Q&A with Brennan Woodruff: What Generative AI Means For Small Businesses
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a staple of science fiction for decades, but now that it’s here, the real world applications don’t look quite like what we’ve seen in books and movies. What few of these stories predicted was the impact of AI on the world of marketing.
How AI Enhances Marketing
AI tools are already augmenting the efforts of marketing teams across business sectors and company sizes, enabling them to reach their target audiences more effectively than ever before. While some raise concerns about advanced AI systems replacing human workers, in practice AI is much more like a tool that workers can leverage to work more efficiently.
AI’s ability to analyze and interpret vast amounts of data using machine learning algorithms enables marketers to make more informed strategic decisions based on trends in customer behavior. Marketing teams can leverage these insights to optimize everything from the content and placement of their ads to the frequency and delivery time of email campaigns, all to maximize conversions.
Another popular use for AI in marketing is in personalizing the customer experience. Over the past few decades, many consumers have become accustomed to advertisements, marketing efforts, and even shopping experiences that seem tailor-made just for them. According to a study by McKinsey, 71% of consumers say they expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% reported getting frustrated when they don’t.
Clearly, providing some level of personalization to customers is important to maintaining customer loyalty and a competitive edge. With the help of AI, businesses can deliver content and recommendations to individual customers based on their past behavior, interactions with the company’s website or social media accounts, and a wide range of other factors, ultimately increasing the likelihood of conversion.
The most visible marketing use case for AI has been the development of customer-facing chatbots. These automated systems are programmed to help customers by answering questions, guiding them through processes, and, if all else fails, directing them to the proper human customer service representative. As with other AI tools, chatbots are a means to augment human workers, not a full replacement. Chatbots allow businesses to extend their customer service hours and have helped lighten the load on customer service workers, allowing them to focus more of their attention on customers with more complex issues.
The Next Step in AI for Marketing
Through primarily backend functions, along with simple consumer-facing chatbots, AI has helped marketers improve their processes with data analysis and advanced audience segmentation. This has been particularly impactful for small businesses with lean marketing teams, streamlining these administrative tasks and giving their team members more time to focus on strategy and creating great content.
However, a recent trend may be poised to expand the role of AI in marketing even further. Many AI tools are now capable of generating original content based on user-provided inputs or prompts.
We spoke with co-founder and COO of generative AI company goCharlie.ai, Brennan Woodruff, to learn more about how AI is helping small businesses streamline and improve their marketing processes.
Q&A: The Emergence of Generative AI Tools
What is generative AI and how does it work? How is it different from other forms of AI?
BW: Generative AI is quite simply AI that creates new things, rather than analyzing and recommending based on past data. It is different from other forms of AI in that it creates new text with little direction provided by the user of the technology. AI prior to this was mostly used for data analysis, process automation, and recommending you songs or social media content.
To take it a step further, generative AI can create customized social media content, review responses for Yelp, blogs for website SEO, website copy, and more all from a few inputs from you about your business.
How does generative AI avoid plagiarism or using copyrighted material?
BW: Generative AI has been trained on billions of pieces of data to create the marketing content. It is possible for generative AI to create plagiarized content, but it is rare. That’s why we at GoCharlie.ai believe in a human + AI partnership. Humans give the AI the creative spark or direction and review what comes out to ensure it feels unique and helpful.
Why should small businesses care about generative AI for marketing? What are the benefits for small businesses specifically?
BW: Generative AI is a game changing technology for small businesses. You can use it for all sorts of things:
- Writing responses to customer reviews on Google Maps, Yelp, and other platforms
- Creating social media ads and posts to attract your target audience
- Writing full length blogs to discuss the benefits of your products and services
- Writing product descriptions on your Amazon or Shopify online stores
- Writing website content to convert visitors into customers
- Creating awesome visuals to capture the attention of your customers
- Writing marketing materials for brochures and other handouts at conventions
What are potential risks or challenges that small businesses should be aware of when considering using generative AI for marketing?
BW: There are very few risks to using generative AI for marketing. If anything there is more risk in not using such technologies as the amount of time you will save using generative AI will be astounding. The potential risk we would highlight is publishing generative AI content without reviewing as sometimes AI models can make things up, even though it sounds really convincing.
How do search engines handle AI-generated content? Is there a danger of it being labeled as spam? How does your service contend with this?
BW: Google is on record stating that AI content is not penalized by default. That said, content created specifically for SEO ranking purposes that is not helpful, unique, and insightful to the end reader will be downranked. The key here is content quality, and is why we developed Charlie’s capabilities to produce content that follows these requirements. Charlie creates unique, helpful and insightful content to help you establish subject matter expertise with your customers, and in the eyes of the search engines.
How do efforts like Google's recent initiative to promote "content written by people, for people, not content primarily made for search engine traffic" impact the effectiveness of AI-generated marketing materials?
BW: This is a great question. I actually think the backlash for AI content tools as a result of this is WAY overblown. Google isn’t on a witch hunt for AI content, rather Google is trying to avoid keyword stuffing and spammy articles that don’t actually communicate anything or have inherent value.
While I understand people thinking their content will be downranked, in all actuality Google just wants to index useful information. That’s why we developed our platform to help create unique, insightful and helpful content. By partnering with the AI to communicate the value you intend to in your content, you have nothing to worry about.
Are there any laws or regulations businesses need to take into consideration regarding implementation of AI solutions or data?
BW: Not for simple generative AI solutions. The only guidance I have is to use the AI as a collaborative tool, not the entire solution. AI isn’t here to replace humans, it’s here to augment them.
What are the biggest roadblocks keeping small businesses from fully embracing AI marketing?
BW: Some people just have fun thinking of cute quirky marketing for their businesses. I love those mom and pop shop punny marketing campaigns.
Training can also be an important hurdle to clear. It can take time to get really good at writing prompts that get the best responses from generative AI tools, which is why we’ve made our tools incredibly intuitive to get started with. Really I think it's awareness that is stopping small businesses from adopting more than anything. I expect the uptick to be significant in the next few years.
Image Source: Screenshot of GoCharlie.ai
How can small businesses get started with AI marketing? What are some easy to follow steps to start integrating AI tools into their established marketing processes?
BW: First, start by assessing why you might need an AI to help you with marketing. Are you stretched too thin? No one has marketing expertise? You can’t afford an agency?
Once you get clear on that, get an understanding of the channels you want to market your business on. This will be important as you go shopping for the right AI tool for you.
Once you’ve done this assessment use it to inform your purchasing decision.
For us, we’ve focused on pricing that is capped with no word limitations to provide small businesses with cost predictability, but unlimited growth upside with the content you create. Plus we do it with a cute puppy to boot. Watch out for those word usage overages from our competitors!