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Does Your Small Business Really Need AI?

Does Your Small Business Really Need AI?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be intimidating to small businesses. In fact, a survey commissioned by Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) last year found 61 percent of small business owners felt they weren’t ready to adopt it. They felt AI was too complicated for what they needed.

Salesforce wants to change that perception with its AI platform, called Einstein.

Does a Small Business Really Need AI?

Small Business Trends spoke with Tony Rodoni, Executive Vice President for SMB sales at Salesforce, about AI and what it can do for small businesses.

The Big Brands Are Already Using It

Whether small businesses are ready or not, big brands are already using AI to stake out huge territory, says Rodoni.

“Apple’s Siri uses natural language processing to recognize voice commands. And companies like Amazon, Netflix and Spotify are using machine learning to understand how items in their catalogs relate to one another and their customer’s preferences,” he says.

AI Adoption by Small Businesses

Small businesses can do the same. But the pace of technology adoption by small businesses isn’t always fast.  Salesforce’s 2016 Connected Small Business Report notes only 21 percent of small businesses are using features like business intelligence software and analytics.

Rodoni explains what they’re missing by not adopting AI.

“AI has the potential to make every company and every employee smarter, faster, more operationally efficient and more productive,” he says.  “For small businesses with limited time and resources, the ability to work smarter and automate basic tasks can be a life-saver. That’s why we launched Einstein.”

In fact, small businesses that are early to adopt new technologies look bigger than they are. Rodoni has called this the blowfish effect.

The Benefits of AI

Maximizing resources and prioritizing time are just two of the benefits of artificial intelligence.

With AI, you can predict customer service issues before they happen. AI can help you identify the prospects that are most likely to buy your goods and services. Your marketing efforts become more personalized because you have more information about customer preferences to work with.

The benefits of AI include the ability to help your business:

  • Automate the send-time for your marketing emails to arrive when they will most likely be read.
  • Figure out which segments of your audience to target with the greatest expectation of return on investment.
  • Predict the amount of sales in your pipeline — even before the results come in.
  • Predict your most important sales leads.

Spending hours sorting through spreadsheets, hunting down leads or tweaking marketing campaigns manually can be things of the past.

It’s Good for Growth

Rodoni draws a connection between AI and success for startups.

“I believe that AI is a necessity to growth,” Rodoni says.  “Behind every deal, every order and every opportunity is a customer. AI marries human interaction and machine intelligence in a way that enables companies to better connect with their customers.”

Artificial intelligence works to scale, another win for the smaller shop.  Not only that, it leads you to the right customers and helps you to engage them. At the same time, it automates tasks across marketing, service and sales.

Choose Vendors That Incorporate AI into Products

Once small businesses have gotten over their initial apprehension, integrating AI into their businesses is easier than might be expected. You don’t have to master the technology underlying artificial intelligence. You just have to find the vendors that have mastered AI and incorporated it into their product offerings.

In Einstein’s case, it’s an add-on to the Salesforce platform.

“The beauty of Einstein is that it’s embedded directly into the Salesforce platform. Customers don’t need to do anything to start using it or seeing the benefits – it just works,” Rodoni says.

Image: Salesforce

This article, “Does Your Small Business Really Need AI?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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