Think artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), generative AI, and even digital transformation, and it’s not usually small and medium businesses (SMBs) that come to mind. These technologies often feel out of reach for smaller organizations. But as the world careens toward a new normal where generative AI is becoming increasingly accessible, now is the time for SMB leaders to evaluate how this transformational technology can impact their businesses.
The curiosity for generative AI is already there. It comes up in every conversation I have with SMB customers. More than anything, these business leaders are looking for guidance on how this technology can be applied and how to manage it. I’m here to tell you that generative AI may have the largest impact on SMBs—if leveraged correctly. I’ve always said that the cloud is the great equalizer. With generative AI, consider the old playing field leveled. With a smart and robust data strategy that encompasses a generative AI approach, an SMB’s productivity, efficiency, and bottom line can skyrocket. Let me explain.
The art of the possible
Generative AI is an expansive iteration of AI and ML tools, and the use cases for its potential are evolving by the minute. And while it’s tempting to think, let’s start with technology and solve with it, it’s important for SMBs to start with the problem you’re trying to solve—and then work backwards. Technology for technology’s sake won’t help your bottom line. Here are some areas where leveraging AI makes real business sense:
- Enhancing productivity by automating time-consuming tasks: Lean SMB teams can easily get bogged down by day-to-day duties. Generative AI tools are already skilled at fast-tracking those tedious tasks, such as recording and summarize meetings, assigning next-step action items, designing or improving materials for important presentations, creating or editing content, or developing every kind of document from executive summary to forecasting model. Additionally, generative AI can automate and minimize the human error in repetitive tasks like document processing. For SMBs in some industries, generative AI solutions can enhance predictive maintenance tools, taking the legwork out of detecting equipment or production issues before they turn into costly, time-consuming errors.
- Boosting the entire sales journey: Thanks to the level of customization within new generative AI tools, it’s easy to quickly develop sales tools such as call scripts or email responses that are tailored to each individual customer. There are tools built for every industry—e-commerce SMBs, for instance, can enhance their offerings by offering a more customized experience for their shoppers, helping to improve conversion and retention rates. This level of personalization can help SMBs build and maintain long-lasting customer relationships without sacrificing the time and resources these connections often require.
- Creating fresh marketing insights and content: Generative AI can help SMBs simplify time-consuming creative tasks. For instance, they can ask the tool to come up with an engaging sales email that generates downloads of a new app, along with subject lines for A/B testing and accompanying social posts—and it will deliver them in just seconds. Even if the user doesn’t love all the options it provides, the tools can help kick off productive brainstorming sessions. SMBs may also have tons of valuable data but lack the time or expertise to fully leverage it to learn more about their customers and products. Generative AI tools make garnering insights far easier, helping them navigate complicated datasets and summarizing key takeaways. Eventually, the natural language processing abilities that power generative AI may make it easy to ask questions of a tool, like “Which traffic sources are generating the most sales?” allowing SMBs to generate new ways to attract, convert, and retain the customers they want.
- Enhancing the customer support process and experience: Generative AI can help streamline and improve SMB customer support offerings in a variety of ways. A company may have hours of recording customer service calls, but lack the time or resources to analyze the information from such a wealth of data. With generative AI, they can convert the recordings into text and run it through a tool that analyzes and summarizes huge chunks of data in an easy-to-understand format, helping them unlock insights that allow them to better understand their customers’ toughest issues and optimize service resolutions to solve them. Additionally, generative AI makes it far easier to create smart, customizable responses for chatbots and other automated customer service tools, helping retain customers by solving their problems faster.
- Improving cybersecurity measures: SMBs face security threats every day, but it can be difficult to devote their valuable resources to protection. Specialized generative AI tools can help keep both customer and in-house data safe, thanks to capabilities including enhanced fraud protection, disaster recovery, and threat detection. Plus, it can automate compliance-related tasks, giving SMBs in industries like health care or banking peace of mind when it comes to staying on top of regulatory requirements.
Reducing the need for technical expertise: Generative AI tools are making it easier for SMBs to easily accomplish complex technical tasks that previously would have required specialized knowledge, such as code generation. Many providers offer generative AI coding tools that can do the nitty-gritty of coding for companies. With a general-purpose, machine learning-powered code generator, SMBs can use natural language to quickly perform tasks like creating, updating, or enhancing a website, or improving an in-app customer experience, all without any coding or technical expertise.
We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the possibilities of generative AI to transform every SMB industry, application, and customer experience.
It may sound like magic, but it’s not. It’s real math, it’s accessible, and it’s ready to start helping SMBs right now. We recommend SMBs look to what they spend the most time and money on, or what their customers complain about to find opportunities for this transformational technology to improve their business. Think big and start small. By evaluating pressing problems that need to be solved and optimizing their infrastructure for generative AI, SMBs in every industry can start using the technology to accelerate and scale their business today.
Ben Schreiner, Head of Innovation, SMB, at Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Ben Schreiner brings a blend of Global, Fortune 500 and tech startup experience as a technology customer and provider to his work at AWS. He has been advising CIOs and business leaders for over 20 years, and his knowledge culminates as an empathetic senior trusted advisor focused on strategic customer outcomes. Ben has spent the last 4 years at AWS helping customers, partners, and colleagues weigh the benefits and risks of adopting new, emerging technology to simplify their enterprise architecture, mitigate risks, and accelerate results. While Ben doesn’t see AI as the magic it’s hyped up to be, he does see it as a technological tipping point where practical, cost-effective, and purpose-built AI models can support and level the playing field for small/medium-sized businesses across industries. As a trusted technology advisor for many small and medium-sized businesses, Ben has the insight and expertise to explore what employees need to get the most out of this new technology.