How AI can boost your business

Artificial intelligence software can solve problems faster than any human. Having AI on your side is a clear advantage for any business. But if you’re a small or medium sized enterprise (SME), you can’t afford to have hundreds of developers creating these tools – so how do you access the power of AI and get your business that boost?

Use existing AI technologies

There’s no point reinventing the wheel when big companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are spending so much money making it round and available in a dozen different colours. Tapping into existing AI technologies is a great way to harness their power without taking on unnecessary development costs.

Tackle the problems that matter to you

Don’t waste your time chasing a 0.001% conversion rate improvement when your mailing lists are in a mess. AI isn’t yet smart enough to know which problems are most important to solve (although it can help do some of the analysis) so you’ll need to set your priorities yourself. Fortunately, machine learning and AI techniques are being used by more and more companies, which means that whatever problem you’re trying to solve, whether it’s SEO or logistics, personnel or sales contacts, someone will probably have a tool that can help.

Jump on a sexy bandwagon

An Amazon Alexa skill or a Google Home app might not seem like the most obvious next step for your business, but jumping on a trend can be a great marketing tool. These new voice-operated systems use machine learning and AI to develop and improve their interactions with customers. Getting behind the scenes by creating your own app part of this ecosystem can provide you with valuable insights into your customers and the giants who mediate so much of what we do online – and now in our homes.

Automate customer services

You can’t do away with people entirely, but intelligent customer service software can reduce the pressure on your in-house team, which is great news if the ‘team’ is just you! These tools use responsive programming to adapt to customer queries and provide better answers as they learn. They are ideal for routine enquiries and can be used with both telephone and online chat systems. An added benefit is that they reduce the number of repetitive and dull tasks human agents need to perform, increasing job satisfaction.

Analyse your customers

A fairly obvious way to use AI is to improve your sales by anticipating what customers want and need. A wide range of sales tools, from giants like SalesForce to independent start-ups use AI to manage customer data, help sales teams develop and maintain relationships with key customers and suggest product options and new product ideas. As a small or medium sized business, it’s important to be critical of what the AI option offers: is it something you actually need? Can the product provide a good return on investment? An overpowered tool you can’t use effectively is a poor substitute for a savvy salesperson with a battered Rolodex.

Improve your marketing and SEO

It seems slightly dystopian, but we’ve reached the stage where it’s more effective to set AI software to work battling other AI software in order to win the hearts, minds and money of actual humans. Modern internet search engines use complex algorithms to determine which page or product is shown to which viewer. They are now so highly evolved and opaque that you can get very different results if you do a search on your phone or laptop, from Hampshire or Surrey, at 3am or 3pm. This is a nightmare for SEO and marketing teams operating in competitive markets. As a result, a plethora of AI bots and programmes have sprung up to help marketing experts and business owners alike battle the algorithms that shape our world. As a side benefit, these tools can often automate part of your marketing efforts. For example, given the keywords for a particular offer, they may be able to generate and post social media updates, carefully spreading them out for maximum impact on both actual followers and SEO.

Keep track of your competitors

If you’re in a crowded market, it can be impossible for any human to keep track of everything that your competitors are doing, tweeting, posting, vlogging, and offering, never mind analyse their actions fully and formulate your own set of prioritised reactions. Thankfully, computers are very good at wading through thousands of bits of data and pulling out those that match certain criteria. Thanks to machine learning and AI, modern software is increasingly able to spot what’s important or requires an urgent response without needing the item to exactly match detailed criteria. You can see this in action if your email service automatically prioritises certain messages or weeds out spam, and this expertise can be applied to your competitors’ Twitter feeds, too.

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