Rebel Uprising Podcast

How Do We Earn Trust in Online Business with Maggie Patterson


How do you decide who to trust in your business?

When you're thinking about joining a program or hiring a service provider, do you make those people earn your trust, or do you just default to trusting them?

When we first meet someone new, we want to believe the best in people. We want to believe that they are trustworthy, so we trust them until they give us a very good reason not to.

However, today on the podcast, my guest and co-host of Duped, Maggie Patterson, is turning that notion on its head.

She believes that in online business, we should be skeptical at first until we’re given a good reason to trust someone, that trust should be earned and not just given.

So how do you earn trust and how do you know who to trust?

Maggie and I are diving into all of that today.

Maggie Patterson is the creator of Small Business Boss and has two decades of experience in communications, marketing, and client services.

She's worked with everyone from solopreneurs to the world’s biggest brands and today she's a mentor and advocate for do no harm business practices in the online space. She's the host of the BS Free Service Business podcast, and her work has been featured in leading publications such as, Fast Company, and



In this episode:

  • Why Maggie says “know, like, and trust” isn’t enough when it comes to building trust in your business
  • Why online businesses need to focus on earning trust through relationships, not manipulative marketing hacks
  • What a major recent survey can tell us about the state of trust, leadership, and values in 2022
  • How Maggie performs a trust audit before doing business with anyone
  • The five aspects of creating Trust DNA in your business

Learn more about Maggie Patterson:

Learn more about Michelle Mazur:



Listen on your favorite podcast player or read the Transcript below:


Maggie Patterson (00:00): 58% of people will buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values, and 80% of people will invest based on their beliefs and values. So what is that telling you? Beliefs and values are more important than ever and people need to know what you stand for and they need to trust you. You need to be earning that trust by not doing all this shady stuff in the background.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (00:28): Get ready for the Rebel Uprising Podcast, the only podcast dedicated to business owners who feel overlooked for their expertise, skills and experience. Let's claim your expertise and turn your complex ideas into unmistakable messaging that grows your business. I am your host, Dr. Michelle Mazur, the author of The 3 Word Rebellion and your rebel truth-telling guide to building a business that gets noticed.

(00:58): How do you decide who to trust in your business? When you're thinking about joining a program or hiring a service provider, do you make those people earn your trust or do you just default to trusting them? And I get it, when we first meet someone new, you and I, we want to believe the best in people. We want to believe that they are trustworthy, so we trust them until they give us a very good reason not to. However, today on the podcast, my guest and co-host of Duped, Maggie Patterson is turning that notion on its head. She believes that in online business we should be skeptical at first until you're given a good reason to trust someone. Trust should be earned and not just given. So how do you earn trust and how do you know who to trust? Maggie and I are diving into all of that today.

(02:13): Maggie Patterson is the creator of Small Business Boss and has two decades of experience in communications, marketing, and client services. She's worked with everyone from solopreneurs to the world's biggest brands, and today she's a mentor and advocate for do-no-harm business practices in the online space. She's the host of the BS-Free Service Business podcast and her work has been featured in leading publications such as, Fast Company, and So grab a pen and paper and get ready for a BS-free conversation about how to build a trust-first business. Welcome Maggie Patterson back to the podcast. This must be either your third or fourth appearance on the Rebel Uprising Podcast.

Maggie Patterson (03:07): It's like you really like me or something?

Dr. Michelle Mazur (03:08): I know. It's like we co-host another podcast together.

Maggie Patterson (03:13): Yeah, and over the weekend I was like, "Ooh, maybe I'll host some more podcasts because I don't have enough podcasts going on." But then I remembered I'm not allowed to do that and that my team will have issue with me. So I've speak of such things, Michelle, you need to intervene.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (03:26): Okay, yes, you can definitely be a guest on podcasts, but no more podcast hosting. But I am so excited to have you back on the podcast because in the month of November I've been doing a deep dive into trust and how to build trust in your business because since we co-host Duped, we know trust is at an all-time low in online business. So I wanted to kick our discussion off by asking you how do you define trust?

