Q: How can artificial intelligence help my small business succeed?
A: Artificial intelligence can help your business succeed by streamlining your operations and automating tasks. AI also helps indirectly by providing platforms your business can use to reach potential customers.
Artificial intelligence is a hallmark of our current social landscape. From algorithms that curate our social media feeds to self-driving cars, AI is increasingly shaping the world we live in.
This proliferation of AI shapes the way people interact with the world. It’s a cornerstone of how we live and how we socialize.
That extends into business as well. Businesses need to interact with potential customers with convenience and expediency if they are to succeed.
Investment in global AI technologies demonstrates its importance on the global stage for small and enterprise businesses:
According to the non-profit Brookings Institution in Washington, DC,
“As of the end of 2019, the United States had the world’s largest investment market in privately-held AI companies, including startups as well as large companies that aren’t traded on stock exchanges. We estimate AI companies attracted nearly $40 billion globally in disclosed investment in 2019 alone …”
Unfortunately, many business owners launch without understanding the benefit of using AI for small businesses. They’re often so overwhelmed that they don’t realize how much easier their lives could be if they incorporated AI.
While learning about AI may sound like a daunting and complex undertaking, it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to become a programmer to use AI to your advantage.
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In fact, you don’t even have to take an AI for business course. This article will give you the information you need to start putting this powerful tool to work so you can grow your business.
- What is AI?
- What are some common uses of AI?
- How does AI change the business landscape?
- How can you use AI for your business?
What is AI?
According to Tech Target, artificial intelligence is “the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computers.”
In other words, AI is a tool that allows computers to take over the complex, intellect-based tasks a human would otherwise be responsible for.
In many cases, AI can actually do these tasks better than a human might. Computers can process vast amounts of information in very short periods of time, allowing them to make predictions and learn faster than a human brain would be able to.
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AI in the current world isn’t nearly as complex as a human mind. While it can excel at certain tasks, an AI program typically has a much narrower scope of application than a human.
An algorithm may be able to tailor your Instagram feed faster and more effectively than a human would, but that same algorithm probably isn’t going to be great at solving a puzzle or mapping you to Utah.
AI vs Automation
AI isn’t a feature of all machines or software. There are plenty of non-AI tools of modernity that can easily be confused for artificial intelligence.
The key distinction is that AI can reason and correct itself. It learns as it goes, become better at its job the same way a human would.
By contrast, an automated system simply does what it’s been programmed to do.
Consider a standard robotic answering service. The phone gets answered with the same prompt and the same menu each time a caller calls in.
The software doesn’t learn based on the customers’ frustration how it can better serve them. It simply repeats its endeavors over and over again. This is an example of automation.
If the system were an AI, it would adapt based on the outcomes of the calls, learning to provide better, more helpful responses over time.
Common Uses of AI
While not everyone is happy about it, these days AI is used in many areas of life.
One widely-recognized application of AI is in social media. Social media algorithms learn from your online activity what you like and don’t like.
From there, the algorithm applies these preferences to your feed, constantly adapting to provide you a tailored stream of content you’re likely to engage with,
Similar algorithms operate on streaming services. Netflix and Hulu are constantly recommending new shows and movies to you based on what you’ve watched previously.
But it isn’t just content that benefits from AI. Energy grids and home thermostats now use AI to plan energy production, allowing for more efficient use of resources.
Cars and navigation systems also use AI to help drivers avoid accidents and get to their destinations using the fastest routes.
Finally, online advertising and shopping are among the top uses for AI.
How Does AI Change the Business Landscape?
AI has completely changed the way businesses operate and compete.
Prior to AI, even leaders in the business world were taking something of a shotgun approach to advertising. They may have known that their target audience read a certain magazine or watched a certain channel, but that was about as specific as they could get.
Now, advertising is tailored down to the individual. Thanks to AI, a company can advertise directly to consumers based on their recent searches.
A person looking for boots will likely see advertisements for boots, greatly increasing the likelihood of them making a purchase.
This makes AI a must for most businesses. Businesses using AI will get to customers far faster than those who don’t.
AI is also used to organize information for the business itself. AI can compile business data and analyze trends therein.
This allows businesses to plan with greater accuracy for the future. There’s more certainty of trends in the market, making businesses more confident in their future endeavors.
How Can You Use AI for Business?
The most obvious way to use AI for your business is in your marketing strategy.
Running ads on popular platforms like Google or Facebook is a simple, cost-effective way to put AI to use for your business. These platforms use their algorithms to present your advertisements directly to the people most likely to respond to them.
This can dramatically boost your sales and improve your ROI on advertising.
But it’s not all just paid ads. You can also use artificial intelligence organically with things like content marketing or social media posts for your business.
Algorithms present people with the content that’s most likely to resonate with them or answer their questions.
If you produce content that speaks to your audience, these algorithms can be used to promote your business without needing to pay for direct advertising.
The most effective ways to do this require a bit of research. On social media platforms, understanding which hashtags are most likely to get your content seen is a must.
Using search engines is a bit trickier. You’ll likely need to learn about SEO and keywords if you want to rank in the algorithms of these sites. The investment is typically greater upfront, but the payoff can be huge.
Additionally, AI can automate your business processes.
According to Harvard Business Review, a survey of 250 executives who are familiar with their companies’ use of cognitive technology shows that three-quarters of them believe that AI will substantially transform their companies within three years.
AI can collect data about your business and present it in a form that’s easy to grasp. Not only can reduce your stress by making it easier to collect information, but it can also highlight trends and opportunities you may have missed.
This can save you money by allowing you to play to likely scenarios in the market, making you more effective as you expand.
Finally, AI can help you with your customer service. Using AI to respond to your customers when they have easy-to-answer questions allows you to be highly responsive, even when you’re off the clock.
This in turn can boost your sales and customer satisfaction, leading to better reviews and more organic growth for your business.
All of this combined, AI has a massive potential benefit to nearly any small business. It can make many vital business tasks easier while also ensuring you get the most out of your marketing strategy.
AI already plays a huge role in the way we interact with the world today. Moving forward, that role will only continue to grow larger.
The proliferation of this technology opens up a wealth of opportunities, especially for small businesses. You can use it to connect with your target market in highly impactful ways, regardless of the size of your company or your marketing budget.
This allows you to grow your business even when you’re a solopreneur trying to keep costs to a minimum.
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