How to Use AI for Small Businesses: Best Tools and Practices
The Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry is one of the most popular topics in the news and on social media. As of 2022, the AI industry was worth over $142.3 million, and it’s projected to reach over $1.75 billion in less than a decade. AI is receiving all of this attention because it provides value, which is why AI for small businesses is such an important topic.
Today, you’ll learn how AI in business is changing the landscape by increasing productivity, improving the customer service experience, and more. We discuss these topics as well as what AI is and how you can best implement it to grow your business and catch the eyes of investors.
How AI Can Help Your Small Business
Whether you’re selling a product or service, one of the primary goals is optimizing your time to focus on tasks that make the business more money while also allowing you to cut costs. That’s where AI can help the most. AI can help make your workflows more efficient, limit errors, and help with cybersecurity.
A great example of the usefulness of AI is in the realm of customer service. While areas like customer service are crucial to a business, the top AI companies are creating easy-to-use programs that can help improve the customer experience without talking to a human unless necessary.
As a small business owner, you may not have the expansion funds to increase staff, so AI may be the perfect solution.
What is AI?
In short, AI can perform cognitive functions without having a biological brain. It can do cognitive tasks such as reasoning, interacting with an environment, solving problems, learning, and being creative.
There are concerns about AI, but some of these concerns are sensationalized. AI outperforms humans in some cases. One study found that AI outperformed humans when creating a pitch deck, but we’re a long way from AI taking over the world. It simply improves some tasks for now but ultimately needs a human behind the steering wheel.
AI vs. Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence is the primary system, and machine learning is a function within AI that helps it work. As you learn more about artificial intelligence, you may also come across the term “machine learning,” which differs from AI, so it’s helpful to know the difference. Machine learning uses algorithms that analyze various large data sets to inform AI decisions by learning from insights.
Over time, machine learning will improve the capabilities of the AI system. For example, you may have heard of ChatGPT and AutoGPT, which utilize machine learning to improve tasks. The first time you instruct ChatGPT to do a task, it may not come out the way you’re hoping, but as you give it additional instructions, it will improve the results due to machine learning.
How Does AI Think?
AI doesn’t think like a regular human, and understanding this will help you get the most from using different AI tools. AI “thinks” by using “if so” and “if not” logic. For example, if you own a candy shop and a customer asks AI for gift options, the AI can check the date. If it’s near Valentine’s Day, it can recommend a heart-shaped box of assorted chocolates, but “if not,” it can provide more general options.
GPS systems are another common form of artificial intelligence that tries to find you the fastest routes based on various data and factors. Over the years, GPS systems have learned that traffic based on the speed of other cars on a route or traffic cameras will provide you with an alternative route.
4 Best Ways to Use AI for Small Businesses
There are many AI tools for your small business, and we cover some ways various tools can assist you. As the AI industry continues to grow, you can expect to see many more innovative products come to market that can help with your day-to-day tasks while also saving you time and money.
1. Increase Productivity
One of the primary benefits of AI is that it can increase productivity. Every employee has different skill sets, and AI may be able to assist with different tasks and projects while decreasing the time it takes. They say time is money, and AI productivity tools can help save you time so you can focus on making a profit.
Some ways AI can increase productivity include:
Drafting emails: If there’s poor communication within a business, it can cause roadblocks in projects or cause unnecessary back and forth. AI can help draft emails based on a few prompts or summarize notes.
Analyzing data: Spreadsheets sometimes have large data sets, and AI can easily comb through the data to find the important information you need.
Creating spreadsheet formulas: A common use of AI technology is saving time by having AI create formulas within spreadsheets.
Making edits: Rather than going back through your presentation or email multiple times, AI can edit your writing for brevity or highlight key points. It can also adjust the tone to sound more professional or casual.
Creating meeting agendas: AI can check chat history and create meeting agendas to ensure you don’t miss anything from previous conversations.
2. A Better Customer Service Experience
Customer service is sometimes more important than the actual product or service of the business. When customers have questions or issues, they want prompt service that resolves their issues. You can train AI to respond to customers quickly with the correct information, which is another time saver.
AI also helps customers by:
- Being able to respond after-hours via chatbots
- Directing customers to helpful webpages with answers
- Answering common questions
- Knowing when it’s time to transfer the person to a human
Some businesses are even using AI voice generators for phone communications. Due to vast improvements in AI technology over the years, some customers may not even realize they’re not talking to a human.
3. More Secure Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is a concern of many small businesses, which is why AI is such a valuable tool in this area. According to the FTC, there were almost 400,000 credit card fraud reports and 377,000 cases of identity theft in 2021. Data breaches can affect a business’s finances by stealing information, and cybercriminals can also obtain sensitive customer information.
One of the primary reasons AI is better than traditional cybersecurity software is that it has enhanced pattern recognition. For example, when employees log in to your systems, their behaviors are monitored, and AI recognizes these patterns. Should a cybercriminal steal someone’s login, AI can recognize anomalies and alert the systems administrator.
AI cybersecurity constantly looks for unusual activity, actively stops threats, and alerts you before data breaches occur. To do this, it integrates with other aspects of your business by looking at accounting, inventory, and other areas where irregularities can lead to fraud or theft.
4. A New Form of CRM
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are essential for businesses of all sizes. In fact, one of the top small business mistakes is not knowing who your best customers are. AI integrations with CRM can help you identify your best customers and alert you to potential marketing opportunities.
AI can also track customer behavior to provide insights and automate processes based on these behaviors. For example, let’s say a customer visits a product page once or twice without making a purchase. Once the AI recognizes this behavior, it can automatically send out a small coupon to encourage the customer to make the purchase.
Are There Any Challenges Using AI for Small Businesses?
Although AI can help your small business in many ways, there are also some challenges. It’s beneficial to know what these challenges are before going all in on AI so you can weigh the pros and cons to allocate your resources appropriately.
Some common challenges small businesses face when using AI include:
Cost: As a small business, you may have a limited budget, and AI upfront costs and maintenance can be pricey.
Research time: Before investing in AI for your business, it’s important to do your diligence and research AI and various products. You don’t want to spend money on a product that may not be as useful as you expect.
Acceptance from staff: Getting your team to adopt new technologies can be difficult.
Integration: When you integrate AI with your systems, it will take additional resources to change workflows, processes, and employee roles.
The Value of AI for Small Businesses
AI can add an endless amount of value to your small business. Not only does it help you better understand your customers by analyzing data, but it learns more about your customers over time. With its cybersecurity and customer service capabilities, AI can help ensure your customers are happy while also protecting their data.
As mentioned above, AI comes with some challenges, but many small businesses are successfully using AI. You can maximize the effectiveness of AI by properly evaluating your business’ needs and seeking guidance from experts while also doing the proper research.
The technology is growing fast, so the tools will improve over time. Utilizing AI can help your small business stay ahead of the competition, but there is a learning curve. By using AI for your small business, you can get a head start as the industry continues to innovate.
Does Your Small Business Need a Loan to Get Started with AI?
As a growing small business, it may be difficult to afford the AI tools that can help your business succeed. AI tools may cost thousands of dollars per year, depending on the product. If you need funds to acquire the AI tools to help your business, allow Clarify Capital to help. We offer small business loans, and we pride ourselves on being one of the most trustworthy lenders in the industry. We have competitive interest rates starting as low as 7% with no collateral needed, so apply today.