AI for Small Business: Part 2

group of marketers using ai for small business

Last month, we took a bit of a technical look at what makes artificial intelligence tick. While a look under the hood may be a bit of a mindboggle, it hopefully gave you a small understanding of how AI works. With that out of the way, though, it’s time to get to the “good” stuff: How to implement AI for small business.

From automating routine tasks to getting insights into customer behavior, there are plenty of ways to use AI. Let’s explore the practical applications and other benefits!

Benefits of AI for Small Business

In knowledgeable hands, AI can be a powerhouse of a marketing tool. We’re not talking about the low-quality engagement farming and spam posts you see on Facebook. We’re talking about the companies who grow with the help of AI used in thoughtful ways. Let’s dive in.

Improved Efficiency

No business is free from tedious and time-consuming tasks; after all, invoicing, scheduling, and inventory are important parts of most companies. AI-powered tools can be implemented to handle those things so you and your team can focus on projects and other tasks that drive growth.

Enhanced Customer Service

Chatbots generally induce eye rolls at their mere mention, but a high quality, AI-powered one can provide real value to your customers and enable you to step in when need be. It means 24-hour support that provides answers to common questions and minor issues. These tools can even analyze and learn from previous customer interactions to be more effective in the future by establishing a “knowledge base”.

Data-Driven Insights

Customer data is readily available. It’s knowing how to use it that’s the real trick. Sometimes, though, there’s simply too much data available, to the point where it’s a huge task just to take it all in. With artificial intelligence, the analysis can be taken care of without taking up the time of you and your team. Tend to more pressing tasks while your customer data is organized in a way that helps you strategize, develop products, and improve customer service.

Cost Reduction

Time is money, which is why freeing up your employees’ time is so vital. When they’re not tied up with menial tasks, they’re able to help in significant ways, leaving the tedium to the AI that truly doesn’t mind doing those “bland” chores. We guarantee the fees for even the best AI tools out there will be significantly less than paying an employee to do these same tasks (and take much longer to do them). Put your people to work doing things that inspire them! The technology will handle the rest, with monitoring of course.

Practical Applications of AI in Business

The potential uses of AI for small business goes beyond answering queries and taking care of tedious tasks. If you have a deep understanding of how to implement it, you can take advantage of some impressive potential.

Operations and Inventory Management

Do you constantly struggle with inventory issues? If you don’t order the right amount of inventory, you take a hit. Empty shelves mean dissatisfied customers and packed ones represent money your business wasted. With AI, you can predict future inventory needs using market trends and other data. Additionally, it can help plan supply chain routes and schedules to minimize shortages.

Finance and Accounting

Data entry and other bookkeeping tasks can become quite time consuming and tedious. With the help of technology, you can free up time and reduce errors. Furthermore, AI can be utilized to detect unusual activities in transaction patterns to help combat fraud. When your finances are protected this way, it makes financial planning much easier.

Marketing and Sales

AI has the ability to analyze any data presented to it. We touched briefly on this while discussing data-driven insights above, but it goes deeper than that. It can take in client behavior such as social media activity to help you identify your target audience. Additionally, it can segment your customers for personalized marketing pushes. And of course, it can provide a big assist in creating content that your customers find valuable.

Human Resources

Say you’re in the middle of a hiring push and you’re sitting on hundreds or even thousands of applications. It’s a good problem to have, but a problem, nonetheless. With artificial intelligence tools can screen resumes and identify top candidates, which speeds up the hiring process and helps you select the right person for the job.

Steps to Implement AI in Your Small Business

Knowing the benefits of AI for small business, it’s time to implement the tools themselves. But how do you do that? If you need some pointers, we’re always happy to help, but here are a few tips for making sure you’re handling it correctly.

  1. Identify Areas for Improvement: When you know where your shortcomings lie, you’ll have a much easier time with implementation. If you struggle with inventory, start there!
  2. Research AI Tools: Not every AI tool is the same. Some are built for small businesses, and others are for more personal uses. We suggest opting for something that’s scalable and user-friendly.
  3. Pilot Projects: Don’t trust your new AI software with your biggest project. Start with a small project to measure effectiveness, and trust it with incrementally bigger tasks as you get comfortable with it.
  4. Training and Development: AI is useless if 90% of your company doesn’t know how to use it. Take the time to train your employees and make sure they understand the tools.
  5. Measure and Optimize: Keep track of how the AI is doing. If you have the data to back up performance, it’s easier to make adjustments or leave it as is.

