Gaining your consumer’s trust used to be relatively easy. As long as you dependably delivered a quality product, you were worthy of doing business with. A brand could control what the public saw, masking what privately lay behind its shiny image.

Then along came the internet. The playing field — not to mention the game and all its players — changed.

That’s when transparency jumped to the head of the “building trust” line. And because small businesses tend to be transparent naturally, they already were positioned to succeed in this new environment.

86% of Americans believe transparency from businesses is more important than ever before.


How to Build Trust

To be clear, no one’s saying quality and dependability don’t matter anymore. But even though you’re likely doing great on that front, you still need to stand out from competitors doing the same. So, consider these not-so-obvious ways of building trust with your audiences.

Present a Consistent Brand

You developed your company name, but never got around to creating a logo. Or, you have created logos — four times over.

You just never got around to updating in every location. Or your website has one logo, your business cards another, and your business documents show a third.

How can consumers trust a company that doesn’t have its act together?

Like it or not, brand consistency plays a big role in building trust between you and your future and current customers.

According to a Lucidpress survey, 33% of companies said brand consistency increased revenue by 20% or more. So clean up your brand face. You’ll gain credibility — and customers — as you do it.

81% of consumers said they need to be able to trust a brand in order to buy from them.

~Edelman Trust Barometer

Treat People Right

It’s also worth noting a consistent brand isn’t only about colors and fonts. It’s also about how your company and your staff treat each other and your customers.

Do everyone’s actions — seen and unseen — reflect how you want the world to think of you?

Consumers these days pay way more attention to how an organization acts — an existing trend the pandemic accelerated. At the same time, social media allowed anyone to critique a brand’s actions.

Do senior staff treat entry-level staff like professionals? Or even equals? Is your company accepting and inclusive? Are staff empowered to make decisions?

All these things come through not only in how employees feel about your company, but how they then treat your customers.

If you don’t treat your employees well, how can you expect them to treat your clients well?

65% of consumers say that during a crisis a brand’s actions have a significant or major impact on their trust in that brand.


Let Your Customers Help

We get it. Who else cares about your company as much as you? It’s common to feel like it’s easier if you do all the work; that way you can be sure things go according to plan. Eventually you build a team, but delegating is hard.

So this trust-building method may sound crazy: enable your clients to create content for you.

Yet you can’t afford not to use this cost-effective approach, because 79% of people say user-generated content highly affects their purchasing decisions (according to Stackla).

Encourage fans to post pictures of themselves at your business or using your service (which then you can repost on your social channels). Run contests or campaigns that reward fans with a discount, gift certificate, or featured post, etc., if they create positive content for your business.

By loosening the reins and welcoming user-generated content, you demonstrate respect for your clientele, their business and their ideas.

Communicate Transparently

By now you’ve probably picked up on a cascading effect. Trust starts at the top and works its way down. And customers will trust you more when they can see behind the curtain of your business.

If your services tend to be fairly standard (i.e., not custom), then transparent pricing is a simple way to build audience trust. Posting rates on your website lets your customers know exactly what to expect. And it makes doing business with you easy.

Another powerful factor in building trust is how you respond to social reviews. Particularly the negative ones.

If you reply to a nasty review with nastiness, it’s out there for the world to see. Don’t think for a minute you can control who sees your response.

So it’s critical you respond to negative reviews not only quickly but with compassion. Whether you agree is irrelevant. Something went wrong, so you need to make it right.

Respond politely and sincerely; fix the issue; then offer some sort of compensation for the customer’s trouble — discounts on future services, a gift card, or even free materials. Make it relevant to the issue and easy to redeem.

73% of consumers are willing to pay more for products that guarantee total transparency.


Build Personal Relationships

One of the most overlooked, but cost-effective ways to build trust uses a resource you already have. You. Your people.

Your business can show up in ways big companies can’t, whether it’s participating in community events, sponsoring local charitable causes or providing support to community organizations.

Doing so creates good will, and builds a reputation for being a business the community can trust. And that will drive customers who appreciate your efforts to your door.

Simply by being present in the community, you’ll build relationships with your customer base. You will be seen as a person, not a business entity. You’ll get firsthand knowledge of what your customer base wants and needs, and then you can customize your services to match.

As a small business owner, you are uniquely placed to create good will within your local community. Who you are and how you act — sometimes it only takes just showing up — can make all the difference to your business’s future.

Creating trust isn’t always easy, but there’s no better cost-effective way to build a client base that will stick with you for the long term.