Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or a neophyte, looking for a good manufacturer in China needs a lot of research and time. A lot of writers, business owners, and pundits on the subject have shared their personal experiences while trying to find a reliable manufacturing company in China. At least they have something in common: most of them provide the same advice.

There are key resources and information to help you get started.

Before you even begin searching for your dream manufacturer, you’ll need to make sure you have a few things taken care of. One of them, for instance, get to know the industry. Different industries can have different supply chains, manufacturers, wholesalers, etc. Understanding where you fit into this picture can help you find the appropriate manufacturer that will cater to your needs.

Forbes contributor, Rick Frasch advises, “The easiest and most cost-effective place to start a search for suppliers in China is on the Internet via search engines such as Bing or Google, and B2B… Thousands of suppliers are listed on these sites, and you can streamline your search and increase the number of legitimate sources by filtering results for only those entries labeled as ‘gold member,’ ‘verified supplier,’ ‘onsite supplier,’ or ‘accredited supplier.’ Good reviews offer some indication that the supplier is legitimate.”

Some sites also offer special services to further protect buyers; they offer credit-check services and supplier-capability-assessment services that will provide suppliers’ key business information including company status, production capabilities, and product quality. That said, verified suppliers at these sites may only mean that the companies are verified to exist; it does not necessarily mean that their reputation, production capability, or quality have been verified.

There are number of ways you can verify this information. For instance, you can visit the relevant local government agency to check the company’s registration. Another way to search and find manufacturing companies in China is through social media. Some suppliers and manufacturers have a social media presence and they can provide some feedback or reviews of potential suppliers and manufacturers. Of course, this is just a fraction of your search so dig deeper and check out professional LinkedIn groups focused on sourcing in China:

  • China Sourcing
  • China Sourcing Forum
  • China Sourcing, Networking, Import, Export, Trading, Manufacturing
  • China Sourcing Group
  • China Trade Group

If social media doesn’t work for you, going the old-fashion way wouldn’t hurt, as there’s a plethora of trade magazines and newsletters for every specific industry. They can be an invaluable resource, as they’re usually filled with ads from suppliers specifically looking for people like you. Most of these publications have websites with past issues and even more resources, and you may be able to find print versions at your local library.

Trade shows are another way to find legitimate suppliers and manufacturers. By attending trade shows, you have the opportunity to talk to potential partners face to face about their companies, products, production capacity, quality-control procedures, and other key business areas. Such direct interaction can help you evaluate suppliers/manufacturers and verify their abilities.

Nowadays, most of our research is done via Google, so why not use this search engine to simplify your findings. It takes a little time but it’s worth the effort, as you’ll be saving money before you hire an agent or broker.

However, if you don’t have the time to do the research yourself, you can always hire someone. Sourcing agents can assist you with the entire sourcing process from end-to-end. This agent can provide a wide range of services: supplier identification, price negotiation, supply management, quality control management, logistics and shipment management, and other sourcing matters.

Sourcing service providers charge certain fees for managing purchase transactions, but there are pluses and minuses to consider. On the plus side, a sourcing service provider can relieve you of the hassle of identifying and verifying suppliers, production inspection, product quality control, and logistics arrangement. However, using such a service denies you the opportunity to learn about the Chinese markets. Also, the cost of using a sourcing service provider runs higher than using a commission-based sourcing agent, so expect more upfront costs at the beginning of the transaction.

Don’t forget to get references. Ask your factory contact to provide references of others in the U.S. that they have done business with. Many manufacturers cannot provide you with their client’s names or disclose their projects, but they should be able to provide at least one or two references.

One last advice, keep in mind that overseas manufacturers may have been foiled by many budding inventors; therefore, do your best to be a good partner. If they sense that you are less than serious, difficult to work with, unfocused or you don’t have a well-developed business and marketing plan, they’ll make it difficult to deal with them.