AI and Your Small Business - The Benefits, Uses, and Challenges

April 19, 2023

With the high-profile rollout of ChatGPT, generative AI has become one of the business buzzwords of 2023. Gartner estimates that the industry has attracted more than $1.7B in investments from venture capital firms over the past three years. Meanwhile, the research firm believes that more than 30% of new drugs and materials will be discovered using this technology by the middle of the decade.

Given this outlook, it might seem obvious that you can leverage generative AI to accelerate growth at your small business or startup. However, taking advantage of this emerging technology requires planning and a strategic approach.

This article will look at the potential benefits you can receive by turning to this tool, as well as some of the costs to consider. At the same time, you'll learn some tips to get started on the process of implementing the right AI solutions for you.

What is ChatGPT/generative AI?

Artificial intelligence has long been part of the business landscape. From chatbots to certain features in your CRM software, you likely already rely on these tools to streamline your operations. They let you target your resources effectively and limit the burden on your often overworked staff.

Generative AI represents an evolution of this technology. The process allows you to generate content using artificial intelligence techniques. This includes text, images, and even audio.

Much of the recent fervor surrounding generative AI has come from the ChatGPT product. Developed by a company called OpenAI, the offering was launched in late 2022. The service allows for human-seeming chat functionality, as well as the ability to create text content, such as essays, scripts, emails, and computer code.

What are the business uses of generative AI?

One of the critical benefits of generative AI comes from its flexibility. Because you can point it to a wide variety of tasks, the functionality can help throughout your organization. Small businesses can apply generative AI in areas as diverse as marketing, employee relations, HR, IT, customer service, and R&D.

Small businesses can apply generative AI in areas as diverse as marketing, employee relations, HR, IT, customer service, and R&D.

Here is a sample of some of the chores that you can complete (in part or in whole) by leveraging generative AI:

  • Writing marketing copy
  • Producing emails
  • Composing newsletters
  • Creating website blog posts
  • Crafting press releases
  • Authoring social media posts
  • Drafting computer code
  • Supporting chatbots
  • Boosting data presentation/analysis
  • Developing executive summaries

Benefits and costs of generative AI for businesses

Experts see generative AI becoming a major boon for the overall economy. One estimate projects a 7% increase in global GDP over a 10-year period thanks to implementation of the technology across a wide variety of industries. That represents a significant boost to output and productivity.

However, this development will create disruption within companies. A prediction issued by Goldman Sachs envisioned up to 300 million jobs throughout the world becoming automated to some degree through generative AI processes.

These projections point to a complicated path forward. Your business can extract significant benefits by turning to generative AI. However, the process of integrating this technology could be complex and turbulent. With that in mind, here are some upsides and drawbacks you can expect from pursuing this strategy:

Pros of generative AI

  • Lower Costs: Tasks that you once delegated to employees can now be accomplished via generative AI. This lets you save money on labor costs, at least over a longer timeline.

  • Improve Productivity: This technology doesn't need to take over a particular job completely in order to be effective. It can also help your team members complete their roles more efficiently, leading to higher productivity.

  • Shorten Wait Times: AI functions can be performed in a short period of time (often nearly instantaneously). This lets you complete certain tasks faster, which can ultimately streamline your overall process.

  • Increase Personalization: You can use AI to target communications to individuals. This lets you produce customized marketing and sales materials, among other forms of personalization.

Cons of generative AI

  • Takes Resources to Develop: You'll need to set aside time and money to integrate AI into your operations. This investment will require that you budget scarce resources to the effort.

  • Requires a Tech Team: Do you have the internal expertise necessary to leverage AI? If not, you'll either need to hire specialized talent or turn to a third-party provider.

  • Could Lead to Tension with Employees: Your current staff might become concerned that your growing use of AI will lead to eventual staff cuts. Without buy-in for your team, you might not be able to get the most out of the opportunity.

How to get started with generative AI

If you've chosen to move forward with an AI program, that decision represents just the first step in a lengthy process. Now, you need to determine how to get the most out of your investment. Here are a few tips that will help you maximize the value of your efforts:

Research the Current State of Generative AI

This emerging technology is developing quickly. As such, it's important to stay current as you proceed with your integration. Learn as much as you can about the available capabilities. At the same time, set aside ongoing resources to stay on the cutting edge as time progresses.

Review Your Operations

Once you have a solid understanding of what AI can accomplish, apply that knowledge to your operations. Scour your systems for tasks that could be streamlined or enhanced by the technology. From there, you can prioritize your opportunities based on potential upside and ease of integration.

Once you have a solid understanding of what AI can accomplish, apply that knowledge to your operations. Scour your systems for tasks that could be streamlined or enhanced by the technology.

Create a Technology Strategy

Once you pinpoint your best chances to use AI, it's time to think about how you'll accomplish the roll out. You'll need to build a team internally to handle the process. Or, if that isn't possible given your current resources, you'll need to discover the right technology partner to assist you in the endeavor.

Experiment with AI Functionality

Remember that getting the most out of AI will likely involve an ongoing process. You'll need to discover the specific capabilities and drawbacks as they relate to particular tasks you've targeted. Be prepared to learn as you go and make adjustments as necessary when you see the results.

Develop a Communication Strategy

Figure out how you'll discuss your AI initiatives with your team and with the outside world. Opinions about artificial intelligence are evolving quickly. To get everyone on board with the process, you'll need to keep them in the loop. At the same time, you’ll also need to understand the conflicted feelings some stakeholders might have.

How can your small business benefit from generative AI?

ChatGPT and other generative AI tools have garnered a lot of attention lately. Their functionality can provide serious benefits to small businesses in many different ways.

However, if you're considering using this technology in your small business, it's important to understand the limitations and costs as well. Use the information provided here to see if there are practical, and affordable, uses for generative AI in your business.