The Myth of the Good Supplier

“We’re a not just a vendor, we’re a solutions-provider.” Have you heard that one before?

This positioning, a favorite of B2B marketers’, presents a false dichotomy for manufacturing. The basic idea is that while bad suppliers are apathetic vending machines, good suppliers are sending their engineers to your conference room with Starbucks and Danishes.

To be fair, this distinction can be true. At Reed Rubber Products, many of our partnerships begin with customers who come to us after months of production struggle with little help from their previous supplier. We’ve heard different versions of this. Sometimes, it’s hard to get the right person on the phone. Other times, the supplier is simply unable to help. Occasionally, the manufacturer never felt justified bringing their internal problems, say issues with installation, to an indifferent supplier. The point is, when these customers came to Reed, they already had vendors; they were looking specifically for a solutions-provider.

For those customers, our customer service experience is a good fit. Collaborative problem-solving is what we do best. We conduct detailed design reviews with our partners and keep refining projects until we find the best solutions. It’s a model that’s been very successful for our customers. But what if the manufacture of your product system already runs like a well-oiled machine? Do you really want a solutions-provider calling you twice a week to sell you fixes to non-existing problems?

This is where the solutions-provider=good, vendor=bad framing breaks down. Reed Rubber Products manufactures a variety of extruded seals – components which, when made correctly, are forgotten about immediately after they are installed into a window or door system. Think about the windows in your home: it’s only when you notice one leaking that you will suddenly be very aware of its seals.

Actually, this is sort of like how we serve our customers. When the customer’s production is running smoothly, we function as the vendor, dutifully working behind the scenes, providing seals on time. However, if a problem should arise on their production floor, we show up with coffee as the solutions-provider. This model offers our customers the best of both worlds.