Maggie Patterson (03:56): I love that you ask this question because I think trust is one of those things where it's a concept we all have grown up with. It's not a concept that's unfamiliar to us, but in the context of business, we think about it in the context of the good old know, like, and trust. But here's the thing, and content marketing hat on, copywriter hat on, that I don't necessarily love about know, like, trust as the way we define trust because know, like, and trust is really about stages of discovery for potential community members or clients. It's a marketing term. So know, like, and trust, it's absolutely valid, but I actually very much prefer the textbook definition of trust when we talk about it as a core element to how you're running your business. And to quote my friend, Google, it is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, and strength of someone or something.

(04:51): So that reliability, truth, ability, and strength, we don't think about those things in the context, necessary, of our business. Trust is this more nefarious thing, like I need to get people to trust me so they'll do business with me. We're not thinking about trust at that most basic human relation level. And I think for me, when I think about trust in the bigger context of all my years of experience of running a business, working with clients, all those things is trust is really about what I want to focus on and what I want to focus on as a human. That's how I want to do business. And I know a lot of people talk about, oh, doing business in a more ethical or humane way, what could be more humane than actually doing business in a way that's reliable and truthful and focused on someone's ability or skills? That, to me, is the most freeing thing because we just have to show up and be decent, which is a very hard for online business apparently.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (05:42): Yeah, well, because it's all about tricking people and the manipulation, the brain hacks, just like hack your way to six figures, you can persuade anyone. And what I find interesting is I recently read a book called The Thin Book of Trust by Charles Feltman and he's really talking about trust from this leadership perspective in corporate or organizational psychology. And what I loved is he talked about trust as something as we're basically saying to another person, I am making something I value vulnerable to your actions. And when I think about trust like that and juxtapose it against this mess we see in online business, every time we make a purchase, the person is saying to you, hey, I'm putting this thing that I value, whether it's your health, your wellbeing, your relationships, your business, I'm making that vulnerable to you. And I was curious, what do you think about that definition?

Maggie Patterson (06:47): I like that definition and I think it really dovetails nicely. And you, I know Michelle, you've heard me talk about the Edelman Trust Barometer because I am pretty, I love this. Edelman is a big firm in the US, they do this annual thing, they've done it for 20 plus years. And in the 2022 Barometer it was really interesting, they referred to trust as the ultimate currency. And what's interesting is they make the distinction to say it's the ultimate currency right now, we can talk about why that is in a second, but it is something we can earn. And I think we often approach relationships, whether it be romantic relationships or friendships or whatever. We always start from a place, often start from a place of trust, and I think we do that in business automatically when really we should be making people earn our trust.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (07:31): That's a great point. People should have to earn your trust.

Maggie Patterson (07:34): I think for business, absolutely. And I think what we often forget is that a lot of these tactics are designed to short circuit that journey from know to like to trust. They go right from know to like to give me all your money. Trust is just kind of skipped over. So I think we, as consumers, should be looking for ways to make people earn our trust. And then as business owners, how are we as a thought leader, as an expert, as just a human doing business in this world, are truly earning the trust of our potential clients. And one of the things I think is fascinating about the survey they did for 2022 is they really talk about this idea that people are looking for leaders. In the 2022 research, they indicated that one out of two respondents view government and media as divisive forces in society. And what's happening, and they've seen this has been over the last three years with the survey is people are really expecting business and business leaders to fill that gap.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (08:27): Wow. So that means we are, as citizens, as people, we're looking to businesses to actually show some leadership because we do not think we can get it from the media or the government. And then here we are with the state of online business the way that it is. That's just a lot to think about, I mean, and a good question for people to ask is how can you show up and be a leader in your business and to be actively building trust?

Maggie Patterson (08:57): Yeah, and here's two stats from the study that will absolutely blow people's minds is they have this whole section on how stakeholders are holding business accountable. Well, 58% of people will buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values and 80% of people will invest based on their beliefs and values. So what is that telling you? Beliefs and values are more important than ever and people need to know what you stand for and they need to trust you. You need to be earning that trust by not doing all this shady stuff in the background.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (09:26): And it's big picture thinking. I'm following what's happening with Twitter and Elon Musk and the advertisers are fleeing the platform because they don't think Twitter's values align with their company's values, with their customer's values. It's just like they're taking their business elsewhere because Elon is violating their trust on a daily basis as he makes this transition. So I mean, I see this as a big picture thing as well, but I would love to hear your take because I know this is something we talk about on Duped a lot. Why do you think trust is at an all-time low in online business?

