Artificial Intelligence (AI) is growing globally, and many small businesses are embracing AI tools; whether it’s to streamline marketing strategies or optimise business operations, integrating AI into your small business could save valuable time and boost overall productivity.
How AI tools can help start-up owners
Small business owners can leverage AI tools to automate repetitive and simplistic tasks, such as:
- monotonous data entry
- round-the-clock general customer support opens in new window
- create simple visual content designs
- create written content, which helps to ensure that written work is grammatically correct and error-free
- analyse data and offer accurate insights into a business’s performance, audience engagement, and user behaviour.
By employing AI to streamline operations, small businesses could focus on strategic aspects of their business and better prioritise workloads, thereby scaling their operations effectively and accelerating growth.
With this knowledge, business owners can better understand what is and isn’t working so they can adjust and optimise their strategy.
Additionally, AI algorithms have the intelligence to process high quantities of data quickly and precisely.
Small businesses could use this insight to identify trending articles, blog posts opens in new window, videos, or social media posts opens in new window that align with their business’s niche or target audience – enabling them to keep up with ever-changing industry trends and ensure they share relevant content with their audiences.
Before you get started with AI though, its worth making sure that your business has the appropriate data protection permissions opens in new window in place to be able to use any AI.
Read our guide on ten reasons to start your own business opens in new window.
Free AI tools to help your business
Chatbot platforms make it easier for businesses to communicate with their customers without the cost of operating a call centre or hiring staff to handle customer contacts.
They perform best for general customer questions opens in new window, such as opening hours, return policies, and promotions.
- Chatfuel opens in new windowcould help your business trim excess time spent handling common customer service enquiries and issues by providing round-the-clock chats that offer automated responses to general customer questions.
- Tars opens in new window allow businesses to broadcast messages to multiple users at once, such as alerting them to new offers on products and services, saving them more time than if they were to message each customer individually.
Social media posting and analysis
Social media management platforms could be a valuable tool for many businesses that rely heavily on social media marketing. opens in new window
Many platforms have integrated AI tools that make it easier to use and their features more effective.
- Buffer opens in new window enables businesses to schedule, prioritise, and publish posts to multiple social media platforms from one dashboard. It features an AI assistant that can help generate new posts for social channels, repurpose existing posts, and brainstorm ideas.
You can also respond to various social media messages, mentions, and comments directly from Buffer, which will help you maintain a professional image, reply promptly, and build a rapport with customers in a time-effective manner.
- Hootsuite opens in new window allows businesses to consolidate all social media platform’s posting schedules in one place and prepare a specific posting routine; businesses could save time and have a reference that easily allows them to keep track of all posts across multiple platforms, mitigating human errors. It includes AI tools to help generate content that can be used in social media posts.
Find out more about how social media can help your small business. opens in new window
Read our helpful guides on the benefit of social media platforms for your business:
- Twitter opens in new window
- Instagram opens in new window
- LinkedIn opens in new window
- Facebook opens in new window
- YouTube opens in new window
- TikTok opens in new window
Content generation and optimisation
Using AI tools to support creating visual and written content could save valuable time and avoid the cost of hiring designers and copywriters.
- AI opens in new window has a library of various design templates and layouts that can help small businesses create professional-looking presentations quickly. You don’t need to be a design expert, as the platform’s interface allows you to easily design attractive slides and add visual content while ensuring any important information is communicated plainly.
- Chat GPT opens in new windowcan benefit small businesses for predominantly research purposes as it holds extensive general knowledge and can provide rapid and clear answers to specific questions, thereby reducing the time spent creating long-form content. It’s worth knowing that its knowledge is limited to information prior to 2021, so information is not up-to-date. It has a limited free version (ChatGPT 3.5) and a more advanced paid-for version (ChatGPT 4) that provides more naturalistic responses to questions.
- ai opens in new window can support small businesses in several ways, as it can help to create compelling content such as social media posts, meta descriptions, and blog articles.
Email marketing automation
Email marketing platforms offer small businesses numerous templates for customised marketing emails to customers.
- Mailchimp opens in new window allows small businesses to segment email lists based on various criteria, such as age groups and customer purchase history, and has over 20 AI tools covering everything from content creation for emails to predictive segmentation for customers.
For example, customers who frequently make purchases may be segmented into a particular category that will get weekly updates on new products similar to those they bought.
It also tailors emails to individual customers, as it automatically includes their names and an option to email them on their birthdays, adding a personal touch to their communications.
- Brevo opens in new window(previously called Sendinblue) contains built-in SMS marketing strategies; you can use it to send your customers text messages and emails.
Read our guide on email marketing tips opens in new window.
Sales and CRM automation
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools allow small businesses to store large quantities of customer data and contact information.
- HubSpot opens in new window> provides a concentrated view of each customer, which can indicate their consumer behaviour, and it provides a straightforward way to record deals and monitor sales pipelines. An AI assistant can respond to natural language commands, such as asking for marketing reports, and it has recently added an AI tool to assist with content creation.
Tips for integrating AI tools into your business
Assessing specific needs and priorities of the business
Different AI tools complement different businesses, so it’s a good idea to evaluate your particular business needs to determine which AI tool could benefit your business.
For example, an online food shop could find value in AI tools such as HubSpot, which monitors customer behaviour and tracks their preferences.
If they have customers who frequently buy vegan products, you could strategically promote the latest vegan products to them via email marketing campaigns.
However, an organisation specialising in selling artwork online will likely attract and retain customers via more social media-orientated AI tools like Buffer, allowing you to consistently reach your audiences across different social media platforms and alert them to new sales offers or promote exciting new products.
Start with one or two AI tools first
Using too many AI tools at once can be overwhelming and counterproductive to your marketing efforts, so it’s a good idea to prioritise one or two AI tools, to begin with, allowing you to focus on the benefit they can bring to your business.
AI tools are not perfect. The quality can be variable and successful outputs can be tied to how much time and effort is put into ‘training’ and ‘prompting’ an AI tool.
Ensure it is profitable
If your need for an AI tool requires a premium subscription, it’s a good idea to evaluate the tool’s effectiveness for your business and consider the return on investment (ROI) to ensure it is viable for your business’s growth.
Keep up to date with the latest AI tools
Staying informed about the latest AI tools and developments in the industry by following blogs and social media channels focusing on AI development tools could help you find the most beneficial tools to support your business.
Consider attending industry events with previews and tutorials on the latest AI tools, like the Deep Learning Summit. opens in new window
Want to learn how to manage your start-up’s finances? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.
Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:
- Introduction to bookkeeping and accounting opens in new window
- Financial accounting and reporting opens in new window
- Financial methods in environmental decisions opens in new window
Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.
Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.