Artificial Intelligence | Small Business Marketing

Limited budgets have traditionally left small businesses at a disadvantage when looking to market themselves. Thanks to affordable artificial intelligence (AI) tools coming to the market —  that’s all about to change. These tools are opening up new doors to advanced targeting and optimization that previously were reserved for larger organizations.

However, for startups and small businesses that also presents a new, rightfully intimidating learning curve. Artificial intelligence belongs in the realm of computer geniuses, right? Wrong. It belongs to you, the marketer. But where do you start and get up to speed?

The stakes.

The competition has never been more fierce for small businesses looking to stay alive. Amazon, for example, is looking to own everything from local grocery delivery to pharmaceuticals and household goods. Small-to-medium sized businesses (SMB), not working with a billion-dollar budget, can very quickly be eaten up and pushed out. The stakes couldn’t be any higher to grow and retain customers — in some cases existing customers represent 40 percent of revenue — and AI is going to help level the marketing playing field.

Trial and error exercises in marketing are costly, and most small businesses can’t afford the risk of tactics that may or may not have the right impact on customers. Through the application of an affordable AI tool, marketers can tackle this uncertainty and benefit from recommendations for search, social and mobile advertising that are already optimized to provide the best results and drive traffic to best performing ad options. No more wasting money to “see if it works.”

Of a similar nature, AI allows for real-time competitive reporting that can help SMBs make recommendations on how to better compete in areas of weakness compared to other companies in the market. And, as any good marketer knows, customer satisfaction is paramount.

In fact, 76 percent of customers now report that it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere — switching from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations. With AI, smart client management tools become accessible to the SMB, increasing the usefulness of the data gathered on social, emails and calls by providing deeper insights into what customers and clients want and might need in the future.

How it all works.

Big data and data intelligence have been buzzwords for years. Until recently, it has been difficult for any company that didn’t hire from a very limited pool of data scientists to take that data and actually do something with it.

AI solutions for marketers leverage big data to audit current traffic and ad performance to make real-time recommendations on the most valuable ads and strategies worth investing in.

What might take a marketing team days, weeks or even months to evaluate success and what worked or what didn’t work, AI can handle that same task in a matter of minutes. A smart AI platform will conduct predictive tests — if X amount of budget goes in Y strategy, based on historical success, we’ll make Z amount of money. The machine learning working behind the scenes allows the system to simultaneously take into account each ad served and the resulting conversation (or lack thereof) to influence future decisions about where the ads should be placed, who should get the ads and what forms of advertising are resulting in the most conversation/leads.

The potential ROI.

Implementing AI technology into the marketing process is intimidating, but at some point, it will be an inevitable undertaking. Companies that wait too long to embrace it will find themselves on the wrong side of profitable. The potential ROI from AI is just too great to resist for too long.

Especially as new tools becoming increasingly accessible, small businesses will be seeing some of the largest benefits. SMBs will save money by avoiding the wasted cost of failed marketing efforts like poor performing ads, lazy personalization, misunderstanding audiences and who needs what ad and the like. They will also save time, finally finding an efficient and cost-effective strategy to collect and analyze data from different solos and move quickly to make better decisions.

Until recently, large corporations have been the only teams in town with enough capital to take advantage of AI-driven marketing tools. However, as the price points have lowered and created a more approachable entry point for the SMBs to get in the game too, it won’t be long until more mom and pop shops and startups are feeling the benefits of this type of technology as well.

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