Maggie Patterson (10:08): All right, well, buckle up because it's a bit of a nuance, in a shocking turn of events, it's a bit of a complex and nuanced answer, but I'm going to try to make it as simple as possible. So there are multiple forces at play here and I think, first, it's really important to understand that a lot of this mirrors bigger societal forces. So the 2021 Trust Barometer used this term that I absolutely love, we had reached a straight of, wait for it, state of information bankruptcy as humans in the current hellscape we are in we don't trust things the same way we used to. And that's the result of the pandemic. It's the result of systemic failures, it's the result of the racial reckoning of 2020. People really saw that business, including online businesses, didn't mirror our values. We realized we were doing business with people that had fundamentally different beliefs than us and were doing business in a way that we were like, ooh, let me give myself a little pause here because this person is very much against vaccination and I very steadfastly believe in vaccination.

(11:15): This person is denying their white privilege. I think when you start to see those cracks, the other shady practices come to light. So I think that's part of it. And then, honestly, add in a cultural moment we're having around cults and scams, and I know you and I have talked about a lot. And then we have this other thing that I do think is really important is people are like, why are we having this moment where this conversation is happening, people don't trust business, online business, the way they used to? Guess what? The industry's matured. When I came into this industry, it was 2012, it was 10 years ago. It was in its infancy, it was a baby industry. Now we're 10, 15 years down the line, people are getting wiser and with time we become more skeptical. It's a natural human thing. It's why a seven-year-old is often much more skeptical than a 20-year-old.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (12:05): Ooh, that's such a great point because I will say in the consumer or customer research I've been doing this year, that idea of I've been burned before, I am skeptical, I don't believe these people are as expert as they say they are, have been coming up more and more and it's just like, oh, this is a real issue in trust that needs to be addressed.

Maggie Patterson (12:31): Yeah, and I think what's interesting is, you and I, I know we've boxed about 5 million times around this, is all of this becomes complicated. The fact if we've been burned, we're really skeptical, but our brains very much still want us to believe in the dream even though we're more likely to win the lottery than to reach a lot of these aspirational goals that are heavily marketed to us and that we're supposed to invest ourselves in.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (12:58): So I have a personal question for you. How do you know who to trust? What does your vetting process look like?

Maggie Patterson (13:06): Oh, Michelle, I know you ask this because you know I am like next level red string murder board on the wall level before I trust someone. And I think there's two things, I want to give a shout-out to my good old friend, trauma. I've personally had my own series of things that have violated my trust over the years, like I'm sure many of your listeners, and it has made me one skeptical human. And I think that's just, it's an unfortunate legacy of the way my brain now works. But when it comes down to nuts and bolts is I'm so slow to make a decision now and it's hard for me. I am a gut feeler. I am 100% a gut feeler, but I've also realized that a lot of these tactics are designed to shortcut your intuition, to override your logic, to completely shut you down and disassemble you as a person, so that's part of it.

(14:03): The other part of it is I do have a very, and I'm happy to share this with your listeners, there's no opt-in, it is literally an audit, an evaluation of. And I look at things not just like, oh, let me look at these testimonials. I have things that personally, for me, and they may not be for your listeners, they're a no-go for me. Someone who uses income claim marketing, no-go for me. I won't do business with you, because that, to me, is a red flag. Certain claims around their expertise, I go and look at their about page and I know you do the same thing. But then I also, who are they friends with in this online business world? Who do they follow? Who do they learn from? Who do they align themselves with? You spend 10 minutes on Instagram digging through this and you will find some really gnarly things on people that you actually thought you could trust.

