The essential small business guide to generative AI

SkillsCategory
9 min read
Stacey Hartman

Generative AI (Artificial Intelligence) isn’t new, but the recent explosion of AI chatbots, AI image-generation tools and AI-driven applications leaves many small business owners in new and unfamiliar territory. What is generative AI? And how should or could entrepreneurs use generative AI for a small business?

While people are continuing to experiment with what AI is capable of versus what grabs the headlines, there are already some simple ways in which generative AI can help small business owners. Our guide aims to help small business owners learn more about generative AI and how it can help save small businesses time and money.

Disclaimer: When using AI tools, avoid entering sensitive information and always review output for accuracy. Additionally, this content is for demonstration purposes only; it does not represent any affiliation, endorsement or sponsorship with the companies mentioned. All trademark rights belong to their respective owners. Third-party trademarks are used here for demonstrative and educational purposes only, use does not represent affiliation.

What is generative AI?

Generative AI refers to a type of artificial intelligence that is capable of creating new content autonomously by learning from existing data. This can include generating text, images, music, or even design concepts by leveraging advanced machine-learning algorithms, such as deep learning and neural networks.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT and DALL-E are dominating the news, but new chatbot and AI art generation tools are being rolled out on a near-daily basis. From Google’s Bard to Meta’s BlenderBot, large tech companies are rolling out increasingly sophisticated generative AI tools.

It’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed, but it’s important to have develop a high-level understanding of generative AI and what it can do (along with what it can’t do).

Leveraging AI technology is crucial for small businesses to stay competitive in today's rapidly-evolving global market. AI can help small business owners improve their efficiency and productivity by writing copy for websites or blogs, automating tasks, streamlining decision-making using data, and improving the overall customer experience.

Interested in learning more about how to use generative AI for small businesses? Let’s take a closer look at some examples that you can apply to your business.

Related: AI prompts for small business owners

A quick word of caution

This guide is meant as a general overview of how generative AI can help small business owners save time, and often money when running their businesses. We strongly recommend closely reviewing the output of the AI tool that you intend to use, as AI can return incorrect, false or outdated information or may include content containing third parties’ intellectual property.

Additionally, be aware that generative AI tools may save information that a user enters, so avoid entering any commercially sensitive or proprietary information in your prompts (the questions or tasks you ask an AI tool to help with).

5 ways to use generative AI for small business

From getting started with business ideas to optimizing your website content, here are 5 examples of how generative AI can help.

1. Generate creative and unique business names

The biggest barrier to getting started is sometimes a blank screen. Generative AI is great for helping to get your creative juices flowing. So if you’re stuck with writers block, or if thinking of a catchy business name isn’t your strong suit, consider using AI to kick-start the process.

AI can generate a large number of potential business names in a short amount of time, giving entrepreneurs a list of unique and creative names that they might not have come up with otherwise.

Screenshot of ChatGPT with the prompt asking for 20 interesting food company name ideas.

And, if you’re not completely happy with the recommendations, you can iteratively improve the generated names simply by refreshing your prompt and telling the AI chatbot what you’d prefer to see, ensuring the final name selection is well-suited for your business.

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2. Automate content creation

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to revolutionize the way small business owners generate content for their business, By simplifying the content creation process and enhancing the effectiveness of published materials, such as website content, newsletters or blogs, AI can save entrepreneurs both time and money.

Using advanced natural language processing algorithms and deep learning techniques, AI-powered content-generation tools are able to analyze existing content within a specific industry or niche. Using that information, AI tools can then generate relevant and engaging content. In addition, you can tailor the output to match the overall vibe of your business.

Does your small business tend to be more light-hearted and fun? Add adjectives to help the AI tool generate content that fits your brand voice.

ChatGPT response to the prompt "Write a funny poen to advertise a spring sale on area rugs"

Additionally, AI can automate the process of content scheduling and distribution across various channels, allowing small business owners to reach their audience with consistent and timely communication.

ChatGPT responses to the prompt requesting an editorial calendar for the month of May.

