Many importers who are purchasing products from China want to find real factory suppliers, not any middlemen or trading companies, though this is not an easy task.

The topic “how to find a factory in China” is discussed frequently in many Facebook/LinkedIn groups and trading forums related to “import from China”. But unfortunately, most answers are useless, such as visiting China in person or searching Gold Supplier on Alibaba. There is no solution that can really work after I search all related topics on the Internet.

However, I found that there is no one thinking about “Why we are not able to find factories”, which I think it’ll make more sense than just asking “How to find factories”. And only when you know the main reasons for failing, then you will figure out the best way to get the factory.

In this article, I’m going to explain why Chinese factories in certain industries are so hard to find, and what kind of factories are more likely to be discovered.

1. Some Special Products Are More Likely Made by Small Factories, Which Are Not Easy to Be Found

What kind of products you are importing usually is the essential thing of whether you can search the real factory because you cannot find factory suppliers for every product? I think this is the main reason why foreign importers fail to find factories.

If your target product is such common types as T-shirts or socks, buying through Alibaba or Google is OK. And it’s still not difficult to find out a real factory supplier, although there’re lots of trading companies after searching.

But the situation will be totally different if you are source some special products, for example, self-stirring mug. Due to its less demand in the market, there are almost no middle/large-scale factories will be its manufacturers. So the manufacturers of this kind of mug are very few and most of them are small factories (probably less than 30 staffs). That’s why the suppliers you searched on the Internet are all trading companies. Then realized that you can’t find the factory.

In addition, there are several other reasons why small factories are difficult to find, which I’ll explain in the following paragraphs.

2. Factories Didn’t Publish Their Information on English Website

All foreign importers, no matter whether they can speak Chinese or not, are sourcing suppliers on B2B platforms such as Alibaba or Global Sources or searching on Google. So if a factory doesn’t have any staff who know English, then it’s impossible for them to publish their product information on the English website. So there is no way for foreign importers to find them.

It’s very common in China that no one can speak English in a small-scale factory, and most staff are doing work related to products and production, and dealing with domestic trading companies. Because they think that it’s expensive and not very easy to build an English sales team.

For example, you have to pay about USD 4,000 annually as the membership fee, then you can publish products on Alibaba, which is the so-called “Gold Supplier”. Also, you need to pay at least USD 7,000 every year to employ a full-time English salesman, and it’s only for a basic salary. If his working ability is not like you expected, you may get no order.

One of our suppliers–a small toy factory, who has no English-speaking salesman and only works with domestic trading companies

The targeted customers of these factories are Chinese trading companies, so they would like to publish their information on Chinese websites, such as 1688 (Chinese Alibaba website, belongs to Alibaba Group), which is the largest Chinese B2B platform in China and has more suppliers than One interesting thing is that many suppliers on Alibaba usually go to to find their suppliers.

But it’s very difficult for foreign importers to source suppliers directly on First, you must speak Chinese as your mother tongue or know Chinese very well. Second, you need to be quite familiar with all kinds of Chinese suppliers. Because trading company suppliers on are even more than factories, it’s harder to distinguish them than searching on

3. Factories Don’t Know Online Marketing

Even though some factories are Alibaba members and have published products there, it doesn’t mean they certainly will be searched by foreign importers. Because there are many skills to be ranked on the first page of Alibaba searching result, such as keywords settings and Pay for Per Click, which is similar to Google AdWords. Trading companies know more and better than these factories about these skills which help them to be easily searched by importers.

It’s even more difficult to be searched on Google than on Alibaba for factories. Factories must have their own English website, and do SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) work such as marketing on Facebook or LinkedIn, to increase the probability of being searched. Trading companies also send developing letters to potential customers that searched on Google.

That’s why most small factories cannot be found by importers even they are publishing products on Alibaba. Besides, some small factories reply to Alibaba’s inquiries very slow, which may make the importers feel like they are not reliable and professional, so they ignore them. There is one tip for you: those suppliers who are replying to you slowly, or difficult to communicate with, maybe they are the factory.

4. Factory Keeps All Information in Secret If Product Has Patent or Copyright Issue

hello-kittyIt’s universally acknowledged that China is producing all kinds of copycat products and exporting every corner of the world. Once there’s a hot-selling product in the market, maybe electronics or even a toothbrush, Chinese factories will start to copy it and sell cheap price. The interesting thing is, in a lot circumstances, importers don’t know the product is a copycat.

It’s usually quite difficult for imports to find real factories of this kind of product as involving patent or copyright issues. These small factories often work with domestic trading companies so that can export this kind of product to other countries. So most importers are buying from trading companies, rather than from real factories.

This circumstance often occurs in lots of electronic products manufactured in Shenzhen. For instance, an automobile recorder we sourced for one European customer. I chose the best price among more than 20 suppliers, but he told me that the products were produced by his friend and entrust him to sell. He also claimed that he won’t take any customers to visit the producing workshop as it needs to be kept as secrecy.


Most importers want to bypass the middlemen or trading companies and purchase directly from factories, but not every importer can actually make it. In this case, you’d better find more suppliers (no matter middles or trading companies) and compare them to select the most suitable one. Or you can attend some fairs which are the best way to find factories, such as the Canton Fair, Global Sources Fair, etc.

Also if you want to learn more about the differences between trading companies and factories, you can check another article: 7 Ways to Verify Chinese Suppliers Are Factories, Not Trading Companies. Learn ways such as find industrial clusters, checking VAT invoices, to find out whether your supplier is a factory or not.

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