This week we have a guest article on the applications of AI in small business from Michael Deane of Queedle, the Small Business Blog.
I’ve been reading a LOT of headlines about AI recently. Too many perhaps? But the term ‘AI’ as used in a business setting isn’t about a robot uprising or Boston Dynamics robots opening doors. In the small business sense, ‘AI’ is broadly anything that performs an analysis and takes action based on what it finds. As we’ll see, this can be both time and labour saving, particularly for online businesses.
If we take a look back through history, technological progress has frequently been accompanied by economic growth. While it is difficult to know for certain which of the two phenomena was the cause, and which the consequence, they seem to accompany each other. Increasing numbers of new breakthrough technologies could suggest that we are on the cusp of a new economic boom.
Some analysts suggest that artificial intelligence is the next logical step in the development of technology, and hence a sign that we are about to experience a new era of economic prosperity. While it is still early to say what AI will be capable of in the future, there is a growing interest in the technology in the commercial sector.
Businesses of all sizes are starting to include AI-powered tech in their operations. If you are thinking about becoming an early adopter of AI, you first priority should be to get informed about how the technology is currently being used for commercial purposes. To help you get started on the topic, we’ve created a short overview of the common uses of AI, which you can find in the article below.
AI-Powered CRM Software
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is used to organize customer data coming from different channels, like social media, email, phone, etc. This allows those working in sales to more effectively manage prospective and existing customers by means of marketing automation. Modern CRM platforms such as SalesForce have an important additional feature – an embedded AI system called Einstein AI. This AI is capable of analyzing consumer sentiment based on data such as emails, social media posts, phone conversations. It can also automatically adjust lead generation and marketing activities based on its findings. This allows small business sales teams to acquire a better understanding of their customers, in addition to helping them automate significant portions of the sales process. By leaving the tedious parts of the work to AI, sales reps can focus on the more creative aspects of sales.
Customer Service Chatbots
Providing quality customer service is a prerequisite for acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. Unfortunately, customer service is difficult to do right when you are short on staff and resources, as is the case for most small businesses. Further aggravating the matter is the fact that customer service usually involves a lot of work. In order to address this issue, some small businesses have started integrating AI-powered solutions such as chatbots into their customer service departments. These automated conversation systems can automatically answer common customer queries over a channel such as instant messaging. They can also categorize support tickets, as well as route priority messages to team members, thus freeing up your service reps to deal with more meaningful tasks.
Marketing is frequently a sore spot for small businesses. While money is less of an issue than it was in previous decades thanks to the wider availability of affordable digital marketing solutions, running a marketing campaign now requires substantial expertise. Fortunately, small businesses now have the option to use AI-systems specifically designed for marketing purposes. Platforms such as Albert AI can administer marketing operations across different channels, including social media, search engines, email, and others. They can analyze campaign performance of pay-per-click campaigns, and adjust spending accordingly without any supervision. As a bonus feature, marketing AI can also automatically gather performance data, which small businesses can then use to inform their decision making. AI-based marketing automation also allows small business to retain funding that would otherwise be used to maintain marketing staff.
Competitive Analysis AI
Competition is fierce on the global market, and small businesses need every advantage they can get to come out on top. Having intel on what your competitors are doing is one such advantage, but one that is hard to come by. To be more specific, while it is now easier than ever to observe what your competitors are doing thanks to the internet, analyzing their online behaviour is a completely different matter. With countless site redesigns, content updates, new product offers, etc. being pushed every moment, it is hard to determine what strategy your opponents are using. This is where competitive intelligence AI comes into play. Competitive analysis tools such as Brand Watch or Karna AI give small businesses the ability to observe their competitors across different channels, helping them identify minute changes in their online behaviour.
AI For Finding Product-Market Fit
One of the toughest aspects of running a small business is finding the product-market fit. This process used to involve manually combing through various kinds of consumer data in order to find relevant patterns. The difficulty of doing this was comparable to finding a needle in a haystack. Alternatively, small businesses were able to outsource this kind of work to third-party agencies, but these kinds of services tended to cost a lot. Today, small businesses can utilize AI-powered tools such as Keatext and Monkeylearn to analyze data quickly and efficiently. All you have to do is give them raw input such as customer reviews, email replies, or social media posts, and what you get as output are customer sentiments organized by category. Based on this info, small businesses can then figure out who their ideal buyers are, and create marketing campaigns that target them specifically.
AI For HR
Employees are the most valuable asset a company has. For a small businesses, having an engaged, well-organized workforce is even more important. However, it can be quite difficult to find the right people for the job, especially if you have to manually look over numerous applicants. Nowadays, small business have the option of using AI for HR work, which is a huge boon for HR departments. Software can automatically review individual applications to find whether the candidates match job designated job requirements. They can also determine who the best candidate for the position is, based on criteria you have specified beforehand. This can save a lot of time for HR managers, allowing them to focus their attention on other matters.
AI technology is making leaps and bounds each year, and we can expect the trend to continue in the future. As this happens, we can expect to see even more powerful AI tools on the market, a prospect that small businesses should welcome with open arms.