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The Photonics Spotlight

Finding Suppliers for Photonics Products

Posted on 2016-01-27 as a part of the Photonics Spotlight (available as e-mail newsletter!)

Permanent link: https://www.rp-photonics.com/spotlight_2016_01_27.html

Author: Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta, RP Photonics Consulting GmbH

Abstract: There are different ways for finding suppliers for photonics products. In order to obtain a list of potential suppliers, it is normally useful to use some buyers guide. Several of these exist, and the article discusses some criteria for selecting one.

Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta

Although the Photonics Spotlight normally treats aspects of laser physics and technology, in some occasions I discuss non-technical matters. This time I tell you some thoughts on the question how engineers and scientists can find suppliers for photonics products – for example, optical components used in lasers or in laser applications.

There are different ways for finding suppliers:

For any serious purchase decision, you actually first want to have a set of different suppliers for a certain product and only then decide which one you select; depending on the situation, you may apply very different selection criteria like the known reputation of the company, how convincing their product descriptions are, the geographical location, etc. The question is then:

How to get a list of suppliers for a certain product?

Essentially, there are two different ways for obtaining such a list:

I think that it absolutely makes sense to use a buyer's guide; at least if you found a good one, it is much easier for you to get a good overview on available suppliers. At least in the initial search phase, you have to deal with only a single website layout, and you do not have to filter a lot of search hits to find out what really refers to suppliers (with some exceptions, see below).

Nevertheless, people will often start with a web search simply because it is the easiest start for those who are too lazy to use browser bookmarks and the like. However, they may then quickly find a buyer's guide in the top search results and continue with that.

How to decide for some buyer's guide?

There are some well established photonics buyer's guides from various publishers and societies; some prominent examples:

Obviously, I cannot be neutral in my judgment which buyer's guide is the best one. However, you can think yourself whether you find the following criteria appropriate, and what conclusions result from applying them:

The Business Side

Anyone operating such buyer's guide will have to invest a serious amount of work and will thus try to earn some money with it. The only reasonable way to do that appears to be advertising: one tries to motivate suppliers to pay something for improved entries, increasing their chances to sell something. This is somewhat problematic, of course (as it is with all advertising); a supplier paying something for improved listings may not necessarily be the supplier which is best for the users. How severe that problem is depends on the priorities of the operator of the buyer's guide. Some appear to be doing anything for money while minimizing their own efforts, for example by accepting any paid product entries without ever checking that the supplier really offers such goods. Others (like us) use a long-term perspective and give the priority to the users rather than to the immediate turnover. Hopefully, the majority of users will eventually find out where they are served best and use that resource.

Suppliers should of course also find out which buyer's guide is the best place for spending their advertising money. An important criterion must be what the users go for. Unfortunately, it is hard to obtain reliable traffic data on other websites; even in cases where you get certified traffic data, it is often not clear to which exactly the data apply and how much of that is relevant for the buyer's guide part of the website. (We regularly publish quite detailed and clear statistical data and appeared to be quite exceptional in that respect.)

There are actually some companies which are exploiting suppliers in a quite ruthless manner. I don't want to explicitly mention their names in order to avoid trouble, but you may guess which companies I mean. They are doing aggressive telephone marketing in order to sell advertising banners which are close to useless, because they appear on websites which do not have any substantial traffic. I experienced it myself that on the telephone they tell you numbers which look fairly good, and if you check your server statistics later on (which many don't do, unfortunately), you discover that the obtained referral traffic is extremely poor, not justifying the expense at all. It is then usually too late, however, to get thousands of wasted dollars back. Unfortunately, even the websites of some quite prestigious societies are abused for such kind of ruthless business practices. It is very unfortunate that many companies lose a lot of money that way – often without noticing, and if they notice, then they may develop an extremely skeptical attitude against any form of online advertising, which then also hurts serious and trustworthy companies like ours.

I wished that everyone using online advertising would regularly check their server statistics in order to see where the referral traffic is really coming from and which advertising is worth its money. It appears, however, that many are not doing their job and therefore continue to spend money on useless things (see above), just sticking to offers with well known names.

Service is another important aspect. For example, we make it easy for suppliers to update their product information, which is also in the interest of users. Our thorough check of product listings also helps users as much as the suppliers. In case of enhanced product entries containing product descriptions, we regularly check whether links to the supplier's website are still working, since it happens that the supplier changes his website structure and forgets to tell us.

You see, there is a lot of work to be done in order to have such a resource kept at a high quality standard. To do that work is not exactly a quick way to become rich. However, for us it makes sense as part of a very comprehensive approach. More and more users and advertisers recognize the very high quality of our offers, and presumably this contributes a lot to the very nice business development of RP Photonics.

This article is a posting of the Photonics Spotlight, authored by Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta. You may link to this page and cite it, because its location is permanent. See also the Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology.

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