(14:53): And I hate to say that, but that little bit of extra due diligence, because I am a super sleuth, always saves me in the end because I'm like, oh, that's interesting, oh, that person seems legit. And then I go and look at, oh, they learn from this person and this person and this person who I know all their tactics in their arsenal and they're awful people.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (15:12): So we'll hook up your audit, your trust audit, in the show notes because I think that's a good list for people to go through. And even if they don't, maybe they're fine with income claim marketing, but I think it's good to have some kind of rubric to think about. But what I really loved is you said that you slow down a lot because I know people have gone from, I just discovered this person in Instagram and now I'm giving them 3K overnight. And I think it's like, oh, no, really slow down, do your due diligence. Follow that person for a while. One of the things I like to do is follow and interact with them and see if they actually walk their talk. Is it all just marketing speak or are they actively trying to build relationships and meet people and is what they're sharing quality information? For me, that's always that slowing down piece, but sometimes we just go way too fast when we're making a purchasing decision, and that's by design because they don't want you to think about it, so.

Maggie Patterson (16:17): And I want to add two things there is number one, a really good test for me, and this is something I started doing probably seven years ago, if I couldn't explain it to my husband or my sister with a straight face with honesty and integrity. If I felt like I was like, oh, but this could just be the thing that works, if it seems too good to be true and I can't explain it to one of them with complete confidence or I feel like I'm like, it's a lot of money, but it'll be okay. Watching for those types of reactions. If I don't really want to talk about it or I can't explain it, I mean that's always a sign.

(16:54): And then the other thing I think, you made a really good point about going from the zero to 3K or even a bigger investment, is their marketing is very much built in manipulative practices and they use techniques, which I know is having a cultural moment, people talking about love bombing, but there is very much a love bombing that is going on with a lot of these people in their marketing where they are literally grooming you into being their customer. They're not building trust with you, they're messing with you to get to your money.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (17:23): Yes, exactly. So my final question for you is what can business owners do to actively build trust in their business?

Maggie Patterson (17:34): Okay, so I love this question because here's the thing, I grappled with this for a long time. I'm a communications person, I'm a content marketer, and I was having a very difficult time explaining this to my clients. So I actually came up with a method and it's very easy to understand. I call it trust DNA, and it's really like these are guideposts for building a trust-first business. So if you were kind of using trust as a filter for your business practices, for your decisions, and using these five guideposts I'll talk about, you are going to be able to filter out and go, that's not really a tactic I want to use, that doesn't seem like I actually like, oh, I'm not being truthful there.

(18:14): And it comes down to five simple things, truth, leading with your authority and values. Transparency, what you see is what you get, so no bait-and-switch, no surprises on the back end. Time, offering realistic, supportive timeframes. A lot of what we see in online business is these totally wack timelines that set unrealistic expectations on both sides. Respect, treating everyone with fairness and dignity. And result, doing what you say you're going to do. Now these things all seem very simple, and I'm sure most of you go, oh, I do that in my business, but do you actually sit down with those things and run a business practice through it? I'll use something like testimonials, are you being truthful with your testimonials? Are you being transparent? Is this a result that people can actually all achieve on the whole.

(18:56): Time. Oh, wait, interesting. Well, am I saying you're going to double your business in six months? Is that actually a realistic timeframe? Is that a supportive timeframe? Not actually going to happen. Am I being respectful in my testimonials? Do I talk shit about my clients behind the scenes? All those types of things. Are these results actually aligned with reality? Do I deliver on the promise of my program? And those may seem really basic things, but that's where we're at. Until we master these basics, we all need to just stop doing all this other stuff.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (19:27): It was really interesting, recently I sent out an email to my email community where it was just, I was talking about what's typical versus what's possible and I just outlined the results my clients see, like this is what typically happens within six months of working with me, this is what's possible for you if you keep implementing this for a year or more. And it's like the typical stuff was like, you're going to have more confidence, you're going to show up more consistently to market, people are going to be better prepared for the sales calls with you. They were these very specific concrete, I would say, non-sexy results, but I know that those are the actual results that make a difference in a business and they're all achievable for a client. Whereas things like my clients have landed book deals and got TEDx Talks, but that's in the realm of possibility, because not everybody wants a book deal or a TEDx Talk or whatever, but that delineation just helped me so much, being like, okay, this is what's typical, this is what's possible. And being very clear about the freaking timeline around that.

