Does Your Small Business Really Need AI?


Does Your Small Business Really Need AI?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be intimidating to small businesses. In fact, a survey commissioned by Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) last year found 61 percent of small business owners felt they weren’t ready to adopt it. They felt AI was too complicated for what they needed.

Salesforce wants to change that perception with its AI platform, called Einstein.

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Does a Small Business Really Need AI?

Small Business Trends spoke with Tony Rodoni, Executive Vice President for SMB sales at Salesforce, about AI and what it can do for small businesses.



The Big Brands Are Already Using It

Whether small businesses are ready or not, big brands are already using AI to stake out huge territory, says Rodoni.

“Apple’s Siri uses natural language processing to recognize voice commands. And companies like Amazon, Netflix and Spotify are using machine learning to understand how items in their catalogs relate to one another and their customer’s preferences,” he says.

AI Adoption by Small Businesses

Small businesses can do the same. But the pace of technology adoption by small businesses isn’t always fast.  Salesforce’s 2016 Connected Small Business Report notes only 21 percent of small businesses are using features like business intelligence software and analytics.

Rodoni explains what they’re missing by not adopting AI.

“AI has the potential to make every company and every employee smarter, faster, more operationally efficient and more productive,” he says.  “For small businesses with limited time and resources, the ability to work smarter and automate basic tasks can be a life-saver. That’s why we launched Einstein.”

In fact, small businesses that are early to adopt new technologies look bigger than they are. Rodoni has called this the blowfish effect.

The Benefits of AI

Maximizing resources and prioritizing time are just two of the benefits of artificial intelligence.

With AI, you can predict customer service issues before they happen. AI can help you identify the prospects that are most likely to buy your goods and services. Your marketing efforts become more personalized because you have more information about customer preferences to work with.

The benefits of AI include the ability to help your business:

  • Automate the send-time for your marketing emails to arrive when they will most likely be read.
  • Figure out which segments of your audience to target with the greatest expectation of return on investment.
  • Predict the amount of sales in your pipeline — even before the results come in.
  • Predict your most important sales leads.

Spending hours sorting through spreadsheets, hunting down leads or tweaking marketing campaigns manually can be things of the past.

It’s Good for Growth

Rodoni draws a connection between AI and success for startups.

“I believe that AI is a necessity to growth,” Rodoni says.  “Behind every deal, every order and every opportunity is a customer. AI marries human interaction and machine intelligence in a way that enables companies to better connect with their customers.”

Artificial intelligence works to scale, another win for the smaller shop.  Not only that, it leads you to the right customers and helps you to engage them. At the same time, it automates tasks across marketing, service and sales.

Choose Vendors That Incorporate AI into Products

Once small businesses have gotten over their initial apprehension, integrating AI into their businesses is easier than might be expected. You don’t have to master the technology underlying artificial intelligence. You just have to find the vendors that have mastered AI and incorporated it into their product offerings.

In Einstein’s case, it’s an add-on to the Salesforce platform.

“The beauty of Einstein is that it’s embedded directly into the Salesforce platform. Customers don’t need to do anything to start using it or seeing the benefits – it just works,” Rodoni says.

Image: Salesforce

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Rob Starr


Rob Starr Rob Starr is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. Rob is a freelance journalist and content strategist/manager with three decades of experience in both print and online writing. He currently works in New York City as a copywriter and all across North America for a variety of editing and writing enterprises.

5 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    I think that it depends. Some brands need it more than others. It depends on the product or service of the business.

  2. Absolutely agree with Tony Rodoni on this one! As the owner of Small Business USA and now our offshoot Network & Golf, how small business owners and teams spend their resources and time makes an incredible difference to their level success.

    When we started Small Business USA, we met thousands of business owners who on average were over-marketing by 3000%. When you can narrow the pool to the most qualified audience – you start with a giant leg up and a lot of money left in your budget. Even on the golf course, you’re going to close faster and spend less time networking when you’re golfing with the right person.

  3. Small businesses have the ability to turn into big businesses very quickly. Understanding AI which in current form is really Augmented Intelligence and automation which could be the key for that business to scale. The AI or Cognitive services that Google, Amazon, IBM (where I work), MS and Salesforce are now making available can be quickly applied, tested and evaluated for value, and by doing so the Business Owner can put themselves on the front foot when it’s time to scale, unfortunately AI for most small business is still science fiction and tech giants and big corporations with use the term to wave pixie dust over their products and services.

    Knowledge of AI in it’s current form is power and right now it could well turn your small business into a big business.

    The folks in big businesses at wish they were small businesses and try to act like start ups so they can focus their efforts. Sometimes being small is your own super power.

  4. Great article on the need for Artificial intelligence for small business. It is not only beneficial for big business but also for small business.Small business people almost ignore AI since they have not much knowledge of using AI hence point of hiring an AI vendors is so correct and important which small business should consider.

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