How to Find a Good Supplier
You need someone to help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), build or revise your website, write copy for your blog - or you need an attorney or CPA. How do you find a good supplier? (I'm using "good" as a generic term here: of course we all want outstanding, excellent suppliers....that's what I'm talking about.)
Whether you're looking for a long-term service provider or a freelance supplier for a quick project, it's not easy to determine which ones are really GOOD. In many cases, I AM the freelance supplier, but I've also hired many over the years. Experience is a hard teacher! There are a few rules of thumb that I've learned the hard way, and also reached out to some colleagues for their tips.
When you need a good supplier:
- LinkedIn is now a good source. Check into LinkedIn ProFinder. This is where suppliers list their capabilities. You complete a form that tells them what you're looking for, and any interested suppliers will tell you why they're the right one for the job. TIP: Tell something about your business! When I see stock answers with absolutely no information about the type of business, whether they're a startup or established business, whether they are B2B or B2C and what they're trying to accomplish, I pass on that "opportunity".
- Phone a friend. Chances are that others in your circle have used similar types of suppliers. If you're averse to actually picking up your phone - ask on Facebook or LinkedIn or ask others at events or meetings.
- Ask a current supplier. Many suppliers are in touch with those in similar-but-not-competing businesses. Suppliers regularly refer each other around when they can, so check with someone you're working with now to see if they know anyone that does what you need.
Once you find a potential supplier, don't be afraid to ask for (and call!) references. They may do excellent work but make sure they're also easy to work with. Ask previous clients specific questions:
- Did they deliver as promised?
- Was the work done on time?
- Did they need constant direction? Did they understand the direction?
- Did they have convenient payment plans?
- Did they give a guarantee?
- How did they handle problems or set-backs?
- Was there any follow-up?
- Would you hire them again?
If you are a business that depends on referrals, pass on the favor. Give a good LinkedIn recommendation (not just an endorsement - write a specific recommendation), tell others about good suppliers that you've hired.
When you ARE a good supplier:
- Offer referral incentives. Two schools of thought here: 1) make it formal; offer a discount, coupon, gift etc. for a referral or 2) surprise & delight; send something special to the client who referred you.
- Don't neglect digital marketing. Your website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile & company page and other social sites are the places people look once they've been referred to you. This is where they verify whether you provide the services they need.
- Form strategic relationships. Join professional groups, make sure others in your circle know what you do. Take time to learn what they do and refer them when you can.
49% of U.S. consumers say friends and family are their top sources of brand awareness. 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals.
Grow your network both personally and professionally - and pass the word when you find a good (great/outstanding/excellent) supplier!