SMBs Can Leverage AI to Stay Competitive: Here’s How

With AI placing us on the brink of a gargantuan technological revolution, markets are becoming extremely competitive. 

But how do you keep up with enterprises that swallow up AI projects like whales underwater?

With McKinsey’s latest findings, there’s a clear indication of change on the horizon:

  • 65% of organisations are now regularly using AI, nearly doubling from 10 months ago.
  • Half of the respondents have adopted AI in two or more business functions.
  • 67% of respondents expect AI investment to increase in the next three years.

More often than not, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) struggle with resource limitations, making it challenging to compete with big corporations. The result being inefficiencies and a lack of innovation guiding you to missed opportunities and declining profits.

Our time spent building the foundations and forming pathways for businesses for AI-readiness reveals that this technology is an absolute game-changer for SMBs. 

Whether it’s the powerful tooling to enhance efficiency and drive growth,  or the real-time capability to maintain competitive edge, it’s here for the long-haul. 

Here’s how your business can benefit from leveraging AI.

AI Adoption – £213.63 Billion Saved by SMBs Annually

The adoption of AI among SMBs is on the rise.

Firstly, reports reveal that experimentation with AI technology is widespread, with 73% of SMBs having already tested AI applications. To top it off, 75% of small businesses are now utilising AI tools across various functions. 

Notably, 26% of SMBs currently use AI for business purposes, a significant increase from 11% the previous year. And in the past year alone, 48% of small businesses have started using AI tools.

Benefits of AI for SMBs

The advantages of AI for SMBs are all the reason to justify exploring this technology:

  • Cost Savings: 93% of small business owners agree that AI tools provide cost-effective solutions that drive savings and improve profitability. Small businesses can save over $4,000 and 300 hours of work annually by deploying AI.
  • Continued Investment: 83% of small business owners plan to continue investing in AI over the next 12 months, with 31% opting for significant investments.
  • Competitive Edge: AI enables SMBs to compete more effectively with larger enterprises by improving efficiency and driving innovation.

Top Use Cases of AI for SMBs

AI applications are transforming various aspects of small businesses:

  • Marketing and Communications: AI is widely used for email marketing, social media management, SEO, content creation, and more.
  • Sales Enhancement: 44% of SMBs use AI to boost sales performance, double the number from 2023.
  • Customer Service: AI helps improve customer service by providing instant responses and personalised interactions.
  • Operational Efficiency: AI streamlines operations, automates routine tasks, and supports data-driven decision-making.

Steps for SMBs to Leverage AI

Adopting AI in the right way means doing thorough research and evaluating which use cases are best for a given situation. For example, if marketing is costing an arm and a leg, find out how much an LLM can benefit your department. 

Here are a few ways to look at leveraging AI:

Identify Areas for Improvement:

Evaluate areas of your business that can benefit from AI, such as customer service, marketing, sales, or operations. 

Start by conducting a thorough analysis of your current processes to pinpoint inefficiencies and repetitive tasks. Consider where automation could free up your team’s time, enhance customer interactions, or provide deeper insights into your business operations. 

For instance, if customer service is lagging, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can offer 24/7 support, resolving common queries instantly.

Research AI Tools:

Look for AI tools that align with your business needs and budget.

There are many AI solutions available tailored to different functions. For marketing, tools like HubSpot and Mailchimp offer AI-driven email marketing and campaign management. In sales, platforms like Salesforce Einstein provide predictive analytics to help close deals faster. 

For operations, consider tools like UiPath for robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline workflows. Evaluate each tool’s features, integration capabilities, and user reviews to ensure it meets your specific requirements.

Gradual Implementation:

Implement AI solutions gradually to ensure a smooth transition. 

Start with pilot projects in key areas to test the waters and gather feedback. This phased approach allows you to make necessary adjustments before a full-scale rollout. Provide training to your employees to help them adapt to new technologies. 

Encourage a culture of learning and experimentation, where employees feel comfortable exploring AI tools and understanding their benefits. Regular training sessions and workshops can boost confidence and proficiency in using AI.

Continuous Optimisation:

Monitor and optimise your AI-powered processes regularly to maximise their effectiveness. 

Use performance metrics and feedback to assess the impact of AI on your business operations. Are customer response times improving? Is sales performance increasing? Adjust strategies based on performance data to ensure continuous improvement.

For example, if an AI tool isn’t delivering expected results, tweak its settings, retrain the algorithms, or explore alternative solutions. Regularly review your AI implementation to ensure it evolves with your business needs.

Stay Informed:

Keep up with the latest AI trends and advancements. The AI landscape is rapidly evolving, with new tools, techniques, and best practices emerging constantly. 

Subscribe to industry newsletters, attend webinars, and participate in AI-focused forums and conferences. Networking with other business owners and AI experts can provide valuable insights and inspiration. Staying informed will help you identify new opportunities and maintain a competitive edge. 

Retain Your Competitive Edge 

By embracing AI and implementing it strategically, SMBs can gain a competitive edge, improve efficiency, and drive growth in today’s dynamic business landscape. 

The benefits are clear: cost savings, improved productivity, and enhanced competitiveness. 

Don’t let limited resources hold you back: leverage AI to transform your business and stay ahead of the curve. If it’s Data Engineering, Software Development, UX Design or a clearly defined roadmap – reach out and let’s make AI work!

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