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Generative AI: A New Tool for Your Toolbox 

By Live Oak Bank 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been part of our technological landscape, but its reach and accessibility have been limited until recently. Technological advancements and the emergence of new generative AI products like OpenAI’s ChatGPT have made this advanced technology accessible to individuals and small businesses. In this article, we delve into the world of AI, focusing on generative AI and its implications for small businesses. 

Understanding AI 

AI technology seeks to emulate human intelligence, learning, understanding, and performing tasks humans can do. A key characteristic of AI is its ability to evolve its rules or logic over time without human intervention, unlike other technologies that enhance efficiency but require human intervention and pre-set rules. 

AI has several subsets, one of which is generative AI, which has recently gained significant attention. Generative AI can create new content and artifacts, such as original text, images, audio and video, based on the vast data on which these models are trained. Examples of generative AI programs include Open AI’s ChatGPT and DALL-E, Microsoft’s Copilot, Google’s Gemini and Anthropic’s Claude. 

Leveraging Generative AI in Small Businesses 

Customer Experience: AI can significantly enhance customer experience. For instance, chatbots can mimic human-like conversations to provide quick and efficient customer service or carry out routine tasks such as sending order confirmations and following up on support tickets. If your business receives complaints about customer wait times, an AI chatbot can handle basic customer inquiries, transferring more complex queries or situations to a live representative. AI can facilitate these transfers by providing the customer service representative with a comprehensive view of the customer before the call, enhancing the customer experience. 

Research and Brainstorming: Generative AI can be a valuable tool for small businesses when analyzing large amounts of data to provide insights and trends or extracting crucial information from lengthy documents, articles and reports. For instance, if you have a lengthy report to read and extract information from, AI tools can help summarize and pull key insights from the report to share in an upcoming meeting, saving you significant time. 

AI can also help generate or accelerate ideas, like products or new business concepts, based on your existing offerings, customer demographics and market trends. You can use image-generating AI to start visualizing these concepts. 

Analysis and Data-Driven Decision-Making: AI tools can provide valuable market insights and customer behavior patterns when analyzing trends in your business and industry. Suppose you are considering expanding your business to a neighboring town. Market research can help you assess the need first. AI can also assist with forming projections based on past data, performing sentiment analysis on customer reviews and identifying emerging opportunities to outmaneuver competitors. AI can provide Excel support when you are looking to organize the data. It can also offer PowerPoint support when you are ready to present your data. 

Writing and Editing: AI can be used to generate content like business plans or fresh marketing materials such as blog posts, articles, and product descriptions. AI programs can also refine and rephrase existing content with grammar checks. For example, if you have written an original blog post for your business and want to improve the grammatical structure and correctness and make it more detailed or descriptive, AI can help. Language translation is another valuable AI tool that can help you reach broader audiences. 

Design and Production: AI can optimize marketing strategies with customized and personalized campaigns, generate graphic designs and visuals for marketing materials and social media posts, create video content to promote products and services and prototype products and websites. 

Considerations for Small Businesses 

While artificial intelligence can be valuable for business needs, users should be mindful of its risks and limitations. This technology is still in its early stages of use and development. Before using generative AI for small businesses, here are a few things to consider. 

 Review and Edit Results: The quality of the response depends on the quality of the input. Even though responses sound like live humans, they are computers whose answers are based on sources they’ve been trained on (books, websites, scientific papers, news articles, social media, forums, etc.). These sources can include misinformation and bias. Moreover, data used by AI may not be real-time, and in many cases, the input sources used to compile responses can be several years old. Always review and edit results before publishing AI-generated content. 

Copyrights: Legal ownership of the content is ambiguous, so don’t use it to create anything that could be misinterpreted as your intellectual property. Remember that nothing created by generative AI can be copyrighted. 

Security: Just like a Google search, AI stores your interactions. Do not share sensitive personal or customer data in your interactions. AI systems can be vulnerable to security breaches, resulting in private data being compromised or stolen. Cybercriminals, scammers and hackers use AI to launch more sophisticated attacks and make phishing emails and websites more convincing, which can be challenging to detect and defend against. Use caution and be wary of clicking links in unknown emails. 

For these reasons, it is best to use generative AI for small businesses as one of many tools in your toolkit and not rely on the outputs alone.

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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