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A guide to AI marketing for small businesses

A guide to AI marketing for small businesses

Posted 17th January, 2019 by Aidan

AI – a single acronym is barely enough to do the topic justice. At one end of the scale you’ve got the Chinese banks that are staffed entirely by artificially intelligent robots and at the other end of the scale you’ve got the likes of Alexa, which despite being set up in an estimated one in ten homes in the UK, is often used as nothing more than a glorified music player.

Of course, in between, there are the multinational companies that invest billions into developing AI technology and products...

  • There’s Amazon’s AI-powered shop in Seattle, which monitors customers’ shopping and charges them as they leave the store via an app.
  • There’s Uber, which uses AI to calculate fares and match drivers with passengers.
  • Then there’s Virgin Holidays that uses AI-powered software to automate and optimise the writing of its marketing email subject lines, with the machines outperforming humans by up to 10 per cent for open rates.

In fact, a report by McKinsey and Company suggested that bigger businesses have tripled their investments into AI since 2013.

But what has any of this got to do with small business? Are there any ways that SMEs can harness AI today, without selling the family silver?

Surprisingly there are. Here’s a round-up of all the ways entrepreneurs can become early adopters of AI technology without going to too much effort or expense.

Off the peg AI

Contrary to the media hype, investing in AI doesn’t have to mean building a robot. There are several ready-to-buy products that small businesses can invest in today that allow them to harness the power of AI within their day to day operations.

AI in online advertising

You might not be aware, but Facebook and Google’s advertising platforms use AI and machine learning, and small businesses can harness this AI when they run advertising campaigns.

One example can be found in Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences product. This allows businesses to upload their customer contact lists such as phone numbers and email addresses. Then Facebook will use machine learning to find similar groups of people and it will show the businesses’ adverts to these people.

AI in pay per click

For as little as £200 a month, businesses can invest in the AI tool Aquisio to help them optimise their pay-per-click advertising campaigns and get more conversions for their budgets. The company claims to be able to deliver an eight per cent increase in clicks, a 22 per cent increase in conversions, and a 10 per cent decrease in cost-per-click through its machine learning solutions.

AI for CRMs

SalesForce has been offering its customers access to AI since 2016. It calls the product range Einstein AI and it can currently be added into any sales cloud available through SalesForce for as little as £45 per user per month.

Einstein AI analyses your sales data to help sales staff prioritize leads that are more likely to convert and to recognise new opportunities within accounts. There are also options for marketing. Einstein Social Insights is built into the company’s Marketing Cloud Studio product and this gives you a deeper insight into customers by analysing social conversations.

AI for marketing insight

MonkeyLearn is another AI based tool that can assist small businesses with their marketing efforts. It allows you to utilise machine learning to do things like obtaining actionable insights from outbound sales campaigns, understand how your brand message evolves over time, and research your competition and what people like and dislike about them.

AI for admin

Don’t worry we’re not talking about eliminating the role of a PA here. However, there are AI products out there that make scheduling meetings with everyone from in-house staff to freelancers and clients a whole lot easier.

The x.ai product lets you ask a scheduling app to book in – for example – a 20-minute call with another person. The app will then give that person a selection of times based on the information it has taken from your diary. Then when the person responds with their preferred time, the app will book that time into your schedule. Pricing starts at £6 per person per month.

AI for live chat customer service

It’s now possible to add a basic chatbot to your website on a budget. At the most basic level, chatbots allow customers to access your support or sales team easily, and if there’s no one around to take the enquiry, it can delay customers comfortably with a message such as ‘we’re just waiting for an operator to become available’. It saves clients the pain of listening to recorded hold message or irritating hold music on the alternative phone lines.

Companies like WhosOn offer basic services like this, as well as upgraded fully-functional chatbots designed to engage with customers on a more human level and answer more complicated queries.

AI to watch for the future

There are many other AI products on the market that are just slightly out of the budget of smaller businesses at present. As demand and therefore competition grows, however, prices are likely to reduce.

Products to keep an eye on include:

Crayon: Crayon uses AI to essentially spy on your competitors. It lets you keep tabs on their pricing changes, customer reviews, marketing campaigns and more.

My Recruiting Assistant: Mya is a recruiting app that can communicate with candidates via Skype, email or text to pre-qualify candidates for roles.

Digital Genius: Digital Genius is an AI platform that claims to ‘put your customer support on autopilot by understanding conversations, automating repetitive processes and delighting your customers’.

Categories: Tips, Marketing, Small Businesses

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