Communicating with industry

As a recent graduate I’ve found myself transitioning into the real world, and having to more frequently contact various prototypers and manufacturers for their services.

However, this hasn’t been a smooth transition. Granted, I’m a very small company, not looking to produce huge numbers at this point but I still have (some) money and am approaching companies that use processes suitable for smaller run production.

What I have noticed is many companies won’t even respond to an initial email.

Every so often I find someone very helpful and things progress forward, but I have had many projects stopped or at least extremely delayed because I am apparently doing something wrong in the communication part of the project.

Is there an art to dealing with these industry folk? Can anyone share some tips they have learned for communicating with industry when you are just one of the little guys? What is a good way to make a good first impression so they will actually work with me and take me seriously?

Any help would be appreciated!

Are you trying to contact overseas manufacturers or people inside the US? I work with a lot of different manufacturers in Asia and it can be hit or miss when I am contacting them. Once you break into a relationship with a good manufacturer make sure you try to keep it and they will be there for you when you need them. I wouldn’t say right off the bat that you are a small company with limited funds and small P.O.'s just let them know you have business for them and you can work out the details in step 2. Some manufacturers have high M.O.Q’s and it’s not worth their time for small business. But there are some good, fast prototypers in the US who can help, especially in this economy. Also, if you can, shop around for prices because they can have HUGE variances but also huge variances in quality.

Thank you mrtwills.

I should mention I’m working out of Vancouver, and the manufacturers I have been trying to work with have been US or Canadian at this point.

I was discussing something similar with our buyer the other day. Here’s my biggest hint: Call people. You will get instant feedback and you will leave a more lasting impression with the person you talk to.

In this business climate, I cannot imagine anyone in the manufacturing world NOT responding to an initial email. You don’t seem to be alone with this issue. I just had a meeting with a design engineering company that had several smaller clients that weren’t feeling the “Love” from rapid prototypers and injection molders.

The more initial detail you can provide is always extremely helpful in qualifying a project to quote. CAD models, sizes, resins, etc… & if you need help in certain area’s you should clarify them.

No project is TOO small, not today. :slight_smile:

hint: Call people. You will get instant feedback and you will leave a more lasting impression with the person you talk to.

I second the motion… it’s impossible to read voice inflection in an email, and email is unidirectional …

I tried once with some popular online places to get a quote on potential runs so that I could even see if it was viable to try to put out the product and they pretty much asked if it was for helping to develop the business plan and if so, no. They only wanted to deal with someone who was definitely going to use one of their vendors (somehow without even knowing what the cost would be upfront).
I’m guessing they may deal with home inventor types just looking for one prototype but still, to not even put the quote online so that some place that may take on smaller runs could see it to decide for themselves if it’s worth their business seems kind of crazy.

Counter to what you’d think, given the economy not all vendors are jumping at every opportunity, hence your results, perhaps. Instead, they are being a lot more picky and choosy. Nuturing a new business relationship takes a lot of time, patience, and investment, risk.

It’s hard to comment specifically on your case since we don’t have any example of what you are trying to do or how you are communicating, but in general the more information and reality you can bring to the relationship, the better. If you are approaching in a way that feels like you are fishing for info, you might not get a good result. Rather, if you come across as someone who knows exactly what you want, the costs associated, and also knows how the supplier can help (i.e knowing their business as well as yours), it will go a long way. Put another way, you know what they can offer you, but do you know what you can offer them (not always as simple as $ depending on the vendors business model).