Article | April 13, 2020
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become one of the fastest-growing technologies of our generation. It has all kinds of applications in industries like healthcare, education, and of course, commerce. Small business owners can grow their companies at a faster pace and on a bigger scale on the back of AI-powered platforms. Below, we discuss 5 such amazing platforms.
Article | July 9, 2021
The effect of COVID-19, the pandemic nationwide, was inevitable and became a catalyst for every business's digital transformation, irrespective of a large, small, or medium-sized business. 2020 saw a boom in digital transformation and escalated demand for artificial intelligence (AI). A few years back, artificial intelligence for small businesses was just a buzzword for owners, and today it is a new reality of our day-to-day life. Many companies have recognized the extensive benefits of AI. As the growing power of AI for small business owners has been considered, they have integrated them to achieve their goals.
Artificial intelligence, also called machine learning, offers small businesses the opportunity to become profitable, efficient, and effective. With time and evolution in technology, AI delivers results and has become affordable for small businesses. The unprecedented nature of the pandemic crisis brought in a set of new challenges and forced small companies to change and improvise their business strategies. This crisis led AI and machine learning to play a substantial role in various aspects of businesses.
According to statistics, the artificial intelligence industry will be worth $190 billion by 2025, with global spending on AI systems already reaching $57 billion by 2021. The machine learning and deep learning segment accounted for nearly 65% of the market in 2019.
According to ReportCrux Market Research, the global demand for artificial intelligence in the IoT market estimated to be around $ 2.64 billion in 2019, revenues are expected to be around $ 15.72 billion by the end of 2027, representing a 25.0% CAGR from 2020 to 2027.
Moving forward, before you hit the core topic of this blog, here are few additional aspects you need to know about AI and small businesses.
AI and small businesses
Today AI is the new headline of every business news and has become a prevalent technology adapted by almost every industry. However, before delving into the implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence for small businesses, let me throw some light on what artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are.
AI is creating computer systems capable of performing tasks that generally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation.
Machine learning is defined as “an artificial intelligence application that allows systems to learn and improve based on experience without being programmed automatically.”
AI and machine learning have become a mainstay of the new business world. Yet, as per the common misconception, this technology is still considered for bigger businesses with big budget to spend. However, as technology advances, artificial intelligence for small businesses has become more affordable, making it an industry reality for them as well.
According to the 2018 Vistage survey on the role of AI for small businesses, 13.6% of small-to-medium companies (SMBs) are currently using AI technologies to improve business operations and customer engagement. In addition, according to another survey of CEOs from small and medium-sized businesses, 29.5% of CEOs support AI technology.
Artificial intelligence has gained trust from few big names such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk.
AI and deep machine learning can be implemented through AI tools and AI software across different parts of business operations. AI tools help streamline all the processes of the business, thus transform the industry. AI tools for small companies benefit in various ways, including helping to improve sales and marketing efforts, improving recruitment and HR activities, and automating customer service and communications.
Here is how artificial intelligence (AI) can help your small businesses improve your performance efficiency.
Top 5 artificial intelligence recommendations for small businesses in 2021
Since the digital approach towards business operations, machine learning and artificial intelligence for small business operations are changing. However, it necessitates a well-planned marketing strategy for small businesses to maintain a personal touch in their approach. As a result, customer-relationship management (CRM) systems play an essential role in gathering customer data across various omni-channels such as email, social media platforms, and phone. This customer data aids in the improvement and automation of the sales process.
HubSpot CRM and Salesforce have incorporated AI into their technology; these AI-infused CRM for small businesses can help their owners in analyzing customer feedback. As a result, marketing and lead generation activities will be adjusted based on that information.
AI-infused CRMs not only improve lead generation results, but they have also begun to demonstrate how AI can be used to acquire marketing and sales-relevant insights, as well as to improve the customer acquisition process.
Effortless data-driven predictions and decision-making
Data plays a key role for businesses in the decision-making process. The data-driven approach helps to improve decisions, but for this, the companies need to recognize and adapt artificial intelligence (AI) into their workflow. Data holds the insight that enables better decisions, integration of AI and machine learning in workflow validates effortless data-driven predictions and more robust decision making for further actions.
