It’s here people! We’ve heard for many years that artificial intelligence would take the world by storm, “just you wait”. Well, the wait is over.

With programs like Chat GPT4 booming onto the stage, and a variety of different programs in development, no doubt, small business owners with a sense of curiosity will already be scoping out which new technologies to harness.

One of the big questions right now is will there be significant competitive advantages for SMEs that embrace AI? What will you be missing out on if you don’t start adopting the new AI-driven class of solutions and software tools? Are there downsides to the rosy optimism of allowing AI out of the cage and letting it run rampant in your business operations?

AI may give time-poor small businesses a competitive advantage

Current sentiment and evidence tell us that small businesses that do embrace certain AI tools may gain a competitive advantage over those that don’t. It’s not hard to see why this idea is taking root.

Many small businesses operate on a tight budget and employ few people, which has always meant that those who discover leaner and more automated ways of working, tend to gain the upper hand (in terms of productivity and efficiency.)

When you compare a business that embraces automation (to streamline workflows and increase efficiency) to one that relies on manual and laborious processes, you see a business owner who has freed up time while increasing productivity. That business owner would surely have more energy to focus on cash flow and other profit-raising activities (that arguably give them a competitive edge.)

What can AI currently do for your business?

Let’s have a look at the current buffet of AI tools on offer and the possible benefits they bring…

Hot Tip: If you want to look more specifically at AI software you can use right now, see our article on AI tools you can harness right now in your business.

1.      Improve your website functionality

Not only can Chat GPT write code for your website, but AI tools can also optimise your existing site in other ways.

  • Personalise the user experience and display the most relevant content or purchase journey.
  • Help you better understand user behaviour so you can adjust your site or marketing.
  • Increase your website speed.
  • Better search functionality and user accessibility.
  • Optimise your site’s SEO performance.
  • Offer better customer service and sales through superior chatbots.

2.      Revolutionise customer service through chatbots

As mentioned, the ability to respond to customer queries through chat functionality may improve customer experience and boost sales. If you can deploy an AI-powered bot that can answer queries and direct potential customers to a sales journey, you can gain a fresh advantage over those without one.

3.      Save your time writing basic copy

Creating written content for marketing purposes is another advantage of AI. Using the latest AI tools, you can now easily pump out at least basic copy without breaking a sweat. This not only appeals to those for whom writing does not come easily but can increase your productivity as well. While human created copy is superior, sometimes it’s hard to get started writing, and AI can provide a base of words that you can tailor accordingly.

4.      Help you research a topic of interest

Tools like ChatGPT excel at answering questions and collating research. It can:

  • explain ways to improve your operations
  • devise business plans
  • business research
  • market analysis
  • almost anything you can think of…

5.      Improve your advertising and outbound marketing

There is a slew of AI tools out there dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of your advertising efforts. If you’re a small business and have little money or time to dedicate to optimising and creating banner ads, for example, novel AI software can do it for you.

6.      Create imagery

AI-generated art and imagery are coming along nicely. Don’t get me wrong ‘cursed images’ are still the mainstay – with odd human features and impossible representations, but it’s a start. Whether you want to create a logo or forgo stock imagery, AI art can help in seconds.

Drawbacks of using AI

AI is not a magic bullet and can come with numerous drawbacks.

AI-generated copy for example can be incorrect, poorly written, predictable, and lacking in personality and flair. Even if it does the trick, your brand or personal voice will not shine through. Often the best and most evocative copy comes with what are technically grammatical mistakes or unconventional syntax – on purpose – this will not come through with AI copy.

Some people despise chatbots and will never use them, preferring the human touch.

Your AI research may be wrong, poorly referenced, or only relevant to another country or situation.

AI art has an uncanny valley effect and can turn people off your brand.

As a business owner, new to the AI phenomena, you’ll also need to spend time and money buying subscriptions and learning how to use and implement these tools – in many cases, it may not be worthwhile.

So, while these tools and their potential to give businesses a competitive advantage are undeniable, you may not want or need them. Yet…