Customers have long trusted each other more than brands to make purchasing decisions. One-on-one marketing conferences, kitchen product demos, even quick exchanges over a cup of coffee have long been the norm. Why? Because as consumers, we trust our peers will share their honest opinions and experiences with a brand’s products or services.

Trust builds loyalty, which for a business, translates to advocates who believe in and champion your brand.

Why trust is important to business success

For businesses, it may sound strange to make trust-building such a large focus of the sales process. In a recent 2018 article, the online publication CMO reveals that “trust is a big influence on loyalty, even up to 30 percent of the influence.” Access to technology has sparked such bumps in influence. Consumers are more conscious today of how their purchasing decisions support their values.

This rise in consciousness has prompted consumers to be more aware of advertising tactics, and look for brands who are interested in their needs.

“But few achieve brand trust adequately, preferring to pay lip service rather than delve into what it really means: Authentically caring about customers and their needs,” explains Vanessa Mitchell, contributing editor at CMO.

Authentically caring about customers and their needs creates trust and makes your customers feel they can look to your brand as a trusted authority.

Why peer to peer trust matters to brands

Think about the last time you asked a friend or family member for genuine advice. What was the result? You may have found that they were willing to share their thoughts with you without the expectation of getting anything in return. This kind of honest and unbiased feedback from your friends and family members lets you know they’re interested in helping you find a solution – or serving your best interest. This is one of the reasons why customers come to trust their friends, family and peers more than brands.

Influencer marketing is a big example of this. Through social media, everyday-people have been able to harness and use social proof to speak openly about causes, products and brands they believe in.

“Fans of influencers trust that their endorsement of a product or brand comes from a well-researched, more holistic place, rather than something as simple as a signed contract between a brand and a person of influence,” Karla Cook writes. She goes on to unpack that even when there is a deal in place, influencers pick these based on their own values and interests, rather than the monetary reward.

Customers look to their peers for this genuine interest and authenticity in their endorsements and promotions. With consumers being much more savvy about the power behind their dollars, using their influence to support brands they authentically believe in has become more important.

How brands can build trust through influencers

How can brands begin to uncover the needs of their customers and build genuine trust? Find advocates who already believe in your brand, manage customer expectations, and deliver on your promise.

Neil Patel suggests finding customers who had real experiences with your brand and share their results. “Try to find a customer that truly represents (in the best way) what your ideal customer looks like. Emphasize how your company solved their pains and headaches, and then other customers will be able to relate to them.”

One way to emphasize social proof in your marketing is to find people online who are already raving about your brand. New York City favorite, Doughnut Plant, includes user-generated content on their Instagram. Many of these posts include a quote and photo directly from the customer's original post, highlighting that individual’s experience in real time. Brands across all industries, from fashion to food and hospitality brands, can allow customers to share their honest opinion through the content their customers are organically creating.

Building trust with your customers creates a positive experience for them and helps businesses better address their needs. Look to consumers who are a trusted source and who can speak to the value your brand has created in their lives to build upon this social proof.