This week I am visiting China for 10 days. Originally, me, my wife Chrissy, and our daughter Kayla were scheduled to go for about a month together to see Chrissy's grandparents, but the pollution in Beijing was far too bad to travel with an 8-month old so the trip has been delayed until later this year. Long story short, I'm traveling alone on this trip.
My itinerary is a bit whirlwind on this trip and includes traveling to Shanghai -> Yiwu -> Ninghai -> Guangzhou ->Shenzhen -> Hong Kong
I always exude to importers the importance of traveling to China so I thought I would share my goals for this trip and hopefully for newcomers to China that find this blog post it’s of some use in their trip planning.
Meet Our Top Suppliers
I haven't been to China since 2014 and subsequently I haven't met any of our Suppliers since then. There's an industry trade show happening in Shanghai and many of our Suppliers will be visiting either as exhibitors or visitors. Aside from finding new Suppliers, trade shows make great venues for networking with current Suppliers.
Meeting Suppliers face to face and having a meal with them or sharing a beer together results in a lot of long term Kumbaya benefits such as them giving you preferential treatment, being less prone to ‘cutting you off', understanding your business better, etc. However, it's also a great opportunity to discuss more specific near term goals. For me these include:
- Discussing a partnership with one of our top suppliers regarding opening an American company to run jointly. More and more Chinese businesses want to do business directly in America (be afraid, be very afraid). Thankfully, Chinese also love joint partnerships.
- Discussing better payment terms. We have credit terms with one of our Suppliers and I would like these credit terms to be extended and improved. Face to face meetings in China create a lot of trust and improve the chances of them agreeing to such things.
Find New Suppliers
I always like to find 1-3 new Suppliers a year and trade shows are one of the best ways to do this. This year I'll be at a Super Secret industry trade show in Shanghai (buy my course to figure out the industry :) ) and the Canton Fair in Guangzhou. Aside from being able to find a lot of non-Alibaba advertising Suppliers, being at a trade show in China is a huge motivating factor to actually connect with and find new Suppliers (it's hard sometimes to do this sitting behind a computer in Vancouver).
Over the years I've learned a couple of tricks for getting the most out of these trade shows:
- Review the exhibitor list well ahead of time and create a ‘hit list'. It's too easy to get to a trade show and ‘miss’ really good Suppliers simply because their booth was lacking or you didn’t walk by their booth. I browse the exhibitor list, visit as many websites as I can and make a list of the companies I must speak to.
- Contact Suppliers beforehand. When you're talking to a Supplier for the first time at a trade show it's a lot of investigative work figuring out what they do and what products they have that you might be interested in. Emailing them before hand and getting price quotes gets you way further down the sales funnel once you actually speak to them in person.
- Know what products you're looking for ahead of time. I learned after my first trip to the Canton Fair that hoping to find completely new products without first doing preliminary research is hugely unproductive and results in few leads. Instead you have to research these products ahead of time to find out what the core selling features of the product(s) are, what's the average selling price, etc. so you can at least have somewhat intelligent conversations with Suppliers. Killing an hour at your local big box retailer reading product packaging for products you may be interested in is a good way to find these key selling propositions.
If you've never heard of Yiwu, it's the largest Wholesale market in the World. It's about 2 hours away on the bullet train from Shanghai.
I’ll only have about 1.5 days in Yiwu and given the scale of the wholesale market I think there’s a distinct possibility I could walk in a haze for the first few hours, just trying to get my bearings. Subsequently, I booked a local guide to show me around the market (the price? Free- they’re hoping you buy something and use the services of their company)
I get the sense Yiwu is a market more tailored for cheap, low quality commodities but regardless I want to see the infamous Yiwu in person. I'll be following up with a post about my experience at Yiwu.
Other Random Goals
I also have several other goals including:
- Visit the Cross Border E-Commerce conference in Shenzhen. This conference is for companies based in China/Hong Kong doing e-commerce internationally. Chinese companies selling direct (and cutting us out) IMO is going to be the next big shift in e-commerce. I want to get a sense of the logistics and challenges for Chinese companies in doing this and get a sense of how far much this business model has permeated.
- Get some dedicated time away to work on my business opposed to in my business. Sometimes being 5000 miles away is the only way to avoid the day to day distractions of running a business.
- Practice Chinese and put my long commuting hours of Chinese podcasts to use :)
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve visited China. I sometimes like to try and convince myself that there’s no need to travel to China to do business and that it can all be done via email and Skype. Which is true to a certain degree. However, I think it's no coincidence that in the years I visit China, my business grows the most rapidly in the months following.
It could be that the only way to find certain products and Suppliers is by being in China and that it’s impossible to forge relationships through an internet connection. Or, it could be that simply visiting the Factory of the World and seeing countless Suppliers and staff hustling harder than I could ever imagine results in me coming back more motivated than ever. Either way, every time after I shell out the $3000-5000 on a trip to China, the effect on my business is indisputable.
Do you plan on visiting China this year? What's a sample agenda for you look like?