In this phase, I go to Google and start searching. In this particular case, I searched for this exact set of words:
“vitamin c serum” private label
Notice where I used the quotes so that I can get very specific results to “vitamin c serum” and not results for vitamin c pills or anything else like that, where the word serum may also appear on the page. Yet, I was not very specific in quoting “private label.”
From this search I got a lot of results. over 20 pages in Google!
Once I think the search results are returning potential suppliers, then I will start investigating. I use the term “potential suppliers” very broadly at this point. I pretty much mean: is there any chance whatsoever that this website could potentially be from a supplier that may be of interest to me? Another way of saying this is: is this a website that is not a parked domain, or a scraped search results site. 🙂
OK, so once I “think” my searches are decent, I start clicking on each and every link that looks promising. From simply reading the title and snippet that Google shows me I can kind of tell the pure junk or irrelevant sites right away. For example, if a University or Government site comes up, I don’t bother looking at them. Again, this is very broad, I am not carefully examining everything, I am simply getting the most broad overview to make a decision.
If a result looks even remotely interesting, I will click on the link and go to the site. Now, while on the site, I DO NOT carefully examine the site. I am basically still just looking to see if when on their web site, it still looks even remotely possible that they might be a supplier for my product. I do not look for product details, private labeling information, etc.
I simply copy the URL and put it in Notepad so I can investigate later.
Once I go through ALL the Google search results pages, then I stop and take a break. YES DO THIS!
In fact, I usually do this at night on the couch while watching TV since it does not require much concentration. Remember, I am not examining anything carefully. I am just looking for sites I cannot immediately disqualify. Then I approach phase 2 the next day.
When I did my search and went through all the results pages, here are all the sites I came up with for: “vitamin c serum” private label that looked to be at least somewhat possible suppliers.
Note: If you follow some of those, you will see many are not at all relevant to what I want. Remember, I was NOT trying to examine the sites as I found them. I was simply copying the URLs for anything that I could not immediately disqualify without any examination.
Other Search Tips
If you cannot find suppliers when searching for “private label” in Google, try and use these other terms instead:
Those terms are sometimes used by manufacturers, and although their true meaning can be a bit different that “private label,” often times you will find that those same companies will also private label their products, but they just did not list this on the website.
Most suppliers are absolutely horrible at SEO and ranking their sites, so they will often be hidden deep… VERY DEEP… in the search results. Sometimes other sites will actually dominate the results. Sites like eBay, Amazon, Alibaba, etc.
If you find that a particular site has a lot of listings in your Google search results, you can easily exclude that site by adding this to the end of your search:
The will exclude any results from amazon.com. You can exclude as many sites as you want, by just repeating the parameter separated by a space for each of the sites you want to exclude, like this:
-site:amazon.com -site:alibaba.com -site:ebay.com
Once I have gone through all the search results pages (and I mean ALL) and gathered all the links I want to further inspect, I take a break. I said this earlier. DO IT! In fact, I wait until the next day. 🙂
OK.. with that out of the way, in this phase what I will do, is click on each and every link on my list. This time, I will actually go through the websites and try and find real information that leads me to believe they are a true potential supplier.
Important: Sometimes even when inspecting the websites, it is not possible to really tell if they are indeed a good potential supplier, so I make a judgment and make a “maybe” note next to that URL in my notepad. If I cannot find someone else I am happy with, I will contact them over the phone for more clarification.
Some sites I will disqualify after further inspection. They may actually be an eCommerce store selling the product and there is no information on private label or even wholesale (see ‘Other Search Tips’) below.
I do not disqualify sites because their prices are high or their minimum order quantities are high. These are things that can be negotiated. The primary thing I care about is whether they are actually a potential supplier for my chosen product.
In my case, some of the websites were for companies in Canada, so I disqualified those because I was specifically looking to source in the US.
So once I have inspected every single site, I now have a smaller list of really good potential suppliers.
Here is one that looked good:
Note that that URL goes directly to a product page without much company information. I literally copied the exact URL that showed up in the Google search in Phase 1. I never clicked on any other link on the site. I just copied the URL. 🙂
Since I needed more information I tried going directly to the main domain to see their full site here:
Looks like a good potential supplier, right? Awesome!
So are they in the US? A quick click on the “Contact Us” link in the navigation bar tells me they are in Florida and there is a phone number to contact them.
So I create a new document with the two URLs above (the URL I found and the home page) and their contact information (address and phone number).