By streamlining the content creation process and reducing the time and effort required, AI enables small business owners to focus on other critical aspects of their business, ultimately helping to drive growth and success in the competitive marketplace.

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3. Enhance customer service

Another area where AI can be a powerful tool for small business owners is to enhance customer communication. With AI, business owners can quickly craft personalized responses, such as thank-you emails to customers after they make a purchase or sign-up for a service, creating a sense of appreciation and helping to foster customer loyalty.

ChatGPT response to a prompt requesting a thank you note for a customer

AI can also streamline the writing process for creating follow-up messages, such as reminders for upcoming appointments or subscription renewals, making it easier to maintain a strong connection with clients.

ChatGPT response to AI prompt asking for an appointment reminder message.

Customers aren’t always happy with the service they’ve received. Another task that AI can help with is responding to customer inquiries and complaints by analyzing the content of messages and generating customizable responses that address the specific issue at hand.

Customer service interactions can quickly eat into a small business owner’s day. However, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously for you, significantly reducing the response time and allowing customer service representatives to focus on more complex tasks. This results in a more cost-effective customer service operation.

By providing fast and personalized responses to customers, AI-powered tools can enhance the overall customer experience, leading to higher satisfaction rates and a stronger brand reputation, all while freeing up time for business owners.

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4. Support for social media management

Social media is a necessary part of owning a small business, but managing multiple platforms and attempting to brainstorm creative new content can feel daunting. AI can help out here as well.

Here are a handful of tasks that AI is able to help with:

  • Brainstorm creative captions for image-based posts
  • Create editorial calendars based on local holidays or celebrations
  • Generate conversation starters for a social media audience
  • Write simple video scripts
  • List creative content ideas
  • Craft ad copy to grab people’s attention

While this list isn’t exhaustive, AI-based tools are a great way to get the creative process rolling, especially on days when your creativity feels like it’s in a rut.

AI is also helpful with identifying key moments and relevant events for a target audience. Events would include local celebrations such as festivals and parades, as well as industry-specific holidays. This can provide businesses with an opportunity to create content that connects with their audience on a more personal level.

Another AI advantage is the ability to help small business owners maintain a consistent posting schedule, which ensures that businesses remain regularly active and visible on social media platforms. Consistent activity on social media platforms keeps the audience engaged and establishes the business as reliable and authoritative.

ChatGPT response to a prompt asking for an editorial calendar for Facebook in May

The benefits that AI brings to the table for a small business owner ultimately contribute to increased brand visibility and a stronger connection with the target audience, making AI an invaluable tool for businesses looking to thrive in today’s digital age.

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5. Optimize content for SEO

For small businesses looking to drive traffic to their business, SEO is still king. And while SEO is definitely a skill, AI is able to give SEO novices the boost they need to get found online.

Keyword research is important for SEO, and AI is able to help business owners identify relevant and high-performing keywords in their industry.

In addition to helping business owners brainstorm keywords, AI can help create copy for a website. AI is able to generate SEO-friendly content that incorporates target keywords seamlessly while still providing value to the reader. This helps improve the website's search engine ranking and increases the likelihood of attracting and retaining visitors.

AI is also able to generate optimized meta tags and descriptions for web pages, ensuring that they accurately reflect the content and include relevant keywords. These elements play a significant role in how search engines index and rank web pages, which influences their visibility in search results.

Another factor for SEO is website update frequency, and AI is able to assist here by suggesting content for blog posts or articles on a business website.

And, if you need help coming up with a first draft for your blog post, AI can help with generating keyword-rich text, ensuring that the content is optimized for search engine ranking, which increases the visibility of a small business online. You can then just make tweaks so it’s authentic to your business.

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Summing it all up

Hopefully, we’ve given some helpful insights into how this new and evolving technology can help small business owners make the most of this new technology, and hopefully save save time and money. Just remember, it is crucial to check and review the output of AI tools and always avoid using sensitive information, leveraging generative AI to streamline tasks and improve the customer experience can give small businesses a competitive edge.