What you need to know about AI for your small business

For so long, the very thought of artificial intelligence (AI) conjured up images of science fiction films. But in 2023, AI jumped off the screen and into the mainstream.

What you need to know about AI for your small business

The release of a flurry of generative AI technology like the viral ChatGPT rocketed AI into the headlines as it became the new must-try tool for businesses and students with pressing assignment deadlines.

So, if you’re curious about AI and how it could support your small business, here’s what you need to know about the new generation of chatbots.

What are these new AI-powered chatbots?

Most people have had an interaction with a customer service chatbot that typically uses a narrow set of parameters to discuss and act on a customer issue.

ChatGPT, Google Bard and Bing AI are all generative AI tools that are designed to go much further. These perform tasks such as answering questions; writing content, emails, and code; or summarising complex documents or topics.

Generative AI uses prompts (instructions) to search the internet to find patterns in the reams of online text to provide answers to your prompts whilst using the thread of your conversation and previous queries to craft its responses.

What can AI be used for?

There are many ways you can use generative AI platforms like ChatGPT.

You can ask it to write everything from a love letter to a cover letter, a shopping list to a new computer programme.

You can also ask it prompts (questions) including everything from “which order should I watch the Star Wars movies in?” to “explain Einstein’s theory of relativity”.

The prompts you submit are used to define and refine the answer. The more detailed and specific your prompt is, the more precise its response is likely to be.

How can small businesses use generative AI?

AI can help small business owners gather information about best business practices and customer insights as well as automate tasks like content creation, product descriptions or social media management.

With the right prompts, AI can help small business owners to understand some of the key elements for starting a business, assist in building content for websites, improve customer service responses and boost sales.

What are the benefits?

Small businesses often are stretched for resources – time, people, expertise – to accomplish many of the tasks that will help them boost their business.

Generative AI can help offer additional resource to help to tackle many common issues facing small business owners, like marketing and customer engagement.

Ultimately, this technology can help level the playing field for small businesses when it comes to some of the most important business functions like marketing and insights.

You also don’t need to be a tech expert to use it and, right now, the applications are free.

What are the watch outs?

AI generative technology is still in the development stages, with Google’s Bard described as an “experiment” by the company.

Even the Chief Executive of OpenAI, creators of ChatGPT, Sam Althman acknowledged on Twitter that: “It’s a mistake to be relying on it for anything important right now…we have lots of work to do on robustness and truthfulness.”

AI may be able to quickly produce credible-sounding advice and content, but AI has no way yet to fact-check its own answers.  As a result, you need to review content and check for accuracy or bias.

Users also don’t know if the answers have been crafted using Intellectual Property (IP) from a competitor or proprietary source, which may create risks.

Further, it is important you don’t enter anything confidential or sensitive into the chat as ChatGPT saves user input to review for abuse or to help it improve.

Where should I start?

Once you’ve created an account with a chatbot like ChatGPT, Google Bard or Bing AI, you can start to play around with some of the inputs.

For businesses that are curious to try generative AI platforms, we’ve put together some starting points from our Prompt Library:

  1. Looking to boost sales? You could ask your AI bot to: “Share three effective strategies for building trust and rapport with potential customers.”
  2. Having trouble writing a product description? See what it suggests when you ask: “Act like a product copywriter and write a persuasive product description using sensory language to appeal to <target audience>.”
  3. Need some support with social media marketing? Try asking: “Create three captivating offers and call to actions to sell <product> to <target audience>.”
  4. Writing a reply to a customer? Try asking: “Act as a customer service coach that’s exceptionally courteous, friendly and respectful. Provide advice on replying to a customer that inquired about <topic>.”
  5. Want to avoid common business mistakes? “What are 5 common mistakes that <vertical> businesses make and share ideas on how businesses can reduce the risk of such mistakes.”

While generative AI technology is still very new and requires caution, it has the potential to support small and microbusinesses, opening up opportunities to access insights and create content well beyond the traditional reach of small enterprises.

Tamara Oppen
Tamara Oppen

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