You probably already know ChatGPT can write a bad pun or a college essay, but how can you use AI for business?
It’s hard to keep up with all the AI tools popping up in the news. From chatbots to virtual assistants, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the options and all the ways AI technologies can potentially increase efficiency in your business.
To help, we’ve rounded up some of the best use cases for AI in business, along with our favorite artificial intelligence tools that are perfect for small businesses.
Table of Contents
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Terms like machine learning, deep learning models, natural language processing, and computer vision regularly get thrown around—and it’s at this point that most of us switch off.
To simplify things, you can think of AI as an artificial brain created by computers. It can perform tasks and business processes that usually require a human brain—like problem-solving, decision-making, and pattern identification. And because it can process massive amounts of data quickly, it performs these tasks at lightning speeds.
AI technology is not new. It already powers virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa on our smartphones, for instance. But recent breakthroughs in generative AI are what’s been dominating the headlines.
Generative AI is artificial intelligence that can create new data and original content like videos, images, text, and music. Popular examples are ChatGPT, DALL-E 2, and Bing AI.
Business Applications for Artificial Intelligence
AI takes business process automation to the next level, using predictive analytics to “think” for you, respond to customers, do research, and write communications. Applications of AI for business can range from customer service and accounting to marketing and human resources.
While AI can’t fully replace human jobs, you can use it to boost productivity and speed up your day-to-day business operations. Let’s say you hate writing (no hard feelings). AI can cut down your time spent drafting emails and can spot human errors like typos.
Here are some more use cases for AI across several business functions.
- Market research. Keep tabs on potential business opportunities by tracking keywords or other relevant information to your business.
- Competitor analysis. Analyze the competition easily without having to sift through endless search results. For instance, AI can categorize tweets by topic.
- Content creation:
- Idea generation. Generate ideas for nuggets of information that spark creative work. For instance, use an AI idea generator for product and service ideas.
- Written content. Produce product descriptions, fully fledged articles, and marketing emails. Or summarize text to get the TL;DR without having to read it all.
- Visual content. Generate unique images and videos to replace those boring stock photos.
- Social media. Analyze social data to see what customers are saying about your brand.
- Editing. Edit and proofread content for accuracy and better flow.
- Lead follow-up. Automatically follow up with potential customers via email, website, chat, or text, so they don’t slip through the cracks.
- Outbound email campaigns. Automate a large volume of emails and monitor replies.
- Sales projections. Create sales projections for accurate demand forecasting by using historical sales results and client interactions.
- Customer service chatbots. Answer routine questions, solve common customer issues, and give product recommendations.
- Assess incoming messages. AI can understand long-winded customer requests and categorize them so you can respond more quickly.
- Message prioritization. Scan many messages to look for keywords that indicate urgency and then prioritize those messages accordingly.
12 Artificial Intelligence Tools for Small Businesses
Now that you understand how AI works and the use cases for business, let’s dig deeper into some of the best AI tools for business.
As you read this section, remember:
- Output conversational tools like Bing AI provide are only as good as the prompts you write. Your writing prompts help the AI understand the context and respond accordingly. So be clear and specific.
- These tools can speed up workflows, but they’re no substitute for the human touch. AI technology is not creative like humans. View the output from these AI tools as inspiration and a framework for your own work. Don’t just copy and paste the output verbatim and call it your own.
What it is: A chatbot using natural language processing (NLP)
Cost: Free; premium option for $20 per month
ChatGPT is designed to understand NLP and respond to user prompts. It can answer questions, solve problems, and converse about various topics.
However, it pulls information from a data set that was cut off at 2021. ChatGPT does not consider information and news after that period when responding.
Any information and news after that period is not considered when ChatGPT formulates a response.
A few ways to use ChatGPT include:
- Brainstorming topic ideas for a new project
- Generating keyword ideas and titles for a piece of content
- Creating outlines, persuasive essays, and even mind maps
- Writing in a specific tone for a particular type of audience
Here’s an example of this in action:
2. Bing AI
What it is: Microsoft’s AI-powered chatbot
Though it was off to a rocky start, Microsoft’s generative AI chatbot (a companion to the Bing search engine) isn’t going anywhere and shows promise.
Bing AI is similar to ChatGPT but differs in that it isn’t limited to a fixed data set when responding to user prompts. It scrapes information from the entire web, which includes the period after 2021.
It will also include footnotes and links to sources for further reading. To use it, type something into the Bing search engine and select the “Chat” feature.
3. DALL-E 2
What it is: An AI art generator using machine learning algorithms
Cost: 50 free credits for the first month and 15 every month after
DALL-E 2 is a machine-learning model that can:
- Create art from text descriptions
- Edit existing images
- Develop variations of an image inspired by the original
It can inspire your next art project and generate images to replace boring stock photos.
DALL-E 2 is the successor to DALL-E, originally launched in January 2021. It can create more realistic images with 4 times the resolution.
