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6 AI Business Tools for Entrepreneurs on a Budget AI-driven software systems could translate to measurable value, such as sales leads and cost reductions, for any size business.

By Brian Hughes

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) resources are touted as necessary tools to compete in today's market, and many businesses are jumping on the bandwagon. In fact, AI usage grew 270 percent over the last four years, tripling in the last year alone, according to a 2019 survey by Gartner. One likely reason? Current data demonstrates the real value and benefits of these tools. Among early AI adopters, 83 percent achieved substantial or moderate economic benefits, according to a Deloitte study.

Here's how entrepreneurs can leverage AI and machine learning (ML) to benefit their own small businesses and startups.

Lead generation and sales

AI-driven lead intelligence software systems can deliver significant value for any size business. As reported in Harvard Business Review, companies using AI for sales increased their leads by more than 50 percent, reduced call time by over 60 percent and realized cost reductions between 40 percent to 60 percent. There are many options on the market that small businesses could use to reap similar benefits.

A few examples: OptinMonster is a lead generation resource that delivers a full range of AI marketing and sales tools, and it's priced for small businesses. Salesforce offers AI customer relationship management (CRM), as well as specific products and pricing for small businesses. Using these or other AI software products, you can ideally personalize engagement, anticipate needs and improve lead quality.

Data collection and analysis

Innovations in AI data collection and analysis can provide small companies with critical decision-making information, similar to their larger counterparts. These systems use internal data as well as collect it from various sources to present a complete view of the business and marketplace opportunities. One of the most comprehensive data analytics AI systems on the market is IBM Cognos. Its user-structured dashboard offers visual representations and actionable reports based on data, and the information is sortable by date, geographic location, product line and more. Plus, it has a varied pricing structure.

Human resources

Human resources (HR) activities can be transformed through AI. Today, HR delivers a complex array of services, including recruitment, engagement, benefits management and continuing education. Balancing these activities can be challenging, but AI tools can help streamline many of these functions.

There are several AI recruitment companies that can meet a variety of small business needs at an affordable price. For example, TextRecruit is a viable option for hiring hourly workers, while Arya is a good choice when for finding someone with specific talents and skills. Another option: RampUp, which provides recruitment in specific industries. Beyond recruiting, AI tools can help to simplify and manage day-to-day HR responsibilities. Zenefits is one option for small businesses; it streamlines and automates many HR functions (think: payroll, benefits and the like) and provides ongoing data to help keep things running smoothly.

Competitor analysis

When running a small business, it can be challenging to keep track of your own activities, so paying close attention to the competition can feel like an impossible task. Using AI, companies such as Crayon can track competitors across most digital channels, including social media, to gather a variety of information that users can then apply to their own company's pricing, marketing language and more. In addition, systems like this can identify and analyze market trends to deliver actionable intelligence for strategic planning and marketing.

Customized options

Sometimes an off-the-shelf AI product doesn't offer the features you need or come at a price that fits your budget. Designing your own AI can be expensive, and the growing shortage of AI talent, as discussed in a recent PwC report, makes this option out of reach for most small businesses. However, there are many free and open-source AI software systems available for use. Some require the services of a programmer, but others can be helmed by anyone with decent computer skills.

A few examples of customized options: IBM Watson is one of the best-known free, open-source AI software options; with it, you can build your own models from scratch or use pre-built enterprise apps that meet your needs. RPA by WorkFusion offers a free non-code system for customized AI automation options, including chatbots. Matomo delivers a complex business data analytics system that's free if you install it on your own computer, though some plug-ins must be purchased, and its cloud-based system offers affordable pricing for small and growing companies.

Brian Hughes

CEO of Integrity Marketing & Consulting

Brian Hughes is the founder and CEO of Integrity Marketing & Consulting, where he helps his clients build powerful brands through inbound marketing. He is a frequent contributor to several other sites.

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