5 Ways Small Business Can Utilize AI

While the best time to start utilizing AI in businesses was last year, the second-best time is right now.
Scott Hoek
May 16, 2024

AI hype is incredibly prolific right now, maybe even more so than top-five lists in your newsfeed.  And sure, this article is both of those things, but I would argue there is one thing that sets this post apart: much of the discussion around using AI is focused on big corporations and California startups using the technology to crunch data and whip up futuristic solutions for global issues.  But what about the little guys?  This article is for the under dogs, the micro-enterprises looking to harness AI without needing to sell a kidney.

#1: Data Entry & Parsing

At some point, every business needs to take unstructured data – an email, a handwritten note, a coffee-stained napkin with the CEO's latest game-changing idea – and turn it into structured data, like a spreadsheet or record in a CRM or database. Typically, this sort of data entry is handled by humans who make mistakes and could be doing much more valuable things with their time – we can use AI to make this process faster, more accurate, and more efficient.  

For an example of this, let’s look to one of our clients in the wedding industry – there are several online listing services that function as lead generators, but the services this client used offered no automated way to add data to an external CRM.  We developed an automation that grabbed the email notifications from these platforms, used AI to parse lead information, and structure that data so it can slide right into their CRM.  

This saved our client countless hours every week of parsing lead details from different sources, and the same technique could be applied to almost any situation where data from one source needs to be reformatted to fit another.

#2: Personalization & Follow-up

Every lead is an opportunity, a potential love story between your business and a customer.  But no love story with a happy ending ever begins with a ghosting.  It can be hard(and generally not a lot of fun) to make sure you follow up with each and every lead that comes through your door, but adding as much automation to this process as possible greatly reduces the friction.  Not to mention AI can bring your basic templates for personalization to the next level.

For example, we built an AI tool for one of our clients that, sticking with the love-story metaphor, is like their business wingman.  It takes personalization beyond the dreary "Dear [Insert Name Here], I have a solution for [Insert Industry Here] professionals sure to help you out at[Insert Company Name Here]" template – rather, it reviews notes and generates messages that follow your template close enough to keep the idea and message but rephrased to use the client’s own language, improving open and reply rates by making each communication feel more personal and considered.

#3: Feedback & Survey Analysis

Anyone can send outa survey, but taking action based on survey results requires quite a bit more work.  And with the help of AI, you can get actionable insights without the time it takes to sift through each and every response.  In fact, a core part of our efforts for each of our marketing clients is dispatching a survey to their customers and letting AI dig through the data to unearth common themes and pinpoint what aspects of their value proposition stands out the most to their customers.

#4: Lead Scoring & Segmentation

Just like you can use AI to determine the sentiment and find core themes in survey submissions, so too can you use it to score and segment new inquiries.  Simple AI automations can evaluate incoming leads based on criteria you set, scoring them to ensure that the hottest of hot prospects get the fast track.  You can also use AI to slice and dice your customer data into segments based on their top ‘hot buttons,’ preferences, how likely they are to laugh at your jokes, etc., and further increase the personalization of your marketing efforts.

#5: Content Creation

There’s nothing worse than a blinking cursor on a blank page.  Generative AI can get you a first draft faster than you can say “deadline.”  From blog posts to tweets (Xes?  Xits?  Xcretions?), a little creative prompting can provide the inspiration you need to create content that informs, resonates, and ranks.  

For the record, we do still believe that humans are critical to the creative process – even soulless corporate marketing copy – but utilizing generative AI to start with something, anything, makes the creative process a breeze.

How Can AI Work For You?

And that concludes our list of five ways for you to inject AI into your small business before the bots decide they’re better at running it than you are.  We hope this inspired you to think about different use cases for generative tech that might apply to you – and if it did, we’d love to help you implement it.  

We believe in making this technology accessible and affordable for our fellows in the small business community, so reach out to us if you’re ready to embrace the future together.