The rapid evolution of AI over the past year has been nothing short of revolutionary, particularly generative AI – technologies that generate text, images, video, 3-D models and even code – which saw a breakout year in 2023. In ChatGPT’s first month, it amassed 57 million users, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history, according to research from investment bank UBS.

Despite its popularity, there’s an undercurrent of uncertainty among some business leaders. SMB leaders are asking big questions: What’s the real deal with AI (beyond all the buzz)? How do I actually get it to work for my business? How do we use this responsibly and keep our customers’ data safe?

The key to navigating these questions is all about experimenting with AI, focusing on the big wins it can bring to the table and learning best practices for using the technology responsibly.

What AI Can Do For Your Business

Of businesses using the generative AI platform ChatGPT today, one in four have already saved more than $75,000. That’s according to a 2023 survey by ResumeBuilder, which also found that 49% of companies are already using ChatGPT and that an additional 30% plan to use it in the future.

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Claude and DALL·E are popular because they’re affordable (subscriptions run around $20 per user/month) and effective. Generative AI’s versatility allows it to take on many valuable roles, like whipping up content. Businesses save a lot of money creating engaging content for their audience without paying more for ads or agencies. AI can also quickly examine market trends and crank out reports, cutting down on research and paperwork costs so leaders can spend more time on higher-value activities.

More ways AI can go to work for you:

  • Content Assistant: Tools like ChatGPT and Claude can create marketing materials, blog posts and social media content, ensuring a consistent brand voice and tone across all channels. They can also analyze thousands of online resources to craft the perfect job description and write SOPs, proposals, contracts and leases.
  • Get To The Point: Generative AI can distill lengthy documents, articles and e-mails into concise summaries, making it easier to grasp key points quickly.
  • Personalize Your Marketing: Generate tailored e-mail marketing campaigns or personalized product recommendations to enhance customer engagement and increase sales.
  • Product Discovery And Innovation: Leverage AI to analyze customer feedback and market trends for new product ideas or improvements, speeding up innovation.
  • Data Analyst: Employ AI for deep data analysis, uncovering insights into customer behavior, operational efficiencies and market opportunities.
  • Automate Routine Tasks: From scheduling to invoicing, AI can automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks, such as drafting meeting summaries or generating reports, allowing teams to focus on strategic work.

AI Best Practices

While AI can dramatically enhance efficiency and creativity, there are best practices to ensure its use is both effective and ethical:

  1. Never Share Sensitive Information: To protect privacy, avoid using personally identifiable information (PII) or protected health information (PHI) with AI tools. Assume anything that you input into ChatGPT is public information.
  2. Verify and Review: AI is a powerful tool, but it’s not infallible. It can sometimes inherit biases from training data or generate fabricated or wrong answers. Always review its outputs as you would a human co-worker’s work.
  3. Experiment: The best way to understand AI’s potential is to experiment. Start small, like using ChatGPT prompts to write a social media post. As you gain confidence, integrate generative AI in places where it can add the most value, like automating routine tasks, enhancing creative processes or improving decision-making with data analysis.

The Consequences Of Ignoring AI

AI isn’t coming – it’s arrived. Driven by billions in investment and some of the brightest minds on the planet, it’s reshaping the business landscape in ways we’re only beginning to understand. Choosing not to integrate AI into business operations would be like refusing to use e-mail in the 1990s. Without it, you might soon find yourself in a world you don’t know how to work in.

Instead of viewing AI as a looming threat, see it as an opportunity to tackle old problems with novel solutions. Yes, AI is changing the business playbook, but it’s also empowering us to deliver extraordinary value to our customers in new ways, dream bigger and achieve more.