What are “anchor” clients and why they should be your first priority when you enter the European market

by : Christelle Damiens

Securing sales is the key to your success in Europe. When we do secure a major contract with a large European corporate, we make sure this customer is a reference point for us to further grow the business for Australian companies in Europe.

We like to secure deals with multinationals that have multiple footprints in Europe. These first deals in the European market are often critical, because you can leverage them with other clients in the same industry. Just the fact to have a reference customer in Europe already places you on the map. It gives you the credibility your need to further expand in Europe.

Recently, we worked on a project for a cloud-based solution. Our client had beautiful references in Asia and in the US, but we quickly realised that we needed to secure a first European customer to trigger the attention of potential channel partners.

Over the last thirteen years, we have seen that happening over and over, as soon as we secure a European customer, things change and doors start to open. It becomes easier to secure distribution partners and also to sign-up additional customers.

This first customer is what we call at Exportia your “anchor” client. It’s an anchor, because it grounds you in the market. We often find that these customers are enthusiastic about the product. They also like to be showcased as the one who have first adopted a new product. They are going to be your point of reference for the rest of the market.

With one of my clients, when we started in the French market, the turning point was when we secured a large construction company as a customer. This customer has been instrumental in the success of our client. He became an advocate of the technology. Working for a large French multinational, he was involved in the national steering committees for his industry, he also had direct connections with regulatory authorities. His involvement gave us exposure to other companies in this industry. We also were introduced to French regulatory bodies, and it was much easier for us to obtain recognition for the Australian technology with this help.

The same happened in Germany with another multinational in the same sector. Again, the German anchor client did recommend the Australian technology to his peers. He was involved in the German industry association. Because he did a thorough trial period of the technology he was confident he could recommend it. The Australian technology ended up being showcased in one of their official publications. Our distributor locally had the leverage he needed to further expand the sales to the entire industry.

The reason why these French and German customers, were ready to raise the flag of our Australian client, was simply the fact that they had taken the product through a validation process. We did support them in that process with training and regular assistance. They were our number one priority. We did not hesitate to troubleshoot any issue they had on site. We would regularly check-in to see if every issue was solved. This level of support gave them trust in the product, so that they were confident to promote it to their peers. This is why these two clients became anchor clients.

You need to reinforce your support to them, to make sure you establish a long-term relationship. For that they need to have a very high satisfaction level.

They also need to feel that they have a prime relationship with you. You take into account their feedback and you always listen. These clients are really important as they often are very enthusiastic about your product. They are great advocates for you in the market.

One way to drive customers loyalty is to provide excellent customer service. What I personally like about the anchor clients’relationships is that they go beyond the normal scope of “client – supplier”.  Anchor clients often become your trusted market insider.

Here are the characteristics of anchor clients that I often came across:

  • They are often part of a large organisation, a multinational
  • In the healthcare sector, they are known as a key opinion leader
  • They are active in their industry and involved in steering committees, industry associations
  • They open doors and refer your solution to their peers
  • They are proud to have “found” you, and to be early adopter

When you are a small to medium-sized business entering the European market, the most critical step to succeed, is to secure your first anchor clients. If you have not secured your first anchor clients in Europe yet, reach out to have chat about your strategy.