The question is, how does AI help in the decision-making process based on data? Here is the solution; firstly, AI examines massive amounts of data and then provides insights to business owners, who make decisions based on this information. Then, do you see how artificial intelligence for small businesses in workflow simplifies decision-making and makes data-driven predictions with ease.
Application of artificial intelligence (AI) in human resource
The human resource was the most unexpected department into which artificial intelligence (AI) crept. Effective implementation of AI tools in human resources helps to streamline the hiring and onboarding process. Furthermore, it is beneficial to obtain employee feedback on how HR can improve the hiring process.
AI tools for small businesses offer their marketing teams to handle repetitive and tedious tasks like data entry, cleaning up extensive data, and testing sales campaigns' efficiency. In addition, artificial intelligence for small businesses empowers them to optimize their staff output.
AI-powered customer service
The big players in online retail are no longer the only ones. Small and medium-sized businesses are also gradually becoming a significant part of selling their products or services on an online portal. In the form of conversational platforms such as chatbots, IVRs, and visual bots, AI can enable proactive customer self-service. First, however, it is necessary to develop personalized customer service for their satisfaction. This can be done with the help of integration of the most used AI-powered chatbots.
Many small business owners are investing in this process to provide customer communication and service. Chatbots use natural language (NLP) processing technology of the machine learning tool.
Since the introduction of deep learning in AI, it has become a need of an hour to deliver better results to customers, as approximately 30% of all online retail transactions are made on a mobile phone. Most small businesses are utilizing AI to provide customers with first-hand product experience.
According to Gartner, “46% of SMBs (surveyed) are currently using or plan to use a chatbot within the next two years.” Another 21% of the small and medium-sized businesses polled were evaluating chatbots for use, according to the study. Chatbots is like a sales and customer rep working 24/7 for you.
Among the many artificial intelligence for small businesses available, this relieves stress and allows you to devote your time to more critical tasks. For example, with AI-powered customer service, you can simplify many tasks, facilitate customer communication and customer experience.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, most businesses turned online, giving rise to online data storage by companies both big and small. Thus, exposing them to new cyber threats to business and consumer data, which are called cyber-attacks. One of the most talked-about cyber-attacks in 2019 is ‘Ransomware,’ a form of malicious software that is often deployed via social engineering tactics.
According to the survey, ransomware attacks increased 350% globally in 2018, and ransomware attacks are expected to cost $6 trillion per year by 2021.
For small businesses with a minimal budget to spend on cybersecurity or sudden ransom, such attacks can be devastating. According to recent reports, 60% of small businesses that suffer a cyberattack go out of business within six months. But luckily, cybersecurity powered by AI may provide some relief from these attacks. AI-powered cybersecurity programs look for unusual activity or cyber threats detected and can stop the attacks or raise alerts earlier.
You can revitalize and empower your small business by employing artificial intelligence for small businesses to meticulously maintain an account database, stay in touch with customers, or protect your company from hackers.
AI is the future of businesses
In the future, AI can transform how businesses interact with customers, compete with one another, and grow in the market. On the other hand, the pandemic served as a catalyst for businesses to embrace the business benefits of artificial intelligence (AI). As a result, what would typically take years to implement on a large scale was completed in a matter of weeks and months. According to survey by Salesforce research, 51% of customers say their expectations of companies are now being influenced by AI.
According to a report, the global artificial intelligence (AI) market was worth 28.42 billion USD in 2019. According to the same report, the AI market will be worth 99.98 billion USD by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 34.86%.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence for small businesses help their owners reduce manual work and increase productivity with little effort and in a short period.
Can small businesses use AI?
Yes, small businesses can use AI and need an hour to implement it in their process. Small business owners can use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide the first-hand experience of their products or services to their customers. AI helps small businesses to handle repetitive and tedious tasks with great ease.
How can small businesses benefit from AI?
Implementation of AI in a small business can help to improve sales and marketing, streamline HR tasks, automate customer communication, provide cybersecurity from unpredictable threats, etc. Thus, artificial intelligence for small businesses can completely transform their position in the market.
How is AI implemented in small businesses?
AI technology can be implemented in small businesses using various AI-based tools, applications, or software.
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Article | September 5, 2021
Doesn't free money for small businesses sound wonderful? Thus, free money to small-medium enterprises (SMEs) is the core purpose of small business grants. As a small business owner, you are constantly looking for funding opportunities for small businesses to expand your enterprise. This requirement became even more desirable during the coronavirus pandemic.
