Avoid getting scammed and protect yourself with business knowledge and steps like the five I'm about to show you. In 2015, Alibaba fired managers for taking bribes. They cleaned house and provided better tools to help you, raising the standard and making it the go-to resource.
You have to know the tools in order to be effective. You can't blame a DSLR camera for not taking clear pictures underwater when it's not an underwater camera. 📸 As long as you learn how to use resources and tools like Alibaba, it can take you a long way in building your business!
1) Search the keyword of the product you are looking for on Alibaba
Go to your competitor’s page on Amazon and look at their title. Reduce that title down to the essential core words that describe the product. Those are your keywords. Just extract out all of the extra verbiage and examine the title in its most basic form.
For example: “Blue iconic funny coffee mug for men.”
If you reduced this title to its essential core words, you have “coffee mug.” Those are the words you'd have to keep for the product to make sense. "Blue iconic men" would mean something very different. 😆
Now search that keyword phrase on Alibaba.
Pro tip! If you cannot find a supplier who can build the product, this is a good problem. This means it will be very difficult for competitors to copy you. Find a supplier who can build a product of the same material of approximately the same size. This means the chance of this supplier having the right equipment to develop your product is strong. You will have to be more persuasive on getting them to build a mold or set up their equipment to develop your unique product.
Most competitors on Amazon won't even think about this method—which puts you way ahead of the competition.
2) Filter for the kind of supplier you want
After you performed your keyword search, narrow down the field of prospective suppliers through filter options.
Under supplier types, select both Trade Assurance and Verified Supplier.
The page refreshes each time you click on one.
Trade Assurance means if you pay the supplier 30% upfront for manufacturing your product, you do not pay the remaining 70% of funds owed until you click a button saying that the supplier built the product exactly the way you requested. To verify everything is up to specifications, send a product inspection company. (For our members, we go in depth on exactly how to do this.)
The best part is that the supplier can't walk away with that thirty percent either! Until you approve payment, your money sits in escrow, safe in a third-party holding place. This gives you a lot of leverage in case your supplier messes something up on the product or if a bunch of them are damaged.
Conversely, if you had paid 100% upfront, it's possible that the supplier won't make things right.
Verified Supplier means Alibaba has made sure the supplier is a legitimate, registered business.
Alibaba used a third-party service to actually visit the factory. They made sure they have a business license, are on the up-and-up with taxes, and called them and interviewed them to make sure the person on the application matched the name on the business license so no one could slide in under a false identity.
Under "Supplier Country/Region", select the supplier location you want.
Alibaba contains suppliers from all over the world—USA, Pakistan, South Korea, The Philippines—but when you first filter by Verified Supplier, you're likely to only see only Chinese regions.
Did you know that the most trusted suppliers on Alibaba are the ones who are in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan? Standards are higher suppliers there than they are for the rest of the world. China did this because they wanted to update their old reputation for having cheap products so they can compete with the rest of the world.
Pro tip! If you are looking for a Chinese supplier, you can select which region the supplier is located in. This gives you a huge advantage. For example, clothing manufactured in the China province, Zhejiang, tends to be lower in price but also cheaper in quality than clothing manufactured in Guangzhou. By knowing the right province, you can save yourself a lot of time, and also ensure you are getting higher quality products.
Learn the 75 most common factory types in China and their province for free to gain an advantage and source correctly!
Under "Past Export Country/Region", select the countries where you would export your product.
When you select a past export country, it means they have experience with customs, tariffs, and shipping to that exact location.
If the supplier has no such experience exporting to the country where you will be selling your products, you may run into customs complications. For example, they may not fill out the commercial invoice correctly (unless you hire an experienced freight forwarder).
If you're worried about using a Chinese supplier because of the Donald Trump's tariffs and what they mean, check out my deep dive here.
Ignore these five drop-downs:
- Minimum Order
You should not look for a minimum order quantity yet.
When I first started, I paid too much attention to how cheap I could get something for. I'd compare how much it sold for and calculated how much profit I could make off of it. Don't do this! The most important thing right now is whether they can build the product for you or not (and if you can trust them). After you have a list of various suppliers, you can narrow it down from there.
- Ready to Ship
I know it seems great, and the process looks streamlined. You wouldn't have to send specs and go back and forth with suppliers to perfect a product. But anyone who clicks on this doesn't understand differentiation. That means they are going to sell products to you exactly as they are. Any other Amazon seller can sell the same product. Why would anyone buy yours when someone else already has reviews? Plus they can undercut your price at any moment. You need a uniquely built product that is differentiated from the competition. Just One Dime has a whole team that shows you exactly how to do that.
- Sample Order
Any legitimate supplier can send you a product sample.
I rarely use this one because, usually, the product I'm having built is a combination of materials, not just one.
3) Click on the product listing that best represents what you want your supplier to build
Say it’s a reasonably customizable product like a plain mug.
On the right side, we can learn a lot more about the supplier.
The number of jewels gives you a quick snapshot of how many transactions this supplier has completed. The more transactions, the greater their experience, the more they are established, and the greater their capacity.
I encourage you not to think small. Think about the capacity of your supplier going into the future. Your business can't scale up if your supplier's max capacity can't fill your orders.
Think big and you will go big.
4) Scroll down and click Company Profile
This gives more information on the supplier.
Notice the Business Type. This is simply the type of business this supplier is in. It should come as no surprise that they are a manufacturer, but what is interesting is that they are also a trading company.
When a supplier is also a trading company, if you request a product they cannot build to completion, they will find another, second supplier to build the rest for you. Then this second supplier will ship it to them who will ship it to you or Amazon's fulfillment center.
If you want to build something novel, like a toy made of wicker, then perhaps companies that deal in your product category can't make your item because they haven't worked with those materials. It's altogether more likely that a wicker company can make a wicker toy while a toy company cannot.
When companies collaborate, this means the price will go up. This supplier will charge more since they are also acting as a sourcing agent. You might think that's bad, but sometimes that makes sense. If you have more money than time, then you can pay them while you focus on building your business.
Also note it shows you the exact location where this supplier is located.
You also get facts like annual revenue, ownership type, production capacity, and more!
There is a ton of information about the company on the page and throughout the tabs. You can even discover information about quality assurance and R&D.
5) If you like what you see, contact the supplier
Click the orange "Contact Supplier" button that follows you all over the page.
Send your inquiry. Start with the most critical question: can they build my product? Be very specific, listing out the exact specs you want for your product down to the last centimeter. For example:
If you are not specific and write, "I want a coffee mug", you could end up with the cheapest product they make that will fall apart and harm your brand.
Check out how to properly communicate with Chinese suppliers on another one of our blogs here! Communicating right can save you time and money! 💸
Try to find at least 20 suppliers fit to build your product. You might only find 12 or even 5, but keep looking!
Some suppliers will respond faster than others. You'll be notified in your email as soon as they respond on the Alibaba platform.
Pro-tip! Find a supplier buried deep beneath the pages of Alibaba, and the chances of your competition finding the same suppliers is extremely remote.
Alibaba can bring you life-long suppliers if you know how to use it. I have used it for years, and Alibaba continues to impress me with the improvements on their platform. If you need more help on the step-by-step process, check out what Just One Dime members receive, from A to Z for building a full-on Amazon business.