We hear a lot these days about how technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing the ways businesses operate. Even casual followers of the technology industry have read stories about how household-name companies including Amazon, Google and IBM are using AI and ML for everything from tailored product recommendations to piloting autonomous vehicles to developing computers that can defeat chess champions and win TV game shows.
Entrepreneurs and small-business owners may think ML is a tool only “the big guys” can afford or use effectively; but there are plenty of ways even startups can use the technology to boost their odds of success, from predicting future purchases (just like the big guys do) to taking labor-intensive tasks off their team members’ plates. Below, 11 members of Forbes Technology Council share ways machine learning can help entrepreneurs and small-business owners and why they’re so effective.
1. Scoring And Prioritizing Leads
Machine learning can help small businesses better identify leads and provide valuable insights into them. ML can not only be used to “score leads” but also to provide insights on the probable time to close. This allows entrepreneurs to create better portfolios from their leads and prioritize them effectively, as you want to balance high-value leads in terms of those that will close “now” versus those that will need some nurturing. – Neerav Vyas, Capgemini
2. Eliminating Time-Intensive, Repetitive Tasks
Technology for the sake of technology is never a good idea. The pandemic has left workers burned out, and the labor shortage is real. Entrepreneurs and small businesses should look for AI/ML technology that helps eliminate the time-intensive, mundane tasks employees do so they can focus on higher-order work. This will keep productivity moving and keep employees motivated. – Prasad Ramakrishnan, Freshworks
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3. Analyzing Data
Many entrepreneurs and small businesses do not have the budget for one data analyst, let alone a team of analysts. Machine learning is a way to cover your analytical base without the positional cost. And while most entrepreneurial initiatives start out with a great vision, expecting yourself to peer with otherworldly wisdom into analytics at every turn is simply not tenable. – Denver Hunter, PenServ Plan Services, Inc.
4. Identifying Purchasing Patterns
One of the simplest ways to utilize machine learning in smaller businesses is to use its capabilities to identify patterns, such as purchasing patterns, and to predict near-future purchasing. This can drastically cut supply chain and storage costs—smaller businesses often neither have significant resources in these areas, nor can they afford them. Predictions are excitingly accurate, even with sudden trend changes. – Markus Bernhardt, OBRIZUM
5. Handling Personal Scheduling
Time is money, and entrepreneurs have little of either. Smart scheduling solutions have been a game-changer for me. They analyze my calendar, automate coordination, and streamline how meetings get booked, rescheduled and canceled. – Sean Steele, Infolock
6. Turning Insights Into Ideas
Machine learning can drive home the importance of data and the commodity of technology. Entrepreneurs and small-business owners will find machine learning closing the loop to shorten the distance between doing and dreaming. Operationally, this means turning insights into ideas that are executed for real business impact, with those learnings creating even more insights. – Cleve Gibbon, Wunderman Thompson
7. Understanding Consumer Behavior
In light of recent technological advances, machine learning is becoming more accessible, which can help small businesses and entrepreneurs understand consumer behavior. This alone can provide you with better insight into customer needs and the updates or changes that should be made in order for your company’s products/services to best serve your customers. – Matt Pierce, Immediate
8. Analyzing Customer Feedback
Machine learning should definitely be used to analyze the feedback from your customers. Ideally, you will want to know how to evolve your products and understand what would make a customer become interested in or evolve with your product. Therefore, the feedback loop is highly important; but understanding what is noise and what is truly critical feedback is even more so. Then you can react accordingly. – WaiJe Coler, InfoTracer
9. Identifying Product ‘Winners’ And ‘Losers’
ML can help automate the process of product development. By using artificial intelligence to predict which products are likely to be successful, business owners can save time and money by passing on projects that would have failed anyway, freeing up their resources for more promising endeavors. – Leon Gordon, Pomerol Partners
10. Business Planning
There’s a lot more potential for machine learning to help in business planning processes than is realized at the moment. While machine learning is generally popular in aspects such as marketing and customer service, it is rather underutilized in planning, despite its high potential. Business planning is an important and complicated process where human efforts are not always enough to stay competitive. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor
11. Cleansing Data, Processing Documents And Combating Fraud
ML can be overwhelming for small-business owners because of the learning curve. To start with, small businesses can certainly leverage ML for customer data cleansing, fraud detection, automation of document processing and guarding against phishing attacks. These areas are common pain points, and ML can certainly help small businesses solve these issues as well as realize some long-term cost savings. Later on, small businesses can invest more money in automation. – Kiran Palla, Kiran Palla