The following are the top challenges facing small businesses:
Cash flow is limited or inconsistent
Lack of capital raising
No provision for unforeseen expenses
Inadequate tax compliance
Absence of a budget
Combining commercial and personal finances
“It’s almost always harder to raise capital than you thought it would be, and it always takes longer. So plan for that.”
– Richard Harroch, Venture Capitalist and Author
How About We Figure Out What a Business Grant is?
A grant is a sum of money provided to a business for a particular purpose. There are several financing possibilities for small enterprises when applying for start-up business grants. You only need to know where to find it. Government (federal and state), charities, and private institutions all offer small business grants.
Unlike small business loans, small business grants do not need a repayment. In addition, unlike loans, you are not required to provide security, are not charged late fees or interest, and are not required to give away any ownership of your business. As a result, grants for small businesses are an appealing source of finance for businesses.
Small business grants are frequently awarded based on specific areas, industrial sectors, community groups, or types of enterprises. Grants come in various forms, including those granted by the government, those supplied by private firms, and those directed for specific groups such as women, veterans, or women. In addition, considering the current pandemic crisis, a new grant has been established to assist individuals negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal government does not provide start-up business grants; instead, its grant programs are often directed toward non-profit organizations or other government agencies that face financing challenges.
COVID-19 Small Business Grants
Several types of COVID-19 small business grants are available to mitigate the loss caused by the coronavirus to small businesses. First, government grants for small businesses provide economic relief from the loss of revenue.
The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) administers federal small business funds for coronavirus recovery under the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Non-profit Organizations, and Venues Act.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP):
Small Business Administration (SBA) provides financial help by introducing financial assistance programs like Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). However, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) concluded on May 31, 2021. Even after the termination of the program, you can still qualify for loan forgiveness. This program was a significant part of COVID-19 small business grants. As of May 10, 2021, the SBA has authorized $782 billion in PPP loans.
To qualify for loan grants, you must establish the following:
Maintaining employee and pay levels
The revenues of the loan are used to cover payroll costs and other allowable expenses
At least 60% of the earnings are used to cover payroll expenditures
COVID-19 Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
The Federal government recognized the coronavirus's impact and introduced many COVID-19 small business grants, and Targeted EIDL was one of the leading financial assistance programs offered.
The SBA makes targeted economic injury disaster funding available to small companies in low-income regions that have suffered revenue loss due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is more of a donation than a loan, as it is not returnable.
The targeted EIDL offers up to $10,000 in advance if your firm is:
Located in a low-income neighborhood
Has sustained a higher than 30% economic loss
Employ no more than 300 people
Due to COVID-19, small business owners and qualified agricultural companies in all 50 states and territories of the United States are presently eligible to apply for a low-interest loan.
Shuttered Venues Grant
As of August 2021, the Shutter Venues Grant program is ended. However, later that month, the Small Business Administration (SBA) planned to establish a supplemental Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) application for 50% of the initial amount, up to a maximum of $10 million.
The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Non-profits, and Venues Act established the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, modified by the American Rescue Plan Act. The initiative, managed by the SBA's Office of Disaster Assistance, would provide over $16 billion in subsidies to closed venues.
Eligible candidates may receive up to 45% of their gross earned revenue in the form of a grant. The maximum grant is ten million dollars.
Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF)
The American Rescue Plan Act established the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) to provide emergency assistance for eligible restaurants, bars, and other eligible businesses impacted by the pandemic.
This program compensates restaurants for income losses caused by the pandemic, up to a maximum of $10 million per firm and no more than $5 million per physical location.
As of now, RRF is closed for new applications.
Government Grants for Small Business
Numerous government grants for small businesses have been made available for free by the federal, state, and municipal governments. However, accepting free government money entails a considerable bit of paperwork and is time-consuming and technical at the same time.
Federal Government Grants for Small Business
The federal government offers many other additional grants for small businesses along with COVID-19 assistance. Federal government grants for small businesses are generally available to firms engaged in research, technology, or health.
The government agencies that support small company grants are the SBA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Department of Agriculture.
Let us find out which are the most competitive government grants for small businesses.
Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)
Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR)
U.S. Small Business Administration State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
State Government Grants for Small Business
State offers government incentives to a small business that address the state's social or economic issues. However, due to the minor application set for state funds, competition may be less severe and easily accessible.
