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5 Ways Small Business Owners Can Benefit from Artificial Intelligence Today Artificial intelligence can be used to greatly improve your business. Here are the tips on how to start.

By Artur Kiulian Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Artificial intelligence and machine learning are often associated with tech giants like Google and Amazon that have created the most popular machine learning libraries and platforms. Since efficient AI/ML solutions require vast volumes of costly data to train, small companies are often reluctant to integrate AI into their business workflow. These worries are overblown though. These days, turning your small business into a full-fledged data-driven company might be easier than you think. To prove this, here are five easy tips on how to kickstart AI transition of your small company right now.

Intelligent CRMs

CRM systems are designed to compile information about consumers across different channels (e.g email, phone, social media) and to provide sales forces with an integrated environment to manage interactions with current and prospective consumers, and automate marketing and lead generation.

Related: 5 Reasons Machine Learning Is the Future of Marketing

These days, small businesses can benefit from AI functionality embedded into popular CRM platforms like SalesForce. In 2016, SalesForce launched its Einstein AI, which allows developers to integrate AI functionality into their CRM applications on top of Salesforce. Einstein AI can help small businesses analyze consumer sentiments in recorded phone conversations, emails, social media posts and customer reviews, evaluate the customer feedback, and adjust marketing and lead generation activities accordingly. Sales persons of small businesses can get a better understanding of customer intents in inquiries to automatically route leads, personalize marketing campaigns and more. With AI-enabled CRM, small businesses can automatically get more insights from their customer data and make their marketing and sales teams more efficient and consumers more satisfied.

Intelligent customer service solutions

Customer service and support are one of the key components of efficient customer retention and satisfaction. However, the quality of customer service might deteriorate when support agents have to perform menial and repetitive tasks instead of focusing on unique support experiences for consumers.

To make support agents more efficient, small businesses can integrate AI software into in-house customer services. Such AI solutions as Digital Genius, for example, can suggest or automate answers, and classify tickets and messages to quickly route them to the right team, freeing up your support agents' time for dealing with issues which require human engagement. By using AI in their customer service, small businesses can radically reduce average handling time and automate repetitive questions to reach the ultimate goal of improving employee and customer satisfaction.

Related: Artificial Intelligence Is Likely to Make a Career in Finance, Medicine or Law a Lot Less Lucrative

AI for marketing

Managing marketing budgets efficiently often requires deep domain expertise, which entails additional and often undesirable costs for small businesses. Fortunately, these days small enterprises can use even modest budgets effectively with AI solutions for marketing. Small businesses can entrust their marketing campaigns to such AI-powered platforms as Acquisio, which manages marketing operations across multiple channels (e.g Adwords, Facebook, Bing), analyzing advertising performance and making informed suggestions about the best budget distributions in terms of PPC (pay per click).

Using AI marketing solutions, small companies can find the best marketing strategy and dramatically reduce their CPC (cost per click) thanks to the sentiment analysis algorithms that analyze customer engagement with their marketing campaigns. Automation of regular bids and efficient budget monitoring will also mean saving money on hiring additional marketing and advertising staff.

Related: Want to Be More Like Amazon? Start By Making Your Startup More Data-Driven.

AI for competitive intelligence

When your competitors produce gigabytes of content and hundreds of updates each day, it may be hard to keep track of their strategies. Knowing your competitors well, however, is crucial for reacting to market trends and staying competitive.

Fortunately, AI-powered competitive analysis tools like Crayon can help you address this hard challenge. Crayon AI can track your competitors across different channels (websites, social media, web applications), identifying price changes and subtle modifications in messaging and PR activities. In pair with powerful natural language processing and business metrics, this functionality can give small businesses a better understanding of ongoing changes in their competitors' strategy. In addition, AI-enabled competitive intelligence involves powerful analytical capabilities that allow for instant identification of competitors' product gaps, weaknesses and strengths which can be used to adjust your own business strategy and be never blindsided by the competitor's actions.

Related: Top 10 Best Chatbot Platform Tools to Build Chatbots for Your Business

AI-ready solutions

Nowadays, small businesses can plug AI-ready tools into literally every element of their business workflow that involves data. Leveraging state-of-the-art sentiment analysis, classification and prediction algorithms small business can instantly draw useful business insights from any bit of their data.

For example, with such AI-enabled tools as Monkey Learn, small companies can use sentiment analysis and entity extraction in their Google Sheets, CSV and Excel data without any coding. It's easy to integrate, and the platform also enables automatic classification, tagging and processing of support tickets, and classification of inbound emails and other communications. The system can be also used to analyze product reviews and distill them into useful reports containing practical business insights. All these features will save small business the cost and time needed to review data flowing into their communication channels.

As AI/ML market is booming, small businesses have more options to kickstart their AI strategy now. Instead of hiring additional data scientists and marketing specialists, small companies can use third-party tools with easy-to-use interfaces and efficient machine learning functionality to plug their data and workflow into intelligent platforms. Workflow automation coupled with business intelligence will save small businesses time and money while enabling them to stay competitive in the emerging data-driven economy.

Artur Kiulian

Partner at Colab

Artur Kiulian, M.S.A.I., is a partner at Colab, a Los Angeles-based venture studio that helps startups build technology products using the benefits of machine learning. An expert in artificial intelligence, Kiulian is the author of Robot is the Boss: How to do business with artificial intelligence.

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