As if automation and technology were not transforming most jobs before the COVID pandemic, most futurists agree social distancing and telecommuting will become more embedded in the future of commerce. Businesses with larger infrastructure and bigger budgets have been able to adopt digital strategies quickly, transitioning to a remote workforce and updating their IT processes. But what if you’re just starting an online business and aren’t sure how you can create a business that scales easily early on? 

For years, it was assumed that small companies would become victims of automation as more significant, well-funded companies could easily take market share. However, recent development has made cutting edge technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), more accessible. Small businesses can benefit from AI—even when the business is just starting—in ways that larger businesses can. With that in mind, here’s what your small business should know.

Why AI?

According to a recent survey of small business owners conducted by Vistage, AI is the number one technology many are considering to drive their digital transformation efforts. Part of the reason is that AI-enabled tools can help reduce time and improve the flexibility and responsiveness of your business.

Up until this point, it was believed that AI was primarily the domain of large enterprises, but this is changing as new tools are introduced. Even if you have not started to use AI, it is about time you learned how these tools could transform what you do. If you are looking at how to save money, then AI can not only help your business, but the additional profits will help grow your bank account.

1) Use AI in Your CRM

It does not matter if you are running a pet grooming salon or a landscaping business; you should have all your customer information loaded into a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software solution. While these programs used to be the exclusive domain of big businesses, subscription costs have been coming down for the year, and these days even micro-businesses can benefit from it.

The bonus to having a CRM is that the major providers are adding AI features. These will help you to maximize your lead generation activities, gain insights from the market, and even from your sales data.  Depending on how your business works, you can also automate how you bring new customers to your business. What are you waiting for, use a CRM solution enabled by AI to get a leg up on the competition.

2) Use AI to Connect with Your Customers

Businesses large and small are turning to chatbots and other AI tools to talk to their customers. These tools are being used to bring websites to life, to automate customer service, and even to help initiate sales. Technology is accelerating so quickly that former presidential candidate Andrew Yang cautioned that chatbots could revolutionize how call centers and other customer service solutions operate in the coming years.

But AI is not just chatbots. The technology can also be used to make the most of your social media accounts by connecting you to influencers who can help to get your message out there. Or the technology can be used to start conversations with your current customers. Either way, your business cannot risk not using AI to connect with your customers.

3) Cut Down Administrative Time 

As a small business owner, you grow accustomed to wearing many hats. But did you know that AI can help you to cut down on administrative time? One area is human resources as tools can help to make it easier to hire and onboard new employees. Doing so will give you more time to spend training your new employees, or the free time you need to spend some time with your family.

In terms of recruiting, AI can search hundreds of applicants to find the best fit based on your criteria. When you decide to hire a candidate, AI can help to make sure the paperwork associated with onboarding someone is done correctly. Hiring the right people will save you a lot of money in the long run.  As such, you want to use AI to find the best people and then make sure they stay with you for the long term.

4) Gain Insights on Your Competitors

Have you ever wished that you could get the right information about your competitors and your market? In the old days, that information was solely available to the largest companies, but now you can use AI tools to gain actionable insights on your market and your competition.

One example of this is a competitor analysis tool called Crayon. This will help you to gather information from digital channels to help track promotions, feedback, and customer interest in the same people who are going after your customers. Also, these solutions can be used to find actionable insights where one might not have been readily apparent.

By Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles of partners on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to [email protected].