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5 Effective Ways to Build Trust In 'Low-Trust' Industries

For industries like financial services and SEO, it can be hard to overcome customers' wariness.

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How others perceive your brand matters.

Shannon Fagan | Getty Images

Why else do companies spend so much money marketing their brand persona and developing content marketing campaigns? Though such actions can go a long way in influencing customer perceptions, there's no denying that some businesses have more of an uphill battle.

Related: Don't Be Facebook -- Here's How to Earn and Keep Your Customers' Trust

While a strong brand persona is helpful, trust can be an even more powerful measuring stick in convincing others to do business with you. In fact, according to PwC 35 percent of consumers rank trust as one of their top factors in brand selection.

Certain industries have always struggled to gain the trust of their consumers. SEO agencies have long been plagued by shady operators who engage in "black hat" techniques. Financial services providers, timeshare companies and others generally have lower-than-average perceptions of trust.

Though these industries have long struggled to gain the trust of their potential customers, the fact of the matter is that consumer trust is falling in practically every niche, affecting major corporations and small businesses alike.

How can you reverse this trend? Here are a few ways to build trust for your "low-trust" company:

1. Provide true transparency.

All too often, "transparency" seems to boil down to shoving a large wall of text at the consumers to cover your bases -- like the user agreements you don't actually read before installing a software update. Such jargon-heavy texts don't really instill confidence in the customer.

In a podcast, Forrester senior analyst Tom Champion offers an alternative approach, describing a company that doesn't "try to hide jargon with really roundabout ways of describing what they mean or having little hint texts which overload the customer with explanations. They are honest about the terms they use and also educate the customer about these terms in a very simple way. So, they've incorporated a content strategy to raise the literacy of customers as they're going through something as transactional as a form."

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Navigate the Crisis of Trust

2. Improve digital security.

As more and more of our transactions are conducted online, consumers are understandably wary about how their information might be used. If you have a website that processes customer information, you need to take steps to assure users that your site is secure.

Switching to HTTPS, securing your own log-in information and continually updating your security settings will go a long way in protecting your site (and customer information) from hackers.

Keep in mind, however, that this isn't the only security issue customers are worried about. Many fear that their contact information will be shared with other vendors. If you collect email addresses or phone numbers from your customers, a written statement that you won't sell their information can be crucial for increasing trust.

3. Show the proof.

Listing client-friendly attributes on your website is a start, but customers want to know that you actually back up your promises. It's one thing to say that you have a satisfaction guarantee; it's quite another to showcase how this plays into your service offerings.

For further insight on this, I reached out to Izzy Sanchez, CEO of Primo Management Group, a company that helps individuals cancel timeshare agreements. "We're working with people who have already had their trust betrayed," Sanchez said, "so we really have to go the extra mile to prove we legitimately have their best interests at heart."

For Sanchez, this starts with the website presentation. "We place a big emphasis on client reviews on our website, and use an in-depth FAQ to address common concerns. These things show that we mean it when we say we offer a money-back guarantee and customer-oriented service."

Related: This Big Tech Company Is the Most Trusted, According to New Survey

4. Share helpful knowledge.

"Content marketing" is a popular buzzword in the digital realm these days, but too few companies actually use it to its full trust-gaining potential. Too often, content marketing serves as little more than an alternative product pitch -- something that may prove helpful in the short-term, but won't necessarily build trust or finalize a sale.

Instead, focus your content marketing efforts on educating your customers. As you provide real, tangible value to your audience without trying to make a sales pitch, they'll have more trust in your services and be more likely to buy from you.

5. Let "word of mouth" do the talking.

Most consumers don't trust traditional advertising -- but they'll be happy to listen to a recommendation from a friend. When a friend isn't available, the vast majority of consumers trust online reviews -- even though many acknowledge that there are fake reviews online.

Rather than trying to use an aggressive marketing campaign to highlight your trustworthiness, try to find ways to engage in a more word-of-mouth approach.

Ultimately, however, this starts by providing the best service you possibly can. This way, your current customers will be more likely to provide referrals or leave a positive review.

The overall trend of declining customer trust isn't likely to reverse itself anytime soon -- especially when studies find that the vast majority of millennials don't trust advertising at all. But, this doesn't mean that all hope is lost. As you take meaningful action to create trust and transparency, you can overcome these obstacles and build a loyal customer base.

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