In 2015, LeadGenius cofounder Anand Kulkarni said:
In just 10 years most salespeople’s’ jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence.
In reply, Forbes’ Steve Olenski responded
Salespeople are not going away. It’s the way that salespeople do sales today that will vanish. This key distinction being, it will not be sales as usual, only captained by robots.
The world is changing drastically. Think of the jobs that AI or other technologies have already altered or made obsolete. We already have self-driving cars! This will obviously have an enormous impact on business on a corporate level. But what’s most exciting to me is the impact it will have on small businesses.
As a small business educator and advocate, my focus has always been on how small businesses can compete with large corporations. While it’s not always easy, competing in the new economy is not going head to head against Amazon. It’s about shifting the focus to a game you can win. And that means having the right tools and strategies that help small businesses connect with customers in new and innovative ways.
And AI will be your star quarterback.
Here are a few ways AI is already impacting small businesses and how you can start incorporating it into your small business.
Getting Sales Data
In the beginning, I thought of Alexa as a very cool parlor trick. We would ask Alexa simple questions about the weather or to answer burning questions like: “Is Superman faster than a speeding bullet?”
Little did I know that Alexa is also one of the most amazing technologies for a small business available today. Through the Alexa Skills Kit, developers have created thousands of skills which is Amazon’s term for Alexa capability programming.
Here’re a few things it can help with:
- Calendar, conferencing, and scheduling
- Communication and collaboration
- Data and news
- Logistics, management, and finance
- Sales and marketing
One of the most innovative marketing uses for Alexa is Skillsai’s Sales Talk which allows users to ask Alexa questions like:
- What were my sales yesterday?
- How many units of air fryers did I sell last month?
- What are my top selling locations?
Not only would that save time, but you to go to meetings with the power of Alexa in your pocket. And Alexa’s new skills will only grow in the future. It will soon be like bringing your helpful and amazing assistant at your fingertips 24/7.
In How a Great Logo Makes a Great Customer Experience, Flavio Martins says:
“The simple, clean and clear vectors can make a good logo for any SMB on a budget. Designing a logo shouldn’t have to be expensive. Twitter paid just $15 for its logo and Nike purchased the swoosh for $35”
Customers want clean logos with simple designs. Now we even have the ability to use AI in helping us create logos and improve our branding image. While there are some amazing graphic designers out there, some small businesses may not have the budget to outsource thousands for a new logo. Designhill has created an AI-powered logo generator that: “constantly learns which designs work well together, so every time you use, our logo maker gets better”.
I tried using the system for a new nonprofit I’m working with called Project Kickstart. What I liked most about the tool is the color options, as I’m not great with color or with graphics. Here’re a few of the many options it gave me, including color combination and optional icon.
And one of the best things is new AI-powered technology isn’t out of most small business budgets as logos like this start at $20! To compete against corporations with entire graphics departments, small businesses will start turning to AI-powered tools that will help them create new content that looks like it was designed by professionals.
Advancing Marketing Automation
AI isn’t new to the sales world, as Salesforce’s Einstein has been around for a few years. Yet, AI-powered data analysis is only a fraction of where the technology will take us. And for those small businesses that need all the help they can get, we’re not quite ready to rely on AI for our marketing automation needs.
In Here’s What You Need to Know About Marketing Automation, Molly St. Louis explains:
Marketing automation at its best is not a plug-and-play kind of thing. It involves a lot of testing and retesting and while AI-powered technologies are definitely out there, they are still in their infancy and tend to require a lot of marketer supervision.
Marketing automation is a time-intensive strategy but well worth the effort when done right. Many small businesses just don’t have the manpower to supervise, test and retest AI-powered technologies. While we may have to wait for marketing automation AI that’s easier to implement into our small businesses, it’s something to watch for over the next few years.
A New Kind of Small Business
It’s fascinating to see how far technology has taken us over the past few decades. Just consider the phone. Back in the day, we had a fancy answering machine and no one expected us to answer business calls on the weekend. Now we have smartphones in our pockets and are expected to answer every new Facebook message in less than a few hours. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the weekend or at 2am.
Even though technology has taken us on a path I would have never predicted, one thing has remained constant: small businesses will never have the same resources as corporations like Amazon or Walmart. We can’t deliver the same low-prices or amazing shipping deals as our big brothers. But that doesn’t mean we can’t play the same game. We just need to find new strategies that help us do more with the limited resources we have.
And AI will help us level that playing field.