Networking has always been a key way for small businesses to get new customers–and today, technology has supercharged our ability to network with others to find trustworthy partners, vendors and suppliers.

Alignable, an online community that helps business owners network, exchange ideas and build relationships with other local businesses, is making it easier to find out what other small business owners think and who they really trust.

Alignable small business survey

Survey: 20 brands small business owners trust

Alignable’s recent Small Business Trust Index (for the first quarter of 2018) highlights the 20 brands most trusted by small business owners on their network. The leader of the pack (for the 6th quarter in a row) is likely no surprise: Amazon.

“Amazon is a great resource for small businesses for any purchase they need to make. The offerings by Amazon have grown substantially over the years, and their pricing and service are unsurpassed,” said survey respondent Patty Hughes of Strategic Marketing Services.

“Amazon is top notch in innovation and always cutting edge,” said Alan Horn of Calvary Marketing.

Rounding out the top five trusted most brands among small business owners:

  • Google – Most trusted for social and digital marketing
  • Authorize.net – Most trusted for payments management
  • Apple – Most trusted for computers and apps
  • WordPress – Most trusted for ecommerce and websites

SMBs lack trusted hiring, management partners

The report broke down which categories of service providers small businesses trust the most and least.

  • Social and digital marketing companies, office supplies and services, and computers and apps are the categories with the largest number of trusted providers.
  • The categories with the smallest number of trusted companies are hiring/people management, marketing automation/CRM, lead generation/management, loyalty/rewards, legal services and communications.

It’s especially interesting to see that some of the areas in which small businesses need the most help have very few trusted providers.

According to the survey, small business owners don’t feel they have providers they can trust to help with hiring, management and legal services, to name just a few problematic examples.

Find trusted partners using word of mouth

The best way to prepare yourself when beginning a new partnership or customer relationship is to do your research at the start. Given that so many of your fellow entrepreneurs have had some surprising negative experiences, the Alignable survey is a good reminder to do your due diligence when choosing any type of business service partner.

In addition to reading online review and ratings sites to see what others have to say, reach out to other small business owners in your area or industry.

One way to do this is to talk to other entrepreneurs in online communities like Alignable, LinkedIn, and any other social networking groups where you are active. Ask other business owners to share their experiences. Which companies do they rely on, and which do they regret working with?

By asking other business owners in your industry about their personal experiences, you’ll have a good chance of sparking some great network connections while you learn from someone else’s mistakes.

Rieva is a small-business contributor for Fundbox and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting, and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.