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How Long Before Your Customers Trust You? Two Years. Your ability to earn customer trust is what's going to separate you from the competition -- so don't slack.

By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Trust is that priceless, fragile human condition that takes years and years to build, but can be shattered in an instant. It's also the secret ingredient to deep connections and longstanding relationships.

As a business owner, your ability to earn customer trust is what's going to separate you from the competition. If you do it right, you'll build a loyal client base that will likely result in more referrals and more money. But as with anything worth having, trust takes time.

A new survey says it takes two years before your customers trust your brand -- or, more specifically, two years for a customer to simply view your brand as one it can rely on. The survey was conducted by customer engagement company SDL, which collected data from 2,835 people in six continents, nine markets, five languages and across four generations.

Related: An Oft Unspoken Key to Success: Put Aside Your Ego and Be Vulnerable

It takes more than twice that amount of time to hit the "revenue tipping point" -- a.k.a., the point when your customers will actually start spending more money on your brand than competing brands, according to SDL. To get to there takes five years.

Five years may seem like an eternity to get customers to develop a relationship with you, but think about the people in your life -- the friends you're confident will be in your life for the long haul. You've probably known them for five years, if not many more.

One way to strengthen your relationships -- in love and business -- is to communicate more, and more effectively. That doesn't mean texting every hour on the hour, particularly if the person you are aiming to strengthen your relationship with doesn't like to text. Part of communicating with your customers better is catering your messaging technique to how that person prefers to be reached.

Related: 5 Ways to Build Trust With Your Company's Online Audience

As an entrepreneur, think about who your target demographic is and adjust your messaging technique accordingly.

"Younger millennials," defined as those between 18 and 27, are most likely to see branded Twitter feeds and use online customer communities. "Older millennials," between 28 and 36, are more likely to check branded Facebook pages and mobile websites. "Gen X," defined as customers between the ages of 37 and 49, are most likely to communicate with a brand in an online chat, and "Boomers," between the ages of 50 and 68 years-old, prefer customer help lines.

Communicating effectively with your customers will help you build a relationship with your customers and, in time, that can turn into trust. As a business owner, the golden goose of your success lies in your customers trusting you.

Related: Good Leaders Persuade. They Don't Manipulate.

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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