Maggie Patterson (20:38): Yeah, and I think this is where people don't understand, these are truly those weight-loss, and I'll use air quotes, success stories like results not typical. That's what we're seeing. And the timeframes are not realistic either. And that the timeframes actually are one of the things I think really irk me because they promise this very business-in-a-box type outcome and that's not the way business is. And then I get, I'm sure you see this with your clients or people you're talking to, is you start talking to these people and they're like, I feel like such a failure, and all that pisses me off because they're not a failure by any objective standard, but we've been held to this unrealistic, atypical version of success.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (21:18): Yes. And for some reason along the way, we bought into the lie that results that are typical, like having more confidence, having clients who are prepared for sales calls, somehow those results don't count, and it's only the big stuff that counts. And that's just not true. And I feel like that's held a lot of people back from good business owners who are doing great work and who really build trust with their clients, it holds them back from marketing because they're not talking about, oh, make six figures in six seconds. The sexy stuff that supposedly sells.

Maggie Patterson (22:02): And I'm glad you brought that up, Michelle, because I think one of the things that has allowed me in a lot of ways to have confidence around not engaging in some of these business practices is I work with corporations in my agency and nobody's talking to me about, we're not talking about metrics in this way, we're looking to make an incremental improvement. There's not, yes, there's pressure on results, but also too, sometimes we're just brought in to simplify a process to make it run smoother. And it's not necessarily always going to be a tangible outcome, but is there still immense value in what we're delivering? Absolutely.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (22:42): And those companies are willing to pay for it. And I think we forget that in online business, that something like being clearer about your message and knowing what to say when you're on a podcast is a huge freaking win.

Maggie Patterson (22:58): Absolutely. As someone who just has gone through with more than one client around some messaging, yeah.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (23:06): Yeah.

Maggie Patterson (23:07): Messaging is hard and you all need to hire Michelle for it, and she's not paying me to say that.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (23:13): Thank you, Maggie. I really appreciate that. So Maggie, tell everyone where they can find you, where they can connect with you, where they can find out more about building a trust-first business?

Maggie Patterson (23:25): So first, you can always find me hanging out with my buddy, Michelle, on the Duped Podcast whenever we bring that out of hiatus next. We love to talk about all this stuff in way more depth and get into all these shady tactics that we kind of alluded to. I am at Small Business Boss on Instagram. My podcast is the BS-Free Service Business Show, so if you work with clients, you run an agency, you're freelancer creative, that's a great show for you to listen to. That's all the places I am on the interwebs because I like to keep it simple.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (23:55): Well, thank you so much, Maggie, for coming back on the show and talking with me about trust and how to build it, and how to vet other people so you know that they're trustworthy. I always appreciate these conversations because I know you and I are both on a mission to make the online business space better for everyone.

Maggie Patterson (24:17): Yeah, even just for my own personal benefit, I will cop too because I'm tired of people coming to me who've been burned so much. I want less burned consumers, more consumers who are thriving and not feeling bad about their business.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (24:29): Amen to that, thank you Maggie.

Maggie Patterson (24:33): Thanks, Michelle.

Dr. Michelle Mazur (24:34): Trust is the ultimate currency. That was my biggest takeaway from this conversation with Maggie. In business, you are either building trust with your audience, with your clients, or you're breaking it. And it's really up to you about how you want to build trust in your business. And yes, we build trust through our messages, but also through our business practices. So how can you show others that you're truthful, reliable, competent, and have their best interests at heart? And when you answer these questions, implement them into your messaging and your business practices. That's how you build trust. That's how you put trust first in your business. And it's also how we make the online business space better for everyone.

(25:34): If the Rebel Uprising podcast is helping you claim and communicate your expertise so that your clients can find and hire you, please share the show with a friend. The easiest way to do that is through You can find the show at and that page will allow anyone you share the show with to subscribe and start listening in their favorite podcast player. That's The Rebel Uprising podcast is a production of Yellow House Media. Our production coordinator is Lou Blazer. Our production assistant is Emily Kilda. The podcast is edited by Steven Mills. Our executive producers are Sean and Tara McMullen. The Rebel Uprising podcast is recorded on the unseated traditional land of the Coast Salish Peoples, specifically the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish people, original stewards of the land, past and present.

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