Here’s an example of an image generated based on a text prompt:
What it is: A copywriting tool using machine learning
Cost: Starts at $49/month for 50,000 words
Formerly known as Jarvis, Jasper.ai is a copywriting tool that speeds up content creation by writing blog posts, social media posts, product descriptions, emails, and more.
For example, to write a blog post, choose the topic, tone of voice, and audience. Then, hit “Generate.”
Here’s the result:
What it is: An AI content generator
Cost: Free, or paid plans from $36/month
An alternative to Jasper.ai, with a free entry-level option and no word limits for paid plans, Copy.ai uses deep learning to write blog posts, social media posts, ad copy, emails, case studies, video scripts, and more.
You enter some details or keywords, choose from one of the 9 preset tones, or create a custom tone. Want a welcome email in the voice of Oprah or a Facebook post that sounds like Jeff Goldblum? Done and done.
What it is: An AI voice generator
Cost: Free, or paid plans from $29/month
Murf is an AI voice generator that converts text into speech, voice-overs, and dictations. It has 120+ voices in various languages and accents.
If you create courses, videos, or podcasts, you can use it to quickly and inexpensively add voice-over, or even convert your own voice into one of the AI voices. You can choose from a variety of dialects when generating your speech.
What it is: AI video creation tool
Cost: Starts at $30/month
Synthesia.io lets you create professional videos in more than 120 languages using natural language processing and machine learning algorithms.
Upload a script and choose from various AI avatars as presenters or for voice-over only to deliver your message. Synthesia has a library of customizable templates to help you get started. And you can easily make screen recordings for your video, then trim, crop, and edit.
What it is: AI design tool
Cost: Plans from $29/month
Use Designs.ai to create logos, email signatures, flyers, infographics, and social media banners.
Designs.ai also provides the following:
- A video maker to transform text like posts and scripts into fully edited videos
- A speech maker to convert scripts into voice-overs in multiple languages
It’s an ideal creative AI tool for content creators, influencers, educators, startups, and small businesses.
What it is: A bot-building platform
Cost: Free plan or paid options from $15/month
Chatfuel lets you create chatbots for social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram without having to know how to code. The platform is intuitive, with a drag-and-drop interface that lets you customize your bots by adding text, images, or even video. Businesses can use these chatbots for anything from customer service and lead generation to marketing.
What it is: An audio and video editing tool
Cost: Free plan or paid options from $12/month
Content creators record a lot of content, whether it’s presentations, meetings, or podcasts. Before sharing this content, they usually need to edit it, which can be challenging.
Descript makes editing easy. It lets you write, record, transcribe, collaborate on, and edit audio, videos, and podcasts before sharing it with the world.
Drag and drop your video into the platform to transcribe the entire audio into text, edit it, and convert it back into audio. Descript can also clone your voice (pretty cool, right?) and enhance your recordings with studio-quality sound.
What it is: AI social media monitoring tool
Cost: From $99/month
BrandMentions is a machine-learning tool for monitoring your brand mentions (or competitors’) or any other relevant keywords you choose. Simply choose the keywords you’d like to track, and the platform does the rest, analyzing social media, blog posts, and other online sources.
It’s an excellent tool for gauging sentiment toward your brand, monitoring the success of any single marketing campaign, and keeping tabs on your competition.
What it is: An AI-powered screening and assessment tool
Cost: Starting at $180/year
Adaface is an AI recruitment tool that helps businesses screen, identify, and hire the best candidates for technical roles. The AI uses customized assessments for each position to assess technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and other crucial requirements. An AI-powered chatbot also gives candidates personalized feedback to guide them during the hiring process.
⚠️Proceed With Caution: How to Mitigate AI Risks
As great as AI can be for business, you still need to be cautious when using it, as there are risks, specifically:
- Conversational AI applications like ChatGPT can be factually wrong
- AI systems can show systematic bias
- Intellectual property rights and copyright implications are still a gray area
Mitigate the first 2 risks by always verifying the AI’s output, especially if you’re not an expert on the topic. Take what you get back with a grain of salt and review it carefully for errors and biases in the responses.
For ambiguity around copyright protection, stay abreast of what the U.S. Copyright Office is doing to address artificial intelligence—and where they stand on key issues like copyright registration for works created by AI.
Bottom line: AI isn’t a replacement for the human brain and doesn’t have the same creativity and flexibility as an actual person. But you can leverage AI to give your small business a competitive edge.
AI Is a Rapidly Changing Landscape
Now that you have an idea of how you can use AI for your business, you should know that this could all change in the blink of an eye. Bing AI got weird fast, Google Bard is on the horizon, and Notion launched an AI writer/editor in the time it took to write this post. AI technologies are evolving quickly, and the ChatGPT of today could be the AltaVista of tomorrow.
Keep in mind that you don’t need AI to build more efficient business processes. Non-AI automation can identify patterns and execute repetitive tasks for you. Using FreshBooks, for example, you can automate work like invoicing, tracking payments and expenses, and accounting reports.
That said, machine learning applications aren’t going anywhere. And businesses that implement a successful AI strategy based on these emerging technologies will have a competitive advantage and be more prepared for the future.