Intelligent SMBs: AI Is Now Being Used More For Marketing

This may not include your local shoe repair shop, but small businesses are adopting artificial intelligence in an effort to compete, according to Break Free: The State of AI Marketing for Small Business, a study from Unbounce, by Blue Research.

Of the SMBs polled, 31% are now using AI-powered marketing, and 63% are interested in doing so. Moreover, 78% know that AI tools exist — and not just for firms with big budgets.  

What are they using it for? They are largely focusing on campaign creation, copywriting and optimization. 

Of the AI users, 76% send email to attract customers, versus 69% of firms that do not use AI. But email is second to search engine optimization, pursued by 82% of AI users and 70% of non-users.  

Non-AI users dominate in only one area —71% utilize content marketing, compared to 62% of AI users.  



But 67% of AI adopters deploy landing pages, while 43% of non-users do not. In addition, 58% use influencer or affiliated marketing (compared to 19% of non-adopters). And 52% utilize SMS marketing (versus 22% of non-AI users).  

The more likely a  business is to use AI, the less they will spend on marketing. The AI users spend:

  • $50,000 — -8% 
  • $25,000-$50,000 — 18% 
  • $10,000-$25,000 — 16% 
  • $5,000-$10,000 — 9% 
  • $1,000-$5,000 — 18%
  • <$1,000 — 32% 

In contrast, non-AI users budget: 

  • $50,000+ — 9% 
  • $25,000-$50,000 — 18% 
  • $10,000-$25,000 — 19%
  • $5,000-$10,000 — 20%
  • $1,000-$5,000 — 31%
  • <$1,000 — 12%

The main challenges to using AI? 

  • Limited or small marketing budget — 51%
  • Not enough employees to devote to marketing — 39%
  • Not enough time to devote to marketing — 34%

Their biggest marketing challenges also include lack of expertise in digital marketing (43%) and in digital marketing tools (39%). 

In addition, 61% of businesses that have adopted AI always use data to inform their marketing decisions, compared to 24% that do not employ AI. In contrast, 33% of AI users sometimes use data, while 58% of non-AI users do so. 

In general, 82% of adopters agree that AI tools are helping their companies accelerate revenue growth, with 42% saying they strongly agree.

And 89% of adopters agree that AI tools will be key to their marketing success, with 42% saying they strongly agree.

Of those who use AI, 97% say these tools reduce the time spent on marketing tasks, and 95% agree they reduce the need for additional headcount. And 92%, say AI decreases costs. 

And they are optimistic. They believe:

  • Marketing jobs will be created — 46%
  • Marketing jobs will be eliminated — 32%
  • There will be no impact on marketing jobs — 11% 
  • Don’t know or unsure — 10%

"For small businesses, every dollar and hour saved can make a critical difference, especially with teams that are already stretched thin”, says Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO of the Marketing AI Institute. 

“AI will not replace marketers, but it will be infused into marketing tools and software to make us more efficient, and enhance our creativity and decision-making, concludes Roetzer.

Roetzer adds: “AI solutions can be found across every area of marketing, specifically for data-driven and repetitive tasks, and where predictions are being made about outcomes and human behavior.” 

Blue Research surveyed 401 small business leaders across the US and Canada in the second quarter of 2022. 

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