How AI Can Transform Your Small Business

Brian Moran, Writer, Small Business Expert, and Podcaster
Smiling businesswoman sitting at desk with laptop computer and looking at camera.

Chances are you have heard about artificial intelligence, commonly known as AI. And, if you’re like a lot of small business owners, you’re not sure whether—or how—this technology can help your small business.

The good news is that AI (and more specifically, generative AI) can transform your business. Traditional AI uses existing rules and data to perform a particular task but doesn’t create new information. Think Siri or Alexa.

Generative AI—or Gen AI—goes a step further. By definition, this technology “generates” new content, including text, images and more. In the process, Gen AI can help you increase productivity, improve customer service, personalize your marketing, develop products, reduce costs, and more.

What AI Can Do for You

For example, Gen AI can help you:

    • Create content for marketing and sales materials, including social media posts, blog material, and sales pitches 
    • Develop ideas for new products and ways to improve existing ones
    • Enhance customer service by using chatbots and virtual assistants to offer instant responses
    • Automate repetitive tasks, such as inventory management, email content and reports to free up resources and improve efficiency
    • Analyze data and offer insights to help you make more accurate decisions

A recent survey by FreshBooks found that most small business owners use Gen AI to write content, especially website material and social media posts, while a smaller number use the tool to create images and do business research. A few use Gen AI for customer support and communications.

In preparing this article, I asked the best-known Gen AI tool, ChatGPT, to give a restaurant owner some ideas for increasing revenue. The tool provided more than a dozen suggestions, including:

    • Improving the website and social media posts
    • Building upon online ordering and delivery
    • Analyzing the menu to identify popular and profitable dishes
    • Offering daily specials and limited-time offers
    • Enhancing loyalty and rewards programs

Granted, none of these ideas are earth-shattering. However, they might spark some other ideas that could help restaurateurs be more successful.

How to Get Started Using Gen AI

Hopefully, this discussion has made you curious about AI. But sometimes the most challenging part is getting started. Fortunately, that is getting easier by the day. Here are some suggestions:

    • Find the right tools. There are many tools to choose from. In addition to ChatGPT, check out BardJasper, and DALL-E2, among others. Stick with tools from reputable companies that have been vetted. Many are free. Set up accounts on these tools. And check out reviews and pricing on sites like G2, Software Advice, and GetApp.
    • Take an online course. Some suggestions from Fortune include offerings from Google, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California at Davis, IBM, and Harvard. All these are free and can help you and your employees. 
    • Check other educational resources. Search for “Gen AI” or “ChatGPT” online. You’ll find lots of blogs and webinars to help you get started.

Tips for Using GenAI

 Here is some advice on how to get the most value out of the Gen AI tools you select. 

    • Keep your confidential information secure. Be careful about the information you put into the tool. It may land in the public domain. So, don’t put anything private or sensitive in the tool, like your business plan, copyrighted material, or financial information.
    • Practice writing “prompts,” the overall term for the instructions or questions you provide the Gen AI tool. The more detail and context you provide in your prompt, the better the response. 
    • Write lots of prompts. Since Gen AI processes information in a flash and learns faster than we do, the more you use the tool and tell it what you want, the better response you’ll probably get.
    • Check your sources. Don’t “set it and forget it.” Thoroughly cross-check the tool’s output for accuracy and to ensure it is not copyrighted.

Make your own decisions. Do not make decisions solely based on Gen AI output. This output may help you consider alternatives and analyze the pros and cons. However, you need to evaluate the situation and make your own decisions.

A Final Word

The point is to get started. Small businesses cannot afford to ignore generative AI because it is changing how work is done. And Gen AI is quickly evolving. New tools are being launched regularly. So pay attention to this technology and grab the new opportunities it presents to transform your business.

For more GenAI tools, read “6 AI Tools for Your Small Business” And to learn more tips for running and growing your small business, visit the resource page at Index by Pinger.

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Brian Moran

Brian Moran is an entrepreneur, podcaster, and small business consultant. He is the creator and co-host of the podcasts “Bricks or Sticks,” and “Small Business Edge.” His career includes management positions at The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, and Success Magazine.

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