Artificial intelligence isn’t science fiction anymore. It’s an enterprise reality, and there are several market-ready ways for small to medium businesses to get started.
There’s a common misperception that advanced technologies like artificial intelligence are only an option for huge, multinational companies.
Owners of small to medium businesses (SMBs) have to compete with those companies, but often feel AI is too expensive to invest in at their level.
In reality, though, there are solutions on the market that put AI within reach for every budget.
What Holds SMBs Back
61% of American SMBs think artificial intelligence is something only large companies should do. They think their business isn’t ready for the technology, or that it can’t offer them enough to justify the expense.
Most concerns fall into one of three categories:
Industry articles about high profile AI projects usually list six figure costs and talk about budget overruns and delays.
That can be off-putting to risk-averse SMBs, who don’t have the depth of working capital necessary to absorb a large technology project failure. A loss that might give a multinational company a bad quarter would threaten an SMB’s future.
Tying up working capital in an AI investment is also riskier for SMBs. They need solutions that reach ROI quickly and are affordable in the interim.
It’s hard for some to recognize the business value of AI. SMBs have to make every investment count; they don’t want to waste their limited operating budgets on a passing fad.
Those who do recognize the potential regard AI as overkill at the SMB level.
From the outside- even from the inside sometimes- AI looks unmanageably complicated. SMBs don’t have the time to train their teams on complex data science tools.
Sometimes it’s not even clear what tools to choose or where to start experimenting with AI.
Leveling the Playing Field
Hesitations aside, artificial intelligence has incredible transformative potential for SMBs. When resources are limited, it makes every cent and labor hour count.
Data driven insights help identify issues before they have a major negative impact and spot opportunities early enough to take action. As the company grows AI lays the foundation for smooth operation at scale.
In other words, AI lets SMBs operate with the same level of agility and situational awareness as their larger competitors.
Right-sized AI Tools
It doesn’t take a multimillion-dollar investment to reap the rewards of AI. There are plenty of enterprise tools on the market that integrate artificial intelligence.
SMBs can start with these off-the-shelf solutions and build on their successes.
The leap from understanding AI’s potential to actually using it in a business context is a surprisingly short one.
Here are the easiest ways for small to medium businesses to begin taking advantage of artificial intelligence.
Boost internal efficiency with Intelligent Assistants.
Using intelligent assistants is a low-risk first step to AI adoption. It’s highly likely that SMBs already have access to some IAs even if they don’t recognize them as such.
Siri, Cortana, Amazon Echo, and Google Assistant are all intelligent assistants.
To get the most use out of the assistant, try integrating more of its features. Every IA is different, but their strengths usually include:
- Maintaining unified calendars and scheduling programs
- Efficient planning (for trips, meetings, deliveries, and other business activities)
- Voice-activated data searches
Better customer insights and marketing with Smart CRM Systems.
Intelligent CRM tools (like Smartforce’s Einstein AI) are a game-changer for SMBs. Now, companies can pull data from multiple sources to create a cohesive picture of their customer base.
Sales data, lead lists, social media, email interactions, and more are all combined to help find and keep the most valuable customers.
These applications guide marketing automation, too. Smart CRM systems provide the insight necessary for targeted email and text marketing.
When messages are sent to those most likely to be interested, open rates and conversions go up. It’s a low-effort way to drive sales.
Provide faster, more reliable customer service with Chatbots.
Chatbots are available all day, every day. They give customers a reliable point of contact without adding labor and free team members to handle unusual customer issues (or even move on to other high-value tasks).
Chatbots can feed data gathered from customer interactions into smart CRM systems, as well.
There aren’t any mature general-use chatbots, so this is a tool that needs to be built by a software developer. In spite of that, they’re more affordable than most people would guess.
An experienced developer can put a chatbot together relatively simply using platforms like Amazon AI.
Make timely, informed decisions with custom analytics dashboards.
Enterprise software often comes with embedded analytics for tracking data. The problem comes when companies are trying to juggle several tools that all have their own reporting systems.
Once SMBs reach this point, the next step is to have a custom analytics dashboard built.
A dashboard pulls data from multiple sources into one place to power data-driven decision making in real time.
The live feed provides a window into current and future operations. Instead of wading through pages of reports, leaders can spot opportunities for new promotions or possible problems in time to act quickly.
Getting Past the “AI Jitters”
At the end of the day, artificial intelligence has as much to offer small to medium businesses as it does for multinational corporations. It levels the playing field, letting SMBs operate like they have a team of analysts on staff.
Don’t be unnerved by AI. Treat it like any other business tool. Start with a small integration, learn what it can do and where the company’s needs lie, and move forward based on business goals.
Wondering how AI can help your business? Concepta offers free consultations to discuss where you’re going and how technology can get you there. Set up your appointment today!