AI Study: SMBs Looking For Education And Resources

With all the work that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) must do in a day, it doesn’t leave much time for them to market and advertise their products and services.

Google, Microsoft, Meta, X and others are trying to change that, with each are building artificial intelligence (AI) into their respective platforms -- not just advertising features, but workload solutions like bookkeeping, and office systems like email.  

For example, this month Google released a workbook on ways to stay current on innovations as the industry shifts toward AI in marketing and advertising.



The company said it will update the handbook with new resources and tools as they become available. 

Some 26% of the 486 SMBs participating in a survey from Constant Contact say they already invest in some sort of AI or automation technology, and another 44% report that they want to start using AI. A report released Thursday outlines how AI and automation can help businesses market and advertise more effectively to give them back time.

Some 60% said attracting new customers is by far the biggest challenge, followed by access to funds and capital, converting leads to sales, and marketing to target audiences. Some believe AI and automation could help, with 74% showing interest in using AI in their areas for their business. 

Non-profits face different hurdles.

Non-profit SMBs report significantly more difficulty with hiring and retaining staff -- 50% versus 29% of for-profit SMBs -- and a lack of expertise in digital marketing -- 37% versus 19% of for-profit SMBs.

Despite an interest in the technology, 80% of those surveyed report having only an intermediate or beginner level of understanding of how AI could potentially benefit their marketing efforts.

Some 44% are concerned about data security, while 41% said the technology is too expensive, 33% said it would take too much time to learn the technology, 27% cite a lack of AI tools for small businesses, 26% feel AI wouldn’t help their business, and 12% think its unethical to use AI and automation.

Of those who do use AI and automation, 91% said the technology has helped them make their business more successful, while 60% reported saved time and greater efficiency. Some 28% expect their business to save more than $5000 in the coming year as a result of using AI in their marketing.

Some 88% of SMBs use AI in two or more areas, and 70% are use it in three or more of these areas. When asked where, here's what they said:

  • 52% -- social media
  • 44% -- content creation like writing copy
  • 41% -- email campaigns
  • 38% -- ad targeting
  • 35% -- analytics
  • 34% -- website forms
  • 30% -- CRM
  • 25% -- SMS and text campaigns

SMBs believe AI and automation could help their business and help them free up some much needed time. What would an extra hour in the workweek mean to those swamped with tasks to do? Here's what they said:

  • 37% -- plan what’s next for my business
  • 31% -- fine tune my overall marketing strategy
  • 30% -- improve my product or service(s)
  • 26% -- spend more time interacting with customers in-person
  • 22% -- rest and/or take time for myself
  • 21% -- network with other business owners
  • 17% -- get more active on social media
  • 17% -- budget and managing my expenses
  • 12% -- update my systems and technology
  • 10% -- give back to my community
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