Business management

How AI could help SMEs better engage customers

Start small by employing generative artificial intelligence to finesse your marketing campaigns.

By using GenAI, computers can interpret language or recognise images to produce a wealth of content, including text, music, and videos. But is now the time to test and learn within your business?

Commercial and Institutional Banking’s Digital Journey Manager Ben Brown, who recently worked on an in-house GenAI proposition at the bank, believes that SMEs could benefit in areas like marketing. Its fast content curation and natural language processing means it can understand the way humans write and speak while accessing various data streams. However, he says it’s a lot less risky if you control the knowledge base – where the data is coming from.

“It’s less risky if there’s a human in the loop,” asserts Ben. “If you let a bot go off on its own and you don’t know its knowledge base, or which sites it’s had access to, it could end up with biased content (where distorted results reflect society’s biases across many areas). AI is at its best and most reliable when it’s able to assist humans with their answers.”

Voice-controlled assistants, customer service chatbots and recruitment are worth exploring, and it could give consistency to reports or answers, helping with tone of voice or accuracy of technical language levels.

Faster content creation could give you the edge

If your business can produce marketing content more quickly than its competitors then it has an advantage; GenAI potentially gives smaller companies better access to marketing. “If they struggle to create content, even if it’s just Facebook marketing, it could be used as a more professional tool for content, email replies or campaigns. Advertising and how-to videos are a great start. You simply write your script and it will build a video for you,” explains Ben.

If a business doesn’t warrant a full-time person in a marketing role, GenAI could create that content automatically.

Ben explains that there are plenty of third-party providers available which allow you to plug in your data. “You don’t have to be a developer or a coder, it’s very ‘low code’.” Third parties will build it all for you and plug it in, he says, pointing out that Microsoft is offering an AI-powered assistant called Copilot in Windows 11, which feeds into products such as Excel.

Identifying a solid use case helps keep costs down

Stay focused by considering exactly how AI could support your business. “You need a solid use case, such as ‘I want GenAI to help me create marketing campaigns’,” he advises. Then you can source that product. “There are free trials everywhere. It might be offering up a demo of a speech using an avatar where you can give it the script and it creates the presentation, for example, or how-to videos are a growing trend.”

Take the time to upskill staff, then test and learn. Many of these companies offer free trials, so it’s possible to try a selection of GenAI create tools before you buy one. “It doesn’t have to be expensive. You might spend a few pounds a month on a tool that could build your email campaigns,” he adds.

A tool to help with idea generation and personalisation

If you don’t have a marketing facility in-house, a GenAI tool could fill that gap. But even if you do, it’s worth carrying out some research or trials to see if branching out in this way could help with curation and idea generation, particularly with customer segmentation.

Ben cites an example of a business aiming to introduce more personalisation to its premium customers. If most of the team’s resources are focused on this, how can the business still hit the goals for the other customer segments – and do that fast? “We could use GenAI for generic content, as it’s quite straightforward, leaving more time to spend on premium content. GenAI could be used to open up that capacity: rather than recruit more staff, could you make your current employees’ lives easier?

He returns to his earlier point of keeping it closely monitored. “You need to verify what’s coming out of it and remember it’s only as good as the content that you’re putting into it,” he concludes. 

Responsible AI: security and privacy considerations

Ensure data is accurate, transparent and is used safely and securely, with ownership falling to specific members of a team. It should be used responsibly and ethically, with transparency for making informed decisions.

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