Trust is a shrinking commodity. One might think that with the propagation of exhibitionist social media and an overflow of un-gated information we would feel we know more about each other and our businesses. This supposedly overt transparency is actually making us less trusting. We’ve seen more and more that most institutions and people, from the pillars of our society—big banks and government—to local businesses, athletes, and professionals, are not entirely genuine or upfront about their actions and intentions. People have always known this, but never have we been inundated with examples of people’s duplicity, professionally and personally, so frequently.

Several studies over the past few years (by Pew and others) have found that younger generations are far less trusting than their elders. Of Millennials—defined by Pew as people born after 1980—only 19% believe that most people can be trusted. For them, trust is not assumed. It must be earned.

Millennials are more skeptical of companies’ promises about their services, products, and operations. As the most populous generation, Millennials now dominate B2B and B2C markets. They’re the ones buying your consumer products and making purchasing decisions at companies however they’re even more distrustful of authorities and established entities. This presents a challenge for businesses targeting individual consumers and businesses, but it’s also an opportunity for those able to make a more authentic connection with them and prove they are worthy of trust.

Companies must build a trusting relationship throughout the consumer pathway if they’re to connect with these customers and earn their loyalty. If a customer begins to question a company’s authenticity, capabilities, or promise at any touch point, trust can be irreparably harmed.

In the B2B buying space, this is even more important. In this space, customers are often signing high-value contracts for goods or services that have a significant effect on their company’s bottom line. Often, they are purchasing services or customized products. Service-focused companies or those offering customized products rely on trust and credibility more than any other because the customer is buying something that has yet to be created. Unlike with a product, such as a physical item or piece of software, the customer cannot evaluate a service or customized product before purchase. It takes a great deal of trust to purchase something that doesn’t exist yet.

Here are a few key points to help you establish and protect trust with your customers:

  1. Poor design and copywriting can damage your credibility and a customer’s trust in your product or abilities. Ensure all your marketing assets, from your website to your business card authentically demonstrate your brand, your value, and your professionalism and attention to detail. If your marketing isn’t in order, people will wonder what else isn’t in order.
  2. Social media can make a company more transparent and prove its authenticity. Use social media to give customers a sense of your character and personality. Millennials don’t like to meet sales people face-to-face as much, but you can still help them know you, on their terms.
  3. Offer value with no strings attached. Publish content that informs, educates and presents your perspective. This content is an outreached hand with a true offer of value, not a masked sales pitch. If it’s strong content that is relevant to your customers and your business, they’ll have more trust in your abilities and appreciate your help.
  4. Feature testimonials and customer stories. The second most trusted form of information after recommendations from personal connections is consumer opinions posted online. Seventy per cent of people trust these reviews completely or somewhat (Nielson Global Trust in Advertising Survey 2015). Featuring testimonials on your website or in your other marketing initiatives allows prospective customers evaluating your trustworthiness to see that others have had a positive experience. They’ll trust your credibility, capabilities, and integrity more after reading recommendations from others.