Artificial intelligence (AI) is no more confined to big businesses. As the technology matures and becomes more affordable, it has found a place in startups and small businesses as well.
Do you need some evidence to support this position?
A survey of 1,467 CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) found that out of all the current technologies, AI has had the maximum impact on their business.
And, why wouldn?t it?
After all, AI tools outperform humans in many ways. They can:
- Handle larger volumes of data
- Identify data patterns that are opaque to the human eye
- Work tirelessly around the clock (without errors or prejudice)
Not only that, AI tools are becoming easier to use and lighter on the pocket. That?s why AI is permeating the small business ecosystem in a big way.
If you?re yet to embrace AI, you?ve found the right post. I?m going to discuss how to grow a small business using AI.
AI for Small Businesses: 4 Ways to Use It Smartly
The insights and efficiency that AI brings to SMBs can be a game changer for them. Though AI can streamline almost all business processes, here are four main application areas where it has had demonstrable success:
1. Boost Sales and Marketing with AI-Powered CRM Systems
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are used to gather customer information across communication channels such as telephone, email, and social media. From the gathered customer data, AI-infused CRM tools can decipher behavior patterns and analyze each customer?s position in the sales/marketing funnel.
They automatically adjust or trigger appropriate sales and marketing-related activities so that sales cycles are completed faster. This way, AI-driven CRM software can boost lead generation and improve conversion rates. You can generate more lead volume with the same marketing budget and multiply your marketing ROI multi-fold.
2. Optimize Customer Communication with an AI Chatbot
Customer engagement is one area where AI application has been explored to the hilt. Many small businesses don?t have the budget for a full-fledged customer support service. If that sounds familiar, you can attain great customer satisfaction rates by diverting a part of your limited marketing budget to chatbot development.
AI-based chatbots can initiate customer communications and answer simple questions. They keep users engaged and offer contextual shopping suggestions – all without the help of live customer care agents. Think of it as a sales rep that works 24×7 for a one-time payment!
The best part?
Modern consumers love bots. In fact, 61% of people prefer to ?converse? with bots rather than with human agents.
With bots, you can lower labor overhead, streamline customer communication, and improve your website dwell time considerably, and get results as per your marketing plan. What more can a marketer ask for?
3. Streamline Your Human Resources
Recently, AI has displayed immense potential in the human resources area as well.
How, you ask?
AI tools can scan thousands of job applications to find the ones that most closely match your hiring criteria. When you reduce your hiring time, you can invest more time into training new recruits.
Additionally, when the candidate is brought on board, your AI-based HR tool can serve as a knowledge resource for new employees on topics such as benefits and leaves. This way, you can save valuable time in individual counseling sessions and resolve employee questions promptly.
But that?s not all…
AI-based robots have found a fan in employees. According to Oracle?s ?Robots at Work? report, 64% of workers would trust a robot over their manager for advice. That?s because robots, unlike most humans, offer data-driven, prejudice-free advice.
In addition to the above, AI is also being used in HR to:
- Verify candidate backgrounds, work experience, and interests.
- Analyze the performance data of workers.
- Track employee sentiment and design engagement activities.
- Create agile, adaptive L&D programs for better learning outcomes.
In short, robots and chatbots can replace pricey human resources managers to a large extent.
4. Acquire Competitive Intelligence
To stay relevant and competitive, your small business needs to keep tabs on your competitors? strategies. Though you might be following your competitors closely on social media, can you forecast their advertising strategy or their influencers?
That?s the kind of competitive intelligence AI can acquire for you.
AI-driven analytics tools like Crayon can track your competitors across channels – online and offline – and catch the slightest change in their ad-copy language or pricing. You can respond faster and modulate your own strategies before your competitors can claim market share.
When you are competing against a billion odd small businesses, competitive intelligence alone is not enough to keep you ahead of the pack. You need consumer insights as well.
Here is an example to illustrate the point.
If you leverage social media advertising, you know how unpredictable the audience is. Day-to-day changes in user sentiment govern the fate of advertisers.
That?s where AI-based social listening tools can come in handy. They analyze how your target audience feels and talks about your brand (and your competitors). They can predict the colors that catch their attention and the action words that trigger them to take action.
With those kinds of consumer insights, you can optimize your ad elements and multiply your advertising ROI.
There was a time when only large enterprises had the budget to invest in AI. But as the technology goes more mainstream, small companies have joined the fray. If you don?t want to lag behind in this race, consider investing in one or all of the business areas explained above.
Do you have any questions about AI for businesses or its applications? Share them in the comments section. I?ll be back with the answers soon.