In business, trust is earned and not given. When consumers trust your product, they're happier and more engaged. User acquisition becomes easier. You put yourself in a position to make a real difference. However, trust can be elusive. It is tricky to build and easily lost.

When Credit Karma was founded we were trying to offer free credit information in an industry where such promises usually resulted in fees and conditions, to the endless frustration of consumers.

Rather than serving as a business constraint, this ended up doing us a favor, setting out a path for us for what not to do. The mistakes of companies before us meant our margin for error was small, but served as a guide in how to gain and keep our members' trust.

Communicate how you are different

Know your story and tell it well. Stress what is different about your company. We started Credit Karma in 2007 to deliver transparency and offer free credit scores, in a market where there was no such thing. Sites would market themselves as free while requiring their membership to enter costly subscription programs. Immediately, we focused on communicating what elevated us. We emphasized that no credit card would be needed, because other "free" sites needed one to use their service. We did everything to emphasize that we truly were free, to let people know this wasn't a trick.

Make trust a long-term investment

Trust doesn't happen overnight. It is a long process, filled with peaks and valleys. Your work is never over. I see companies trip up constantly in thinking that because they've done everything right this far, customers might not notice if they take shortcuts. Trust can be quickly undone, no matter how much hard work you put in. Prioritize it and invest in it for the long haul.

Your product has to back up the trust you're asking for

Communication and patience are easily touted, but your product needs to back it up. Every privacy policy and product feature needs to be developed with your credibility in mind. When people saw that Credit Karma was free, their next suspicion was that we were paying for it by selling our marketing lists to spammers. We don't sell or rent personal information to third parties for any purpose and make that clear all over our site. To relax on this would be to let all of our members down.

Get the word out

You need to be a storyteller for your point of difference. After we were founded, and as a team of just three with no marketing or PR associates, I made a commitment to write 20 bloggers a personal email each night to get them to try out our product. If they hated the product because it was bad, that was fine. (Luckily, no one did.) But it was important that we got the word out that we really were free and did what we said we do.

Prepare yourself that everyone is a cynic

If you're entering into a vertical that generates negative sentiments and has had bad press, you need to have a thick skin. The space Credit Karma was operating in had a terrible reputation when we launched. I had to reconcile myself that if I were an outsider here I would likely be thinking the same things. Everyone on the internet is a bit of a cynic. You need to take it with a grain of salt.

Don't sling mud

You may be bringing honesty and ethics into a space that desperately needed it, but you need to distance yourself from what came before. No one wins from mudslinging games. Rather than yell at somebody else, focus instead on talking about the positive attributes of your product and your ongoing vision. If other companies try and bring your product down, take it as a compliment that you're on their radars.

Always be proving yourself trustworthy

You need to live by the promises you make to your users. Everyday, I want to prove all over again to our members and my team that I'm worthy of their trust. If you betray that, it can follow you around for a long time.

In the long run, morals are the better business choice

Principles are easy when you're a new business with no customers. But to maintain trust you need to lay out your mission and use it as a moral compass for everything you do. You will reach points where you could make more money in the short-term at the cost of the consumer and the company's overall wellbeing. Ultimately though, sacrificing trust and goodwill for revenue in the short term will only serve to undercut the foundation of your company.