Federal agencies occasionally award grants to state governments, which then distribute the monies.
Below is few resources body that offers funding opportunities for small businesses:
U.S. Economic Development Administration
State Business Incentives Database
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
Private Small Business Grants
While government grants are beneficial to small companies, the financing levels are insufficient. Occasionally, private corporations and charities step forward and provide small business grants. On the other hand, private business grants need separate applications and may have eligibility limits confined to specific industries.
Numerous corporate-sponsored small business grants require applicants to compete in pitch competitions or something comparable. Unfortunately, few major private corporations provide substantial financial incentives to small businesses for joining (and winning) contests or pitch competitions. However, even if you do not win, you may receive a runner-up reward or exposure for your business.
Below are few private small business grants available
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE)
Visa Everywhere Initiative
Wells Fargo Community Investment
Nav's Quarterly $10,000 Business Grant
Patagonia Corporate Grant Program
Start-Up Business Grants
A start-up business grant is money provided by the government or another entity to assist small businesses and organizations in establishing and developing their businesses. Initially, small business grants are often not accessible to launch a firm; nevertheless, they are available for specific businesses and owners.
The following is a list of different sorts of businesses eligible for start-up small business grants:
Women, veteran, or minority-owned businesses
Here is an example of small business start-up grants
4.0 Schools fellowships
Jack Daniel's pitch distilled
As the information above indicates, there are several small business grants available. However, applying for grants is time intensive and may result in your firm not receiving the money needed. Finally, explore the small business grant, whichyour business is eligible for.
If small business grants are not a possibility for you, several alternative funding choices are available that fit your budget.
What can a small business grant be used for?
Small business grants are used for a variety of purposes: to establish a business, to stimulate minority entrepreneurship, to support research and development in a particular industry, to bring innovation, and to assist businesses in the domains of science, technology, and health, the list goes on.
How can I get a grant to start a small business?
There are several websites and organizations where you may obtain small company grants, including the following:
USDA Rural Business Development Grants
Small Business Development Centres
National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
What distinguishes grants from small business loans?
The primary distinction between small business grants and small business loans is that grants are not returned (with certain circumstances), but loans need to be paid back. In addition, grants are generally reserved for small firms, requiring more time to process and receive the funds.
Article | June 9, 2021
December 2019 was just the start of something sudden and drastic change a world was about to witness and changed the pattern and working of business completely. Covid 19 has been a major economic shock for both large businesses as well as small businesses. Marketing their business became difficult and was even more difficult and challenging for small business owners. The impact of COVID-19 was enormous on small businesses. Pandemic was a time to come up with new marketing strategies for small businesses. Here are few promising marketing strategies for small businesses during COVID-19.
Effects of the pandemic on small business
Small business was the hardest hit due to the onset of the pandemic and effects of the pandemic on small business has been severe. The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 brought up widespread closing of businesses, factories, and stores around the world. Temporary closure of businesses due to pandemic reflected income losses to business owners due to inactive months.
As per a recent study, 34% of U.S. small businesses are still closed. COVID-19 continues to be challenging for small businesses forcing them to shut down their business permanently. As per the recent survey, about 22% of U.S. small businesses have closed in February. Effects of the pandemic on a small business stay the longest.
Customers being reluctant to rush to stores for their purchases considering their safety has reduced the business for small business owners. As per the survey conducted by McKinsey, almost 47% of small business owners are concerned about their sustainability in the market, and about 57% of the owners are concerned about the lack of customers.
What are the challenges faced by small business during the pandemic?
COVID-19 magnified the pre-existing challenges of small businesses along with the addition of more challenges. The new challenges faced by small businesses during the pandemic are money management, work-life balance and fatigue, government regulations, client dependency, and going for an online platform. However, the Small Business Administration (SBA) of the federal government came forward to help businesses. The federal government enforced the Paycheck Protection Program Act (PPP), by the CARES Act, aided the small business loans with the fund. Switching to digital is a new need of an hour to ameliorate the involvement of new and existing customers and having social media presence.
