There’s a mythical Super Businessperson who is strong, determined, and independent. They can do it all… alone. Nothing leaves them uncertain, and they certainly never admit to mistakes.

Autonomy and fortitude are admirable traits, but they’re not likely to lead to success in 2021. Today, more than ever before, people are looking for trust-based relationships.

Fake doesn’t cut it anymore.

Trust trumps your product or your service

Life was pretty uncertain even before we got hit by a global pandemic, and we’re all that much shakier now because of it. It’s left customers, employees, and partners alike looking for stability. 39% of consumers make purchase decisions based on trust. When asked what drives their shopping choices, 38% chose trust in the brand itself, and even more (40%) selected personal safety, which overlaps with trust.

Trust is crucial for your employee relationships too. Sure, you pay them, but a paycheck alone isn’t enough to motivate them. When employees trust you and your business, they’ll do all they can to deliver, even when having to work from home with their children around them during a global pandemic (nope, that’s not hypothetical). Plus, they’ll only share their wild, innovative ideas if they feel safe at work.

But it’s never been harder to build those trust-based relationships, especially through marketing. Today, consumer trust is at an all-time low. 57% of consumers think the media they rely on includes untrustworthy information; Forrester’s latest consumer energy index puts trust at 44%, down from 56% in 2019; and KPMG reports a net drop in trust through 2020.

How to build trust

So, what are you going to do to overcome these barriers and grow trust? The answer lies in authenticity.

Authenticity is the way that you express your actual brand values, not just the marketing fluff that consumers see right through. 45% of consumers say that authenticity is the most important element in your social media presence. After all, it’s hard to build a trust-based relationship with someone who feels like a fake. Here are six ways that you can express authenticity and improve your business relationships.

1.  Be honest

The truth is that real life is messy. Few people trust perfection, certainly not when we all know about photoshopping and Facebooking. When someone looks like they’re always perfect, most people assume that something isn’t real.

Authenticity means sharing your honest self, warts, and all, instead of the Superbusinessperson facade. When you admit that you’re stressed and might be functioning below par today, for example, it eases the atmosphere for everybody. Consumers can relate to your authentic, #nofilter, behind-the-scenes photos, and #nomakeup selfies on a real, human level. Immaculate, airbrushed perfection doesn’t convince anyone these days and you’d be naive to think it does.

2.  Know yourself

It’s tough to express authenticity if you’re not sure what your business’ authentic brand is in the first place. Take some time to define the brand values that you really believe in, your business’ true personality, and your real motivation. If all you’re posting on Instagram and Facebook are worthy “truths” that you don’t believe in, your customers won’t believe them either.

3.  Own your emotions

In her famous Ted talk, “The Power of Vulnerability”, Dr. Brene Brown, international speaker and the queen of vulnerability explains that vulnerability is the foundation of every authentic relationship. Those who have the courage to admit their imperfections are better able to build lasting, trusting connections.

So, when you’re confused, sad, hurt, or overwhelmed, it’s more than ok to admit it to the world. 83% of consumers say they want a more compassionate connection with brands, and compassionate literally means sharing feelings. If you share yours, they’ll share theirs, and hey, that’s a trust-based relationship right there.

4.  Share your values

A lot of business owners feel nervous about expressing values, just in case, it alienates customers who don’t share their views. But people who sit on the fence and try to be “neutral” get criticism and zero commitment from either side. Consumers expect you to have values, and stick to them, or you won’t appear authentic.

86% of people want businesspeople to speak up publicly about leading issues. Take aside. It’s human nature to feel closer to people — and brands — who share our views, so if you don’t speak up, it’s hard for people to identify with you. Like the old saying goes, “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

5.  Admit your mistakes

Everyone slips up from time to time, but what matters is the way you deal with it. Apologizing to the employee you snapped at or acknowledging you missed your high standards when a customer complains about poor service shows your vulnerability and authenticity. If you do it right, you’ll actually win more business, not less.

6.  Ask for help when you need it

When employees see that you need and accept their help, they’ll be more likely to model that behavior. Vulnerability shows that you need their help, trust them to support you, and that inspires them to trust you in exchange.

It’s also the best way to build fruitful partnerships. When you contact a makeup artist and ask if they’re interested in working together with your hair styling business, you’re making yourself vulnerable (“I believe this is a missing component in my business, and you know this niche like the back of your hand, so let’s partner up”). But you’re also showing that it’s safe for them to trust you in return, opening the door to more business and potential opportunities.

Getting real is the only real path to success

Showing that you’re human and imperfect is the only way to forge enduring relationships with your employees, business partners, and customers. As a culture, we’ve left behind any belief that “real success” spells “perfect and impenetrable”, and we’re all a lot healthier and happier as a result. The same is true for your business. So, start acknowledging your mistakes, owning your feelings, sharing real images, and reaching out for support.