• Dr. Timothy Smith

AI Power for Small Businesses

Small Business

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(Editor's Note: This post was originally published on March 3rd, 2018.)

The growth of artificial intelligence over the past ten years stemmed in part from the massive investments in research and development made by private companies. According to a report from the World Economic Forum in 2017, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon each spent $11.4B, $9.8B, and $ 9.3B respectively, putting them all in the top ten list of highest investors in technology research and development. (weforum.org) The cost of developing technology, including artificial intelligence, goes beyond the reach of many companies. Moreover, most businesses in the United States qualify as small businesses, which means they have fewer than 500 employees. In fact, according to the US Small Business Association Office of Advocacy, 99.7% of all businesses in the US qualify as small businesses, and these small businesses employ 49.2% of all private sector employees in the country. Given the emerging power of artificial intelligence to transform transportation with autonomous cars and power breakthroughs in telecommunications and healthcare, how can a small business use artificial intelligence to gain an advantage in the market at a price that fits the size and scope of their company?

Small businesses do not need to be tech giants, major corporations, or computer specialists to take advantage of new artificial intelligence-driven tools available today. Successful businesses require customers to purchase their goods and services, and managing customer relationships forms a crucial part of business success. Since the beginning of business, success depends on knowing customer needs and making sales, which often happened with sales calls or marketing campaigns. Before computers and the internet, keeping track of customer relationships depended on paper records and the Rolodex (a rotating spindle of cards containing names, addresses, and phone numbers). In the 1980s, software companies began developing computerized systems to replace the Rolodex and provide companies with additional insights to improve sales effectiveness. The systems known as CRMs for customer relationship management began to evolve through the 1990s into sophisticated tools to help manage customers, recommend the best clients to call on a given day and drive advertising decisions. A leading company providing software for customer relationship management called Salesforce now offers a tool known as Einstein Analytics as an additional service to complement their traditional CRM tools. According to Salesforce, Einstein Analytics uses artificial intelligence to gain insights and make sales and marketing recommendations and predictions based on billions of pieces of information. According to Salesforce.com, their basic CRM solution for small businesses starts at $25/month/user with additional costs for Einstein analytics unspecified on their website. However, Infotechlead.com indicated in an article titled “Salesforce reveals the price of Einstein Analytics,” that the additional Einstein components cost $75 to $150 per month extra.

Advertising allows businesses to reach potential customers with the intent to drive sales. Marketers have always tried to reach target audiences by tailoring advertisements to potential customers, which is why the advertising during a football game looks much different from the advertising during a television morning show. Television advertising has always been expensive, but with the massive expansion of internet or e-commerce, small businesses can now reach an unprecedented global pool of customers at much lower costs than television advertising. With internet marketing, small businesses have global reach, but they must compete with other companies to emerge at the top of the search results on Google or Bing. Google offers AdWords to support online advertising. AdWords works as a pay per click or PPC service that charges the advertiser a fee every time someone clicks on an advertisement that came up during a Google search. AdWords uses sophisticated artificial intelligence called Life Event Targeting to point ads to target audiences. For example, if a wedding planner advertises with AdWords, Google does not just match searches that include wedding and planner. Instead, Google’s AI in Life Event Targeting learns that people approaching a big event like a wedding, graduation, new baby, or new home purchase will behave differently online before the events occur. (singlegrain.com) AdWords through Life Event Targeting can know even before you tell any of your friends and family that you are pregnant or getting a divorce. With such knowledge, AdWords can specifically target individuals with very tailored advertising. The price of AdWords follows a formula that depends on the terms used and the quality of the advertisement. According to a blog titled “How Much Does Google AdWords Cost?” the price per click from Google AdWords ranges from $1 to $50 per click. (wordstream.com) Although not inexpensive, AdWords advertising offers an alternative to traditional print and media advertising. Careful use of keywords and a good advertisement makes use of artificial intelligence for very targeted small business advertising.

Great strides in developing artificial intelligence have depended in part on massive investments in research and development by technology giants such as Microsoft and Google. However, in the United States, over 99% of all businesses qualify as small businesses. Most small business will not have the budget or expertise to develop artificial intelligence designed to help their business grow and gain strength in the market, but that does not mean that small businesses cannot affordably use artificial intelligence today. Customer relationship software such as Salesforce’s Einstein Analytics and advertising services such as Google’s AdWords with Life Event Targeting bring the power of artificial intelligence to better manage sales and marketing to get an edge in the market.

Dr. Timothy Smith

Dr. Smith’s career in scientific and information research spans the areas of bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, toxicology, and chemistry. He has published a number of peer-reviewed scientific papers. He has worked over the past seventeen years developing advanced analytics, machine learning, and knowledge management tools to enable research and support high level decision making. Tim completed his Ph.D. in Toxicology at Cornell University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Washington.

You can buy his book on Amazon in paperback here and in kindle format here.

How to Profit and Protect Yourself from Artificial Intelligence