As a small business owner, you have an advantage that no enterprise can match. That advantage is trust.

Research conducted by Edelman, a PR agency, found that trust is second only to price when consumers decide whether to buy from a new brand or become a loyal customer. Worldwide, only 58% of consumers trust businesses—a higher rate than for governments or the media (49% each) but still low. Businesses are perceived as competent but not ethical, Edelman found.

That lack of trust gives small businesses an edge. 84 percent of consumers say they are more likely to trust a small business than a large one according to research by the Better Business Bureau. People believe that small businesses are vital to their community. They provide jobs, bring people together, give back to local causes, and foster community pride.

Let’s discuss how you can harness trust in your marketing, branding, and ecommerce operations this holiday season and well beyond it. The following five strategies can help make trust one of your competitive edges:

1. Give your business a human face, even online.

A shocking number of businesses say nothing on their websites about who they are, why they were founded, or when, where, and how they operate. They make an already impersonal medium, the internet, even less personal.

Something about seeing a human face with a name—in photos and videos—facilitates trust. This content doesn’t need to be overly sleek or rehearsed. In fact, less polished content can come across as more authentic. Just share your passion earnestly.   

2. Identify with your location and community

Even if you sell mostly online, give your brand a home. Your location says something about the culture and meaning of your brand that the products themselves may not communicate.

For example, cheese from Wisconsin, my home state, means something different than cheese from California. Perhaps Californians make decent cheese, but cheese from Wisconsin is associated with imagery, history, and traditions that are unique to this state. You don’t call sports fans from California Cheeseheads, do you?

The point is to weave local geography and lore into your brand. Show that you are from somewhere, that you value that place, and trust it to sustain your business.

3. Make it easy to find your product information online

Product information and marketing content are like peanut butter and jelly. The peanut butter is your sizes, dimensions, colors, safety ratings, and other specs. It’s substantial. It’s the glue of the sandwich. But it’s dry and difficult to eat without jelly. And low-grade, crumbly peanut butter can frustrate buyers who want to understand your product.

The jelly—your product photos, videos, and fun descriptions—balances the fatty, salty peanut butter with sweetness. If you put too much jelly in the sandwich and not enough peanut butter, it just tastes like sugar. It leaves the eater hungry.

The point is to balance objective information with emotive content. If you skew too far in one direction or the other, you will lose trust.

4. Partner with other local brands

Forward Madison FC, our professional soccer team in Madison, Wisconsin, is great at co-branding with local companies. For the holidays, they’re selling gift packages featuring coffee beans from a local roaster and an old fashioned cocktail mix from a local distiller.

Their message to Madisonians is clear: you support our team and enable us to play the game we love. In turn, we support the local businesses that help make Madison a rewarding place to live. You’re on our team, and we’re on yours.

Co-branding has that effect of instilling trust, especially in newer brands. If you haven’t already found your local partners, be the first to reach out.

5. Make the gift giver eager to tell your story

One of the most powerful branding techniques is a story about why you’re different. If that story is compelling, gift givers may choose to buy your product just because they want to share that story with the recipient. It makes the gift more thoughtful.

Personally, I love to give bourbon from J Henry & Sons, a local distiller in Wisconsin. I’ve visited their tasting room and know they grow an heirloom corn developed at the University of Wisconsin in 1939 to make their bourbon distinctive..

J Henry & Son’s product is just as compelling as their story. Their first release won an international award. When I gift J Henry & Sons, I’m not just selecting a bottle of bourbon at a certain price point. I’m giving the story of their brand, spreading the trust and respect I feel for them.

Be Inimitable

This holiday season, big brands will compete on discounts and shipping times. Let them. Instead, differentiate your small business with trust. It can’t be bought, fabricated, or copied. It’s unique to who you are and what you offer.

Nate Holmes is the Product Marketing Manager at Widen.

Trust stock photo by Holmes Su/Shutterstock