I repeat this process for every single site on my list from Phase 1.
In this case, I came up with 5 that looked very interesting to me. Some others were “maybe,” and the rest were a definite no, for whatever reason.
Once I have narrowed down this list and gathered their contact information I am done with Phase 2.
Depending on how many sites you had to inspect, hopefully this took less than one hour.
TIP: Do not get too involved in getting all the details, etc from the site. You are still just trying to narrow it all down to a list of a few possibilities.
OK… Time for another break! Seriously…
This is were you will get all the details and really narrow down to a very short list of potential suppliers. maybe 2 or 3 at the most.
Having talked to a LOT of previous ASM students I know that this is the “scary” part. Picking up the phone and actually calling a potential supplier seems like calling some authority figure that you feel you are not worthy of talking to. 🙂
This cannot be farther from reality!
Suppliers are SALES PEOPLE. Their job is to sell to you. If they are good, they will do whatever they can to help you. They will be nice to you, provide you with all the information you ask for, and even volunteer additional information, such as tips to help you sell the product.
Now that you know they are sales people trying to help you buy their product, do you still feel nervous and worried about talking to them? Hopefully not.
Anyway. moving on.
I pick up the phone and start calling. In a lot of cases, I have to leave voice-mail.
Here is what I say in these cases: “Hi, my name is Wil, and I am interested in private labeling your vitamin c serum. I have looked at your website and I have a few questions that would like to speak with you about over the phone. I am interested in moving forward quickly, so I would appreciate a call bak at your earliest convenience. You can reach me at 555-555-1212. That number again is, 555-555-1212. Thank you and I look forward to speaking with you soon.”
That is literally word-for-word what I say. Nothing magic there, right?
If someone picks up the phone, I will say this: “Hi, my name is Wil, how are you today? [WAIT FOR ANSWER]. Excellent, I am interested in private labeling your vitamin c serum. I found some information on your website but I have some additional questions.
Note: Sometimes a receptionist will answer the phone and will transfer the call to the actual person who can help you, so in that case, when I get to the right person, I simply repeat the above.
Now, when I have the right person on the phone, I basically start asking questions. Here is my usual line-up. I may skip some if the answer was already on their website. Or I may ask them to validate what I found to make sure it is still correct. Note also that some of these questions are specific to the Vitamin C Serum, such as the “bottle size,” which would not be relevant for anything that does not come in a bottle… but you will get the point.
1. Do you handle the labeling and bottling as part of your service? If so, are there additional costs for these services or are they included in the unit prices?
Note: some suppliers only sold the raw product, in 5 gallon buckets and I would have to bottle it myself or contract out for this. If this is all they offer, hang up. You do not want this added complexity to start with. Maybe later is OK.. but for your first few products you want a turnkey provider.
Note 2: Many of them will even offer to do the graphics work for you. I don’t like this, so I ask the next question.
2. We have our own graphics design team, so I will just need the container and label specifications and sample artwork. Are you able to provide this?
3. What kind of labels can you print on, and can you silk screen in-house? If so, what are the costs?
Note: Some providers will need to send the bottles to a 3rd-party to get the silk screening done, so I always recommend you start with a label to test the market and get going. You can always silk screen in the future.
4. Once we provide the label design, are you able to ensure look at the label and validate it meets all required guidelines from the FDA and any other regulatory requirements?
Note: in our case, the product label has to have a list of ingredients and these must be exact and listed in the correct order, so having them validate is a very good idea.
5. Do you offer multiple bottle options and sizes?
Note: I found that 1.0 oz and 0.5 oz were common sizes. Some suppliers had both and some only sold one by default, but could provide the other for an additional setup fee.
6. What is your usual lead time for a first order, assuming everything goes without a hitch?
7. What is your usual lead time for shipping subsequent orders?
8. What is your monthly fulfillment capacity?
Note: this is a good question because it tells them you will be looking for a very high number of units per month. It let’s them know you are serious and prepares them for the next question.
9. We are currently not selling products in this category, so we are looking to run a quick market test. What is your minimum order quantity to help us run our market test?
Note: See how I positioned my desire for a small order quantity in a way that does not make me seem like I am inexperienced or that I cannot afford more? I made it about a tactical business decision rather than a cash flow issue.
Note 2: Have you realized I have NOT talked about prices yet? This is on purpose. I do not want to make the conversation about prices yet.
