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Business Insights from Andrea Hill

AI: Your New Teammate

Originally Published: 05 February 2024
Last Updated: 08 April 2024

Software & Service Links

The links below are for services offered by Andrea Hill's companies (StrategyWerx, Werx.Marketing, MentorWerx, ProsperWerx), or for affiliate offers for which we may receive a commission or goods for referrals. We only offer recommendations for programs and services we truly believe in at the Werx Brands. If we're recommending it, we're using it.

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) ushers in the era of Industry 5.0, transforming every industry and every size of business, it’s impact will be most keenly felt in the realm of workflow efficiency as businesses adopt AI for productivity. Repetitive tasks, long the domain of human workers, are now being automated by machine learning driving large language learning models (LLMs) and intelligent machines, leading to significant time-savings and quality improvements. From jump-starting marketing and messaging to streamlining customer service to optimizing production lines, AI is revolutionizing how businesses operate. No matter what size of business you have, you  can do more with less and focus on higher-level work by incorporating AI in your technology stack. The result? Cost reductions, increased productivity, and stronger competitive performance.

AI for Marketing

AI can be a powerful tool in your sales and marketing toolbox. So far, much of the discussion about AI … at least in the small  business sector … focuses on AI as a content generator. Given how much has been written on this aspect already, I’m going to focus on other areas of sales and marketing benefits. (edit 2024/4/8: I recently did a short talk on AI for content generation, which you can watch here). 

Lead Generation and Qualification

AI can also transform your lead generation and qualification efforts by transforming vast amounts of data into insights you sales team can quickly put to use. Tools already exist that can crawl blogs, social media posts, and online forums to identify users interested in specific topics. It can analyze demographics and past behavior to further refine lead pools, and it can produce lead scores based on interactions with your website, email, and social media presence. This type of work would take sales and marketing teams an extraordinary amount of time, but AI tools can achieve similar results in days or even hours.

Predictive Analytics for Campaign Development

AI can also help you target marketing  campaigns by moving beyond simple demographics and past behavior. It can analyze massive customer datasets to identify hidden patterns and correlations … connections that only the most skilled and experienced data analysts would otherwise pick up on. AI tools can predict which customers are most likely to churn, which are prime for upselling, and which customers will respond best to specific types of promotions or messages. 

Wouldn’t you love to know which customers were least likely to repurchase before offering a discount? Would you love to know the best time to send a re-engagement communication to a past purchaser? These are things AI can facilitate for you.

Sales Forecasting

Forecasting is always going to be part art, part science, but AI tools can make the science aspect of forecasting much, much (much) more accurate. This is  because AI tools can factor in far more variables than traditional approaches like spreadsheets with human interpreters or even business intelligence (BI) tools like Power BI or Qlik.

AI algorithms can analyze historical sales data, market trends, customer behavior, seasonality, and even external factors like economic indicators, local weather, and local or regional politics. The tools can pinpoint subtle patterns and correlations that untrained (or even skilled) data analysts might miss. Even better? AI tools can also pull in data regarding competitor product launches, industry adoption rates, and your own lead generation data. All this adds up to better prediction of potential sales activities. 

Why do you need this type of forecasting? Because better visibility to future changes in sales will help you eliminate pipeline bottlenecks, get ahead of production opportunities, and rebalance your offerings and inventory to reflect changes in demand. 

Beyond Marketing

But now let’s look beyond sales and marketing, to topics that are being discussed extensively at the Fortune 500 level, but aren’t being given enough attention for small and medium sized businesses … even though the tools for many of the things I’m about to describe are already available and affordable for smaller businesses.

AI for Productivity in Operations and Logistics

AI tools can help you optimize and streamline your inventory, improve demand forecasting (see Sales Forecasting above), and improve your route planning, again, b y analyzing complex data. AI can take the historical sales pattern data you are probably using right now to plan your inventory, provide a more nuanced view of seasonality, add in lead times and external factors like weather and politics to predict what stock is needed and when. All this leads to better inventory and production decision-making.

For route-planning, AI can integrate with your warehouse management system, add in constantly changing real-time factors such as traffic conditions, weather, construction, and delivery time windows, and update routes automatically. 

This is already useful data for large logistics companies like UPS and FedEx. But imagine what it can do for your local delivery team or regional distribution efforts.

Data Analytics

One of the things most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) struggle with is numeracy (edit 2024/4/8: Check out this snippet from my presentation on numeracy in manufacturing). Even though businesses of every size are swimming in vast quantities of data today, very few companies employ … or truly know how to use … sophisticated data analysts.

Even with excellent BI tools, most companies fail to optimize their data insights for better decision-making, because the typical IT, accounting, or even marketing team member doesn’t really know how to structure the data models that will give them better insights.

AI tools can help with this. AI excels at extracting valuable insights from massive datasets. Machine learning algorithms wade through all that data to uncover the patterns, trends, and correlations that help you make better decisions. Even better, AI data tools can convert those insights into effective graphics to help your management team “see” the data similarly and get on the same page.

These tools can also assist with fraud and anomaly detection. By establishing baselines for typical behavior within your data, AI can flag deviations and suspicious activity. 

This same anomaly detection is useful for manufacturers, which can use AI to analyze sensor data from machines, detect subtle anomalies in vibration or temperature patterns, and signal equipment malfunctions before they cause costly breakdowns or isolate quality problems before you throw more labor at them.

Administrative Automation

How much time and money does your company waste in administrative tasks? From duplicative data entry to unnecessary printing to missed opportunities, admin is an area ripe for disruption.

AI accelerates document processing, automates routine tasks, and minimizes the tedium of data entry. Using tools like Optical Character Recognition (OCR), AI-powered tools can extract text from images or PDFs, making them searchable, editable, and indexable. AI can then classify documents based on content, route those documents to the right people or departments, or trigger specific activities.

In email management AI can draft responses to common inquiries and free up time for other, more valuable tasks. It can even interpret the intent of emails to suggest meeting times (and share a meeting link to keep you out of the “what time is good for you” back-and-forth), dropping those meetings right into your calendar for you. 

In data entry you can use AI tools to analyze forms, invoices, or receipts, extract information from them, and directly populate your databases or spreadsheets.


Of course, accessing these AI tools assumes that you have at least begun the work of modernizing your tech stack (need help with that? Book a consult now to find out how StrategyWerx can help). 

Competitiveness in 2024 and beyond will hinge on your ability to automate more of your business processes. We are nowhere near the peak of effectiveness for AI-powered software yet, but the tools you can use to begin this process are already available and affordable. If there’s one thing that SMEs should be thinking about right now, it’s how to automate processes beyond marketing. Implement any one of the ideas in this article, and you’ll increase your competitiveness immediately.