If you make it sound like you are a big seller, there is a higher chance that they’ll be willing to work with you at a lower order quantity to start.
- How much does your product cost?
Don’t focus too much on pricing right off the bat. I like to first get a reference quote and then ask for a hard number if I choose to follow up with them after the show. Spending too much time talking about pricing can give the manufacturer the impression that your buying ability is low.
- A) Yes, No, or Maybe – After speaking with suppliers write a ‘yes, no, or maybe’ next to their name. Doing this will help you decide on which factories you want to follow up with after the show.
- B) Get to the show early – I try to show up when the doors open at 9:30. There are less buyers and you will get more attention from manufacturers. People are also more attentive in the mornings.
- C) Take an early/late lunch – This will help you avoid hours of waiting in lines.
- D) Talk to the most senior person – They will have more decision making power and can get you a more solid reference quote for your product order.
- E) See their response to ecommerce keywords.
Quick trick: I like taking selfies with people in the booth to help with remembering faces.
Post Show – Follow up!
After the show take the time to filter all your “Yes, No, or Maybe” factories. The “Yes” factories are who you will follow up with within a week of the show. Throw all the “No’s” in the trash and keep the “Maybes” in case you need back up suppliers.
How to manage after show emails.
- 1. Create a spreadsheet of all your “Yes” suppliers. Write down their contact info, reference quotation and any other notes.
- 2. Put the factory name and product in the subject line to help stay organized.
- 3. Create an email template that you can copy and paste to all of your “Yes” factories.
Here is an example of an effective email template:
My name is Blake Bierwith and we met during the Canton Fair last week. I enjoyed our conversation and wanted to get some more information on your [product].
- What are your minimum order quantities?
- Do you do your own packaging?
- What is your price for XX amount of [product]
- What is your production lead time?
Could you please get back to me with the above information? My email is XX and my WeChat is XX.
Please give me at least three options of similar items that you have so I can review with my team. I will look at these options and get back to you as soon as possible.
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you and hopefully placing an order with your company.
Sending a direct and concise email like the one above is key. It will make it easier for the supplier to understand and increase suppliers response rates.
Pro Tip: Do not use your primary email address. Create a separate email address for sourcing, unless you like a flooded inbox.
By the end of the show, manufacturers will have met hundreds of buyers and will be extremely busy after the show. Differentiate yourself by taking initiative and following up with them.
Attending trade shows can be a critical step in scaling your business. As an eCommerce entrepreneur, it is important to find the most cost effective and efficient manufacturer to make your products.
In this article, we gave you the tips to make the most of attending the Canton Fair. Now it’s time to start doing your pre-show research and start preparing. If you want someone to handle the process of finding the best manufacturers for you, try Sourcify. Even if you’re at the show and found a factory you like, using our software will make managing a production run much easier.
Finding the right factory will be an invaluable step forward in growing your business and gaining a competitive advantage.