10. What is the price per unit at the [MINIMUM ORDER QUANTITY THEY GAVE YOU] and what are the subsequent volume prices?
Note: I try to get prices for 100, 250, 500, 1000, 2500, and 5000 units. Sometimes they will not have this information handy, so they might have to get back to you. That’s fine. Asking about these other quantities also helps them realize you are serious.
11. Do you have a product sheet or other marketing materials I can get detailed product information from?
12. Do you sell this product under your own brand? If so, where can I see it?
Note: I do not care if they sell it on their own. It does not keep me from buying from them. I don’t tell them this… but we can see how they market and maybe get more product information and even marketing ideas from them. I don’t even care if they sell on Amazon and they sell it for super cheap. We will NOT compete on price.
13.1 would like to get a sample. Can you ship it right away for second day delivery? I don’t mind paying for the shipping costs if you would like. I would like the product labeled with your brand if you have one, or at least a sample label so I can get an idea of your label printing quality.
Note: You don’t have to have them ship second day. It will usually cost about $20 to $30 for the shipping alone, so you decide if you want it fast. When I am in the groove, I just want to keep things moving fast, and it will also tell them that I am serious.
Note 2: In our case this is a bottle and we will not be silk screening, which is printing directly on the bottle. We will literally have a label printed and applied to the bottle, so I want to see how the product will look. If their labels or printer are not of good quality, I can go to an external print shop to get the label printed and ship to them so they can apply. Just know that this is an option if you ever need it. Once you have your own label designed, you will want a proof printed and shipped to you to make sure it is what you expect, before your order is placed.
14. What is the next step to get going on our initial order if we decide to move forward with your company?
15. Is there anything else I should know about the product or your company that I have not asked and you think I should know?
After asking all these questions of a few suppliers you will start seeing the pros and cons of going with one versus the other. I think it is important to speak with at least three suppliers even if you think the first one you talk to is awesome. When you are getting started you need to have a real basis for comparison. After you get more experienced, talking to a single supplier may be fine if they can deliver exactly what you want.
Try and ask these questions in a conversational tone, rather than as if you are reading from my list. You will often find that in the course of “normal” conversation they will volunteer information that you never even asked about, but is very valuable to you!
That’t is. Armed with all this information, I can choose a supplier and start moving forward with the whole process.
The reason I split up the 3 phases is because if I tried to do everything sequentially, such as fully examining each potential site and maybe even contacting those relevant suppliers, it would take so much time that it might take me days to get through 20 pages of Google search results. In fact, I would probably give up after just a page or two.
This is a HUGE mistake, because as you will find out, suppliers are notoriously bad at SEO and therefore their sites may rank EXTREMELY poorly in the search results. You might just find the perfect supplier on page 18!
If you can get through all 20, 25, 30 pages of results in an hour or less you will get the most benefit and have an awesome advantage over those people who give up after two pages because they spent so much time doing it!
This is pretty amusing to be honest and it shows how anyone can do this and be successful, because we had a similar experience with our first product.
We know so little about Vitamin C Serums, that we did not know there were actually different types of uses. Some are made as facial serums, while others are made for the eye areas only.
Some companies call a “gel” a “serum.” In fact one supplier listed a gel and when I asked about a serum, they explained that the terms can be used interchangeably.
There are different potencies of Vitamin C in different products. It appears that 20% Vitamin C is the “most desirable” stuff… at least that is what it seems like.
In fact, some suppliers were about to release new “versions” of their existing product with the 20% Vitamin C, because their existing product is under than amount.
Here is the REALLY funny thing that one supplier told us. 20% Vitamin C Serum for the face became super hot when Dr. Oz had an expert on his TV show talk about how it works miracles for removing wrinkles, and that is why they were releasing their new formula next month.
Interesting. huh? I got all this in the course of a normal conversation with suppliers.
So we had to make a choice. do we wait for our chosen supplier because we want the 20% version that will be released next month? Absolutely not.
We looked at the competition on Amazon, and while some of them tout 20% Vitamin C as a benefit, we believe we can still out-market them without this single benefit. We wanted to move quickly and not delay this process, primarily because it is a follow-along, but we want to also show you that we do not have to strive for perfection!
I ended up picking Global Beauty as our supplier. http://globalbeauty.net/
They offer a turnkey solution, they were easy to deal with, their minimum order quantities were very low, lead times were great, and their prices were competitive. Of course, they are also in the US, which is a big criteria for us.