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How to use your social network to discover and vet your next supplier


Choosing supply chain partners is one of the most important decisions you make when scaling your business, but knowing which suppliers to trust can be a risky game. Whether you’re sourcing components, semi-finished products or finished goods, it helps to have a second opinion from someone you trust.

Many businesses use large-scale supplier search engines like Alibaba to find supply partners. But running a search often yields thousands of suppliers, and without the time to do proper due diligence on each one, the risk of working with low-quality suppliers remains.

That is, until Tradesparq came along.

Tradesparq, a Shanghai based startup, is solving the supplier search problem by making the experience social. Here's how it works: you import your personal contacts into Tradesparq and use those connections to filter supplier searches. Tradesparq ranks search results based on your social network and lets you see personal supplier references—which all help lower the cost, risk and time associated with finding suppliers.

The social trade network currently connects its members with over 75,000 global suppliers and 500,000 products, and is growing by the day.

Alibaba meets LinkedIn

The concept behind Tradesparq is simple—finding suppliers through a personal or professional network encourages more trusted supplier relationships. When buyers can quickly and easily validate potential suppliers based on the experiences of their friends and colleagues, it's easier to find a partnership that works.

From the beginning, Tradesparq co-founders Brian Hager and Michael Kleist saw LinkedIn as an obvious model for improving the traditional supplier searching and vetting process.

“We noticed that more and more industries are taking advantage of new technologies, like companies adopting mobile for example, and B2B trade seemed to be the one industry falling behind,” explains Brian. “We knew it was time to start thinking about how we could leverage new technologies to help business owners lower the costs and risks associated with finding suppliers.” 

What’s the value for buyers?

Because Tradesparq's search results are ordered by connections, shared connections, references and recommendations, it's simple for a buyer to get recommendations and check references for potential suppliers.

Tradesparq members may even be able to leverage their connections to get better pricing from suppliers. The logic goes like this: if a supplier notices that a buyer is connected to several competitive suppliers in the same tier, he or she will have a strong incentive to offer the buyer competitive pricing in order to win the account.  

And for those who prefer to keep their supply partners under wraps, Tradesparq allows members to hide certain connections and monitor their levels of exposure.

How can suppliers benefit?

Social searching gives suppliers affordable exposure to prospective customers, makes communication easy with current customers and can lead to higher quality inquiries.

Suppliers can also share new product releases on their Tradesparq profiles and display customer references. And because suppliers can’t buy positive reviews, Tradesparq rewards trustworthy and well-connected suppliers rather than ones with big publicity budgets.    

Sign up, import contacts, and start connecting

If you are interested in becoming a member of Tradesparq, it’s easy! Just sign up for a free account, import your contacts from your Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or LinkedIn accounts, personal files or CSVs, and wait to see which suppliers are recommended by your social network.

As your social network grows, Tradesparq becomes even more helpful for discovering new supply partners.