Challenges and Considerations

With every new technology comes reservations and distrust. We’re already seeing a good amount of it in regards to artificial intelligence. Understanding what AI is and does can help to dispel rumors about it being the “boogie man” of the tech world, but there are considerations to take into account that aren’t black and white.

Budget Constraints

AI can offer an appealing return on investment, but that doesn’t make the up-front cost of some tools less intimidating. Take some time to evaluate the long-term benefits posed by AI and make your decision based on your findings. Try out the free level of some tools for a taste before fully jumping into a paid subscription.

Data Privacy and Security

One reason many of your customers have for sticking with you is their trust in you. That’s why it’s important to maintain that trust throughout the AI implementation process. If you’re using AI in business, it’s important you comply with data protection regulations and have good security in place so you can safeguard your customers’ sensitive information. Your business location and where you service customers have a large impact on your ability to utilize data, so be sure to check into regulations and restrictions.

Skill Gap

AI isn’t necessarily an “Easy” button. Technical expertise is required to use it, so investing in training and hiring professionals could bridge this gap.

Change Management

Change can be scary for employees who have gotten used to their roles and the tools they use within them. When you’re getting ready for AI implementation, have a change management strategy in place. Be ready to communicate, train, and take other measures that will ensure a seamless transition to whatever new processes are presented.

The Future of AI in Small Businesses

AI is growing at a rapid pace, constantly shaping the landscape of countless industries in the process. It will continue to evolve by helping with customer insights, automated processes, and advanced analytics. This means your business capabilities will be enhanced, but you’ll need to keep up to stay competitive. If AI implementation never happens at your business while others thrive with it, it can be tough to regain your footing. No matter your thoughts on this technological behemoth, it’s part of our world now. Just as the internet shaped the professional landscape, this is doing the same.

Embracing AI for Small Business

New tech can be intimidating, but the benefits AI offers are undeniable. Improved efficiency, enhanced customer service, data-driven insights, and cost reduction are all benefits made possible by AI, and approaching them in a careful, intentional way can help you keep up and see your business thrive.

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, trust a business that has taken the time to use artificial intelligence in an effective way. Get in touch with ArachnidWorks and let’s set our sights on the future!

AI for Small Businesses: Part 1

business partners on a laptop

What is AI? We’ve seen it in countless TV shows, movies, and books. From R2-D2 and C3PO wandering the desert to Arnold Schwarzneggar’s T-800 declaring, “I’ll be back,” intelligent machines have long been a staple of science fiction—except now, the “fiction” part is becoming a thing of the past.

Unless you’ve been living off the grid for the last few years, you’ve heard the term “AI” (or Artificial Intelligence) frequently. After all, it’s taking the world by storm and shaking up industries in some pretty significant ways. The entertainment, restaurant, industrial, and even marketing fields are being affected by it. People are utilizing AI for small businesses wherever they can to improve processes and products, and why wouldn’t they? It can be a huge time saver and help you run your business! But as with any technology, how to use AI for small businesses is a skill that requires practice as well as trial and error.

It isn’t just about typing in prompts and using exactly what AI spits out. It’s about making the effort to learn the ins and outs so you can realize its full potential for your business. Using AI for the sake of using AI won’t help you in the long run, so let’s go over the knowledge you’ll need to know how to use AI—more specifically, how to use artificial intelligence for businesses. 

How It Works

We don’t want to bore you with too much technical stuff, but a general understanding of how these systems work can help you utilize these tools better.

Machine Learning

Machine learning enables computers to teach themselves using data and its patterns. Say your friend is trying to perfect a cake recipe, and they’re using you as their test subject. They bake several cakes that are slightly different. Some have more sugar, while others use different icing.

After you try out each cake, your friend asks for your opinion. You give feedback like, “This needs more sugar,” and your friend adjusts the ingredients to take that into account. With enough recipes and feedback, they refine their recipe to make the perfect cake. That’s the general process the machine learning model uses.

Deep Learning

Deep learning is a subset of machine learning that focuses on neural networks that are modeled after the human brain. Essentially, it goes through a learning process similar to our own. There’s a lot of trial and error that helps it learn and improve based on its mistakes.

Say you want to teach a computer how to play Pac-Man. Before deep learning, you’d have to tell all of the rules in excruciating detail. Now, you’d simply tell it to play the game until it got the hang of it. It would start out moving randomly, collecting a few dots by accident and getting killed by the ghosts. But it would learn from those experiences; eating dots is good and ghosts are bad. Eventually, the computer would get really good at the game. It would develop strategies to avoid the ghosts, learn the ideal routes to take, and teach itself how to maximize its score.

