By Lisa Chau
Artificial intelligence is helping small businesses improve their marketing and save time and money, according to a new study by Constant Contact.
The study, which surveyed over 1,000 small business owners, found that 91% of businesses that have implemented AI have seen an increase in their success.
One of the most common ways that small businesses are using AI is to create personalized marketing campaigns. AI can be used to segment customers based on their interests and demographics, and then deliver targeted messages that are more likely to resonate. This can help businesses to improve their click-through rates, conversion rates, and overall ROI.
Constant Contact is a comprehensive e-commerce marketing and digital platform led by CEO Frank Vella. Channeling his experience with best-in-class tech firms such as Microsoft, Xerox, GE Capital, and HP Enterprise, Vella has led companies through transformation, growth, and successful exits. His current focus explores how small businesses can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and marketing automation to produce the biggest impact from such technologies.
Vella’s team reports that data indicates a strong correlation between AI implementation and a business’ overall success. Specifically, small businesses that harness the power of marketing automation using AI will most efficiently solve their biggest challenges, like customer acquisition. New entrepreneurs are worried about building and funding a marketing plan that helps them grow, while established small businesses are so busy doing what they do well, that they have little time to market themselves.
Success means different things to different small businesses because each is unique, with goals that are specific to their size, customer type and business objectives. While some companies may be focused on driving more revenue, others want to acquire more customers. Some firms want to build community, and in the case of nonprofit organizations, boost donations. Success might also be defined as spending less time on marketing while getting the same or better return.
“In general we don’t see AI as a tool to reduce staff or costs, but to be more effective in their marketing efforts,” says Vella. “Our goal in the study was to evaluate how small and midsize businesses (SMB) are using AI and automations and to understand where those technologies are driving business outcomes. In doing so, we can get a clearer picture of what success looks like to them… They are focused on achieving their intended outcomes with tools that are easy and intuitive, and they are less concerned with how that happens. They just want to improve their writing, enhance their workflows and enjoy great returns on their marketing efforts. To that end, AI can make a significant impact on their objectives.
According to the Constant Contact team, SMBs are leveraging AI-powered tools to improve their creativity, get closer to their target audiences and drive more sales volume. More than half of SMBs currently using AI are leveraging it to create content for social media and email marketing campaigns. Those businesses also report higher efficiency and better campaign performance. More sophisticated marketers are using AI for ad targeting, analytics and website forms.
For those just getting started with AI, Vella advises starting small and building up to more advanced strategies. A content generator, like the one his company launched this spring for SMBs can be a way to accelerate the copywriting process for emails and text messages, while simple automations can help SMBs put their manual tasks on autopilot.
Small businesses are extraordinarily busy, and consequently always looking for better and faster ways to market themselves to attract new customers. AI-enabled marketing tools can be a powerful time-saver that also results in cost savings. Constant Contact’s study shows that one third of AI users are saving at least 40 minutes per week on marketing efforts, and 28% expect AI and automations to save them at least $5,000 in the coming year.
AI can have both fast and lasting impact for SMBs. Approximately 40% of SMBs using AI for less than six months have seen quick results, and that number jumps to 57% after one year. As the technology’s marketing sophistication grows, AI becomes even more valuable and leaders continue searching for methods to incorporate AI into other areas of their business. Right now, 88% of SMBs that are using AI for marketing are leveraging it in two or more areas.
“AI can help businesses of all sizes recommit to the customer experience. There is a direct relationship between the experience a person has with a brand, and their likelihood to make a purchase – AI can help close that gap. Its ability to analyze data and determine the next best action is where small businesses can leverage it to drive real results,” says Vella.
For instance, AI can be leveraged to better understand where and when a customer typically engages with the business, and what types of content they prefer. Based on those insights, SMBs then use AI to draft high-quality marketing messages, determine the best channels to deliver it, and automate the sending process. This process results in a more personalized and enjoyable experience for customers, and better overall business outcomes.