Sharing the best marketing strategies for small businesses to overcome the challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Best Marketing Strategies for Small Business
Get Website for Online Presence
Do you need a website for small businesses? The answer is yes. Websites are like a business card to reach out to the customers; with the absence of a website, you will be missing out on the major chunk of the market. Simply by making your online presence you will create the most important asset for your small business. It is a channel where you will exhibit the information about your brand, who you are, where are you, what can you offer, and how potential customers can reach out to you. You can grab traffic information from your website through a search engine. The data and analytics provided such as how many people visited your website, time duration spent by people on your webpage, demographic details of your visitors, and many more enables the success of your website.
Google My Business Listing
Google My Business is an effective part of digital marketing strategies for small businesses. It is cost-effective for small businesses and gives your business visibility on Google and beneficial for targeting local customers. Google My Business provides you with a free set of tools increasing your reach with higher online visibility. Google My Business is affordable for both small and large businesses. With good reviews from the customers or if you rank in the top 3 of Google My Business listings you can pull many leads, and gain credibility and trust for your business.
Email marketing strategy is an important and critical part of marketing strategies for small businesses and works best during the COVID-19 pandemic. Email is the highest converting channel that helps in nurturing leads. Email marketing for small businesses is cost-effective and involves showcasing new products, important business updates, special offers, prompting your recipients to click through your website. Other benefits that email marketing for small businesses offers are easy to automate, immediate communication, easy to track and optimize, and easy to set up and run.
Content marketing during COVID-19 for small businesses has been at the center of business marketing strategy. Content marketing is creating and publishing high-quality content including, articles, emails, online courses, podcasts, and videos to reach out to the target audience. Content marketing is a must for small businesses because it is highly result-oriented. Content marketing helps small businesses to create trust and long-term relationships with customers and potential prospects and gives better exposure to your products or services.
Blogging has proved to be one of the successful marketing strategies for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting up a blog will help you generate organic traffic and increase awareness for your brand, in return will improve your website’s rankings on the search engines. Blogging is a part of content marketing offering information about relevant topics to customers, in your case, it will be about your business. Starting a blog is important for small businesses because it helps you think in new ways, it is great for marketing, it allows you to share your expertise, and it creates a 2-way conversation.
More than 40,000 search inquiries are made on Google every second, so you can imagine the reach of audience your business can gain. Advertising on Google is of great worth for small businesses. Google AdWords is considered a more expensive and competitive form of marketing tactics; they are paid ads but are also one of the most powerful marketing strategies. In Google AdWords, Google assigns a quality score to your Ad depending on your Click Through Rate (CTR), relevance, and landing page your ad sends traffic to. Google AdWords gives you immediate results and ranges up as per your budget.
Using Social Media Platform
Using social media marketing is relevant and non-negotiable for small businesses because it helps to build wide awareness for their brand. Today’s world is social media savvy. Social media platforms have no more remained just a fun platform to socialize or connect with but have turned into a powerful tool for business reach by engaging with potential customers. Presence on social media can help small businesses to build up a rapport with customers, gain an opportunity to promote their products or services to larger audiences. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are a few of the social media platforms that are highly active, hence proves to be one of the easy marketing strategies for small businesses.
Use the Power of SEO
Business slowed down in the pandemic and businesses are reluctant to commit. Once an impressive website is developed, search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the impactful marketing strategies for small businesses. SEO is a time taking strategy to show the results but in the long run, SEO marketing strategy surely brings you the desired success. SEO is to optimize your website and content for google search engines so that your business ranks higher on searches. Higher the rank on google search higher the chances of traffic drive to your website and higher the chance of your website being clicked.
With the practice of the above-mentioned strategies for small businesses during COVID-19, you will bring a boost to your business.
What are the marketing strategies in COVID-19?
The world has heavily relied on technology as in the age of COVID-19. New marketing strategies have been brought fore-front to leverage the business growth and reach. Email marketing, content marketing, blogging, SEO, are marketing strategies to name which are emerging as powerful promotional tools.
Is Email Marketing effective for small business?
Email marketing has been the biggest benefit for small businesses during the pandemic due to its cost-effectiveness and use of time. Email marketing is the most impactful marketing channel during this time because it allows business owners to build relationships with new customers, past customers, and leads.
How Content Marketing helps small business?
Content marketing is a key strategy to introduce your business to a new audience and increase brand awareness, reach, and domain authority. Content marketing during COVID-19 for small business is becoming important for small businesses majorly for generating leads and sales.
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