The processes that drive this kind of AI learning come together to achieve a huge array of things. Image and speech recognition, healthcare diagnostics, and natural language processing (NLP) are all able to be handled by a deep learning model. Speaking of natural language processing…

Natural Language Processing

Using AI for small businesses relies heavily on Natural Language Processing (NLP). This is how computers are able to understand and generate language in a way that makes sense. If everything we’ve discussed so far is what powers C-3PO’s “brain,” NLP is what helps him speak his mind!

In order to understand Anakin Skywalker (his creator), C-3PO used data available to him to learn things like sentence structure, word classification, and implied meaning and generate coherent words based on them. His artificial brain formed thoughts as data, and that data was translated into audible words that Anakin could understand. Thus, they were able to have conversations! 

Identifying Your Business Needs

Now that you have a basic understanding of how AI works, let’s take the first step to utilizing it to help your business. Before you even begin to type AI prompts, you need to identify what your business goals actually are.

Assess Your Challenges

What does your business’s current landscape look like? What are your pain points and where could you improve? Consider all of these things and imagine the possible solutions you could implement with the help of AI. Whether it’s improving your processes, better understanding your customers, or bolstering your product offerings, there’s a use for AI here!

Define Your Objectives

What do you want to achieve by implementing AI? SMART goals are probably something you’re familiar with, so let’s start there. Make sure your objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. As an example, you could set a goal of increasing customer engagement by twenty percent within four months by using recommendations from AI.

Blend AI With Your Overall Business Strategy

AI initiatives should never replace your processes. Rather, they should be used to bolster your existing ones and align with your business strategy. Integrating it into your big vision helps it become a valuable addition rather than a pet project.

Next Month: Implementing AI for Small Businesses

The inner-workings of artificial intelligence are complicated and technical. We hope you stuck with us through that, because in part 2, we’ll get to the even better stuff! You’ll learn to use your understanding of AI to improve your processes!

In the meantime, we’d love to answer any questions you have about artificial intelligence for businesses or marketing in general. Reach out and strike up a conversation!

Unlocking the Potential of Google Ads: A Beginner’s Guide

marketer utilizing google search engine and researching for google ads

Google Ads is a powerful tool for businesses looking to reach their target audience and boost their online presence. But how does Google Ads work, and how can beginners harness its potential to drive success? 

Understanding Account Structure

Google Ads has many layers to setting up and managing campaigns. The key components consist of: 

  • Account: This is the top-level structure where you manage all your campaigns. 
  • Campaign: Within your account, you create individual campaigns. Each one has its own budget and targeting settings. You can have multiple campaigns within a single account, each serving a specific purpose.
  • Ad Groups: Inside each campaign, you create ad groups. These are a way to group related ads and keywords. They help ensure that your ads are highly relevant to the keywords you’re targeting, leading to better performance.
  • Ads: In each ad group, you create specific ads that will be displayed to users when they search for targeted keywords. You can create various types of ads, including text ads, image ads, video ads, and more.
  • Keywords: Keywords are the search terms or phrases that trigger your ads to display. Relevant keywords are added to each ad group.

Understanding Keywords

Your choice of keywords plays a pivotal role in determining your ad’s success. There are different keyword match types offering varying levels of precision. These include:

  • A broad match with the advantage of casting a wide net and capturing synonyms and related terms. However, it has the downside of lacking precision. 
  • A phrase match that narrows the scope by requiring exact keyword matches within a phrase. 
  • An exact match is highly precise and only displays ads when the query that’s searched matches the keyword closely
  • A negative keyword is used to exclude ads for specific terms, so you won’t waste resources on irrelevant clicks.

Types of Bidding Strategies

Google Ads offers a variety of bid strategies, each designed to align with specific campaign objectives and budgets. Whether you’re aiming to increase website traffic, drive conversions, or boost brand awareness, understanding the nuances of these strategies is essential to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your digital advertising efforts. The most common bid strategies are:

  • Manual CPC (Cost-Per-Click): With this strategy, you manually set the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a single click. It provides full control over individual keyword bids.
  • Target CPA (Cost-Per-Acquisition): You specify a target cost per acquisition, and Google uses machine learning to adjust your bids to reach that goal. It’s ideal for driving conversions at a specific cost.
  • Maximize Conversions: Google aims to get you as many conversions as possible within your budget by automatically adjusting your bids.
  • Maximize Clicks: This strategy is designed to get as many clicks as possible within your budget. It’s an ideal option for increasing website traffic.
  • Target Impression Share: You specify the desired impression share (the percentage of times your ad appears) and Google automatically adjusts your bids to reach that goal.

