Let’s Talk Business – August 11, 2023

Small to medium-sized businesses can make their operations more efficient by using AI tools for tasks they might not have the time or the resources for otherwise. AI can help small businesses do more in less time at a lower cost or for free — from automating expense management to producing a sales pitch to generating creative imagery from text.

We are at the early stages of adoption—an estimated 25% of small business respondents in a May 2023 survey said they are using or testing generative AI. The relatively recent hype notwithstanding, small and medium-sized businesses are already using AI-based tools without knowing it.

“Just like AI has quietly enhanced the vehicle driving experience over the last few years through automated driving or route recommendations, and without the fanfare of this being AI-powered, the same is also true for business and consumer software that leverage highly targeted machine learning models to accomplish specific tasks,” said Mike Morton, VP of Dynamics 365 Business Central, Microsoft’s business management platform for SMBs (small and medium size businesses).

“A popular use of machine learning amongst SMBs is automating expense management where photos of receipts or PDF invoices are automatically analyzed and converted to structured data, greatly reducing manual data entry,” Morton said.

AI can help in additional ways. Chatbots based on conversational AI are a powerful tool for front-line customer service agents and ease the burden of providing round-the-clock support. Generative AI can help sales and marketing not just by creating images from text, but by also drafting text, image, and video content for ads, social content, and blog posts. For those in the sales field, AI could generate a sales pitch and accompanying slide decks tailored to a particular customer, dramatically reducing the effort to research and prepare tailored content.

“AI democratizes the space and helps people focus more on what they do best instead of all the external elements of running a business or putting together a successful presentation,” said Javid Louis, Director of Social for Ticketmaster and ex-Twitter Senior Brand Strategist.

Copilot for Business Central, a feature of Microsoft Dynamics 365, helps SMBs to accelerate scaling by producing AI-generated product descriptions. ​The feature suggests copy for engaging product descriptions tailored to a brand using a product’s title and key attributes, such as color, material, and size.

Microsoft’s Morton cautions against over-reliance on AI tools. “AI-generated output is not always correct and often requires human review of the outcomes,” he said.

Ticketmaster’s Louis agrees and points out that AI only delivers an “elevated starting point. It’s no longer a secret sauce but something that should be baked into every reasonable element of your business in order to increase efficiency in the way that you’re operating.”

The Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce offers many resources to help you start, run, and grow your business–including our annual Leadership Emporia Academy, monthly Group Lunches, Ribbon Cuttings, Business After Hours events, Legislative Dialogues, and more. Stop by the Trusler Business Center at 719 Commercial St., call 620-342-1600, or visit our website at www.emporiakschamber.org to learn more.

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“Let’s Talk Business” is a weekly column of the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Emporia. The mission of the Chamber is to be proactive in creating an