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Boost Your Small Business with these Must-Have AI Tools

By: Belle Wong, The Hartford

In recent months, ChatGPT has shown the world how far artificial intelligence (AI) has come. But as AI developers and software companies release more and more AI tools on a near-daily basis, it can be challenging to know which tools are worth it for your small business.

It’s worth digging deeper to learn more about the options available. By harnessing the power of AI, you can potentially compete with big businesses. Keep reading to learn more about the AI tools that can help take your business to the next level and beyond.

1. Chatbots Customers want support that’s fast, efficient and personalized. They also want it across multiple channels, including chat. But real-time chat can be costly for small businesses. Enter chatbots: the virtual assistant you’ve been wishing for.

What Can Chatbots Do? Chatbots are AI-powered software that use machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to understand your customers’ questions and provide appropriate answers—all in real-time. They can also manage multiple support interactions at once, which makes them incredibly efficient for automating your customers’ most common, simple-to-answer questions. For more complicated requests, you can program your chatbot to direct queries to a staff member and flag urgent issues.

Popular Chatbot Solutions Each chatbot solution on the market today has a slightly different set of features, so be sure to explore the options and see which would be the best solution for your needs. Here are a few popular chatbots to get you started:

  • Tars: Creates landing pages with a conversational interface to help answer customer queries and collect leads.

  • Zowie: Learns from customer interactions to help personalize your customers’ chat experiences.

  • Drift: Delivers personalized conversations across multiple channels, including chat, email and video.

2. Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics Have you noticed how big companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook always seem to know exactly what their customers want? It might seem like magic, but there aren’t any crystal balls involved. These companies make crucial data-driven decisions using BI and analytics tools. And so can you.

What Can AI-powered BI and Analytics Tools Do? Using machine learning, these powerful AI-driven tools work with your data to extract insights that can help you make better decisions. These tools can:

  • Collect and analyze customer data

  • Monitor social media conversations

  • Provide real-time inventory, sales and revenue insights

  • Forecast sales and demand

  • Generate personalized product recommendations

  • Analyze competitor data

Popular BI and Analytics Solutions The right BI and analytics tools can make a huge difference in gaining a competitive edge. Options include:

  • Tableau: Extracts and blends data from multiple sources and provides dashboards that derive insights from real-time data.

  • Domo: Combines data integration, real-time and predictive analysis, and enables you to build your own apps.

  • Sisense: Efficiently uses your hardware’s RAM, CPU and disk space for a more affordable way to run big data analysis.

3. Accounting and Finance Chances are you already use accounting and finance software. But did you know some of the most popular accounting solutions employ AI under the hood? And new AI-driven solutions continue to enter the market.

These tools help you save both time and money by automating processes and analyzing your financial data. This can free up resources so you can focus more on growing your business.

What Can AI-powered Accounting and Finance Tools Do? With AI-powered accounting and finance tools, you can automate your bookkeeping. This can include categorizing and reconciling transactions, generating invoices and even following up on overdue payments.

If you have employees, some accounting tools can calculate and process your payroll, including tax deductions and other withholdings you need to submit to stay compliant.

With all your financial data on tap, these solutions can also provide real-time insights on your financial performance by tracking revenue, expenses, cash flow and profitability. You’ll likely need this data when grappling with major hiring or product development decisions.

Popular Accounting and Finance Tools By replacing outdated accounting practices with AI-powered solutions, you can gain insights and automation to stay ahead of the curve. The following are some popular options:

  • QuickBooks Online Advanced: Offers a cloud-based solution leveraging AI, automation and data innovation.

  • Xero: Features an AI-powered cash flow forecasting tool and employs AI and machine learning tech to automate data entry.

  • Docyt: Automates repetitive bookkeeping tasks and uses AI to continually learn about your business.

4. Marketing and communications Your customers are bombarded with marketing messages every day, making it a challenge for your business to stand out. But with the help of AI-driven marketing and communications tools, you can cut through the noise and craft targeted and personalized messages that resonate with your customers.

What Can AI-powered Marketing and Communications Tools Do? Depending on the tool you choose, an AI-powered marketing and communications solution can help you accomplish a broad range of marketing-focused tasks, including:

  • Analyzing customer data to create more personalized experiences

  • Optimizing web content to improve search rankings and increase engagement

  • Employing AI algorithms to analyze advertising campaign data in real-time

  • Monitoring social media platforms for brand mentions and track customer sentiment (how your customers feel about your brand) and engagement

  • Conducting market research by analyzing customer feedback and other data sources

Popular Marketing and Communications Solutions The market for AI-powered marketing and communications tools is vast and diverse, so the right choice for your business depends on your specific needs. Here’s what three popular solutions offer:

  • Fliki: Turns your text into videos that use real-sounding AI voices.

  • Surfer SEO: Optimizes your website content with an emphasis on on-page search engine optimization.

  • Brand24: Monitors social media platforms and calculates sentiment, reach, and share of voice.

5. Workflow and productivity Want to get more done in less time? Need to take control of your to-do list? AI-powered workflow and productivity tools come in many flavors. They can help optimize your schedule, reduce distractions and eliminate time-consuming tasks.

What Can AI-powered WorkFlow and Productivity Tools Do? Depending on the tool, AI-powered workforce and productivity solutions offer a wide range of features, from task and project management to automating repetitive tasks. Whether powered by machine learning or NLP techniques (or both), these tools use AI to identify patterns and extract key information, such as deadlines or action items.

For example, some solutions can sort and categorize your emails, set reminders and notifications, and schedule meetings. Others optimize workflows by tracking progress and identifying bottlenecks. Other tools also enhance resource allocation, performance management, and team communication and collaboration.

Popular Workflow and Productivity Solutions AI-powered workflow and productivity tools can help you stay on top of just about anything you need to manage. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:

  • Otter.ai: Eliminates manual note-taking by using NLP technology to transcribe voice to text.

  • Zapier: Offers the option to integrate with OpenAI to automate tasks such as content creation and product development.

  • Notion AI: Provides AI capabilities to enhance Notion’s core task, document and project management functions.

Tips for Choosing the Right AI Tools for Your Small Business The AI possibilities for businesses are nearly endless. Here’s how to best navigate the vast range of options to find the right tools for you.

  • Identify your business needs. No matter what you need, there’s likely to be an AI tool designed to address that need. You can start to assess the options once you’ve identified your needs.

  • Know your budget. The price of AI tools varies widely. Consider conducting a cost-benefit analysis to determine the right budget for your AI investment.

  • Do your research. Compare features, functionality and pricing so you can determine which tools will work best for your business.

  • Maximize your existing tech. When shopping around, then, consider how a new AI tool will integrate with your existing systems and software.

  • Consider scalability. Even if you’re not focused on growth right now, you want a solution that’s easy to scale if your business grows in the future.

  • Invest in training. Make sure both you and your staff receive training on how to effectively use your new software so you can maximize your investment.

The days when “AI” was just a buzzword are long behind us. Today’s AI business tools have the potential to revolutionize the way you run your business. From streamlining your workflows to improving customer satisfaction, AI is poised to be a game changer for your small business.

SVA/SEWN does not endorse any of these products and receives no compensation for clicks.


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