Targeting the Right Audience

It’s crucial to understand who your audience is and what they want because this allows you to focus your efforts on the people who would be the most likely to give you the highest rate of return. One method, demographic targeting, allows you to tailor your advertising according to age, gender, interests, and more. You can also use geographic targeting to specify where your ads will be displayed, so that you reach the right geographical audience, whether local, national, or international.

Monitoring and Optimization

Regular monitoring and optimization are essential for success. Keep an eye on your keywords and change them if needed. Test and refine your copy for improved click rates. Standard A/B testing can be effective in helping you find ad messaging that produces the results you’re looking for.

Don’t forget to optimize landing pages and adjust your bidding strategy. Use ad extensions to make them more informative and appealing. Take advantage of negative keywords to filter out irrelevant traffic. You should also keep an eye on your competitors’ strategies to gain valuable insights. 

A Treasure Trove of Opportunities

Google Ads helps businesses thrive. While mastering its intricacies is quite challenging, the potential rewards are significant. It’s important to work with experts who understand all of the nuances of this platform. ArachnidWorks is a Google Ads partner; a status given to companies that have a proven track record of account success and have met certification requirements. Contact us today to learn how we can take your company to the next level.

How to Handle Negative Reviews

woman using her cellphone to write a negative review about a business

The digital landscape can seem unforgiving—especially if you’re a business owner. You have to make sure your website is attractive and functional. Social media is a constant beast that needs to be tamed. And of course, there are reviews coming in from a plethora of platforms.

We’re here to discuss that last bit with you. While positive reviews can be a great boon for your company when they’re positive, poorly handled negative reviews can have the opposite effect. No company is immune to bad reviews, so it’s important to be prepared to address them.

What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Say

Wording is key when responding to negative feedback. The customer who provided it is likely irritated, so it’s up to you to perfect the balancing act of acknowledging their critique while offering compensation or letting them know their words have been taken to heart.

First of all, don’t dance around the subject. “Grab the bull by the horns,” as they say, and don’t shy away from this feedback. If a customer leaves feedback complaining of an accidentally foul-mouthed plushy, tell them you’re sorry for their poor experience. Assure them that the toy they just gave to their niece wasn’t supposed to start shouting obscenities at her. Offer a refund or store credit, and don’t hide behind made-up excuses. Let them know that this issue will be addressed as quickly as possible, and invite them to keep in contact to maintain a dialogue.

And then there’s what you shouldn’t do…

We’ve all seen those viral responses in which a company goes on the defensive and roasts a customer who may have been too aggressive in their review. While this route may be cathartic in the short term, it will rarely work out in the long run. Instead, be prepared to answer their concerns, but don’t be overprepared. Having a highly templated response that you can just plug some words into can add fuel to a fire. These responses are often easy to see through, and the lack of sincerity is noticed immediately.

Crafting an Effective Response

Hopefully, you’ve chosen to take the high road when responding. Hopefully you’ve put some thought into your response strategy, but what should your response actually say?

Let’s stick with the theoretical foul-mouthed plushy example. You just got a one-star review on Google because, through a programming error, the toy was saying wildly inappropriate things. Your response might look something like this:

“Hi, Melanie. We appreciate you reaching out to let us know the plushy you gifted to your niece was saying things that weren’t appropriate for children. This is not how the toy is intended to function, and we’re already looking into the issue to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future. We would like to offer you a full refund for your troubles. Please contact us directly if you’d like to discuss this further. Thank you for voicing your concerns.”

This is likely a delicate situation, so be sure to double-check your response for spelling, grammar, and professionalism before sending your response.

Don’t Ignore the Positive Reviews

While it’s important to address negative feedback, responding to positive reviews is just as important. A satisfied customer has paid for your product with their hard-earned money, and now they’re taking the time to let you and other potential customers know how happy they are. We’d say that warrants a response. Tell them you’re ecstatic that they loved that plushy, and giving kids joy is why you started your business in the first place! A simple response like that can go a long way towards making a repeat customer.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this detour from your doomscrolling gave you a little more confidence in responding to online reviews. The short and sweet of it is this: Respond to your customers, whether they left a good or bad review. They took the time to provide feedback, and you should let them know it wasn’t for nothing. Engaging them in this way shows them and other users that you’re paying attention to feedback and focusing on the people behind the purchases.

If you need further assistance in managing your online reputation, we’re here to help! Get in touch with us, and we’ll help you level up your digital marketing. And remember…

If you play your cards right, you can turn even the most negative review into a win!