How AI Can Help Your Small Business
When you run a small business, you need every advantage possible to stay at the top of your industry—and ahead of the competition. Technology has always been a key piece of the successful small business puzzle, but with artificial intelligence (AI) going mainstream, it’s quickly becoming the deciding factor between moving ahead as a small business leader or falling behind the pack.
Business AI: Beyond Siri and Alexa
Images from “The Jetsons” and old horror stories about Roomba might be the first things that pop to mind at the mention of AI, but today’s cutting-edge technology offers so much more to the small-business owner. Simply put, artificial intelligence is technology designed to be “smart,” which means it can learn, perform standard tasks, analyze and integrate data, and solve problems.
According to a global HubSpot survey, 63% of people are already using AI without even realizing it. Voice-activated search assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa are some of the most common AI technologies that people use regularly.
While voice search is convenient when you’re trying to find a gas station, AI for business is much more sophisticated. It’s that very sophistication, however, that leaves some small business owners ready to skip AI completely. In fact, 51% of small-business owners believe that AI is too complex for their needs. However, AI could be the edge that gives your small business the power to stand up to larger competitors.
How AI Can Help Your Business
In small business, every resource is used to the max, including the people who help market your products and take care of your customers. When it comes to streamlining functions like marketing and customer service, AI can be the extra set of hands (or ears) that you need.
If you like the idea of AI but aren’t quite sure how to integrate it into your business, here are three ways to make AI work for you.
- Streamline Routine Business Operations: Whether it’s balancing the books or remembering to call someone back, AI technology is the perfect way to pick up the slack and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. From Accounts Payable to Human Resources, AI technology has practical applications for nearly every aspect of your operation.
- Marketing—Use AI to send targeted emails to promote new products or special deals that coincide with a customer’s past purchases. Specialized apps like MailChimp use AI to streamline email campaigns, eliminating any potential spam accounts that could waste your time and resources.
- Accounting—Say goodbye to endless piles of paperwork with AI accounting programs that help you generate invoices, schedule payment reminders, and even categorize expenses. With AI handling time-stealing activities like data entry, you and your team are free to focus on the bigger financial picture.
- Human Resources—If you don’t have a lot of time to cultivate the company culture, you might want to try something like Crystal. This platform provides personality profiles and offers tips on how to best communicate with your team. If you’re growing, this tool could also help you identify candidates that will fit in with existing employees and complement existing strengths and weaknesses.
- Enjoy That Personal Assistant You’ve Always Wanted: It can be hard to justify the expense of a personal assistant when you’re running a small business. But AI can help you take advantage of those personal assistant perks without the extra payroll.
- Scheduling—Trying to find the perfect time to meet can eat up hours of your day with back-and-forth emails, calls, etc. With AI-enabled assistants like Amy (from x.ai), you no longer have to waste your time getting that important meeting nailed down. Amy will manage all those tedious emails and automatically send a meeting invite to all parties once a workable time is detected.
- Follow-Up—Whether you’re responding to internal messages or customer inquiries, you need extra help when you’re basically a one-person show. That’s where email and chat programs designed to respond to messages come in. Google Smart Reply gets to know your emails and comes up with several reply options for you to use. While every Smart Reply isn’t perfect, the majority are ideal for saving time when you need a quick response for a bunch of backed-up messages.
- Upgrade the Customer Experience: We live in a society where people want to receive top-notch service as quickly as possible. Use AI to deliver fast, personalized service without the financial burden of supporting live, 24/7 customer service.
- Customer Support Response—In a world where waiting thirty seconds for an app to load can feel like a lifetime, how quickly you can connect with customers matters. Now, you can ensure customers aren’t left hanging by using AI chatbots. Chatbots respond individually to every inquiry, and sophisticated models may be able to answer questions and process payments. Check out Motion AI, which lets you create your own chatbots and integrate AI programming to create a natural customer experience.
- Social Media Presence –Over 40% of social media messages sent to companies required some sort of customer service response, yet many small-business owners don’t employ anyone to manage brand social media accounts. Thanks to AI, though, you can now upgrade your social media support without hiring extra staff. Meshfire, a cost-friendly option that makes it easy to regularly post to social media platforms, uses AI to measure analytics, suggest follows, and gather relevant content to share with your audience.
At first glance, AI may feel like a luxury or an unnecessary complication for your small business. But if you stay informed and explore simple solutions like those shared in this article, you can learn how to integrate AI into your business and keep your company ahead of the AI tech curve.