Artificial Intelligence (AI) has ushered in a transformative marketing era for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), specifically in marketing.  

It’s more than just a buzzword; it’s a game-changer. AI-driven tools and algorithms empower SMBs to compete with industry giants on a level playing field. From hyper-personalized customer experiences to predictive analytics that optimize ad spending, AI empowers SMBs to understand their customers in ways previously reserved for corporations with vast resources.  

The digital ally enables SMBs to adapt and thrive in an ever-evolving marketing landscape, offering efficiency and a profound shift in how businesses connect with their audiences. As SMBs continue to harness the power of AI, they’re not merely keeping pace; they’re setting the pace for the future of marketing. 

How are SMBs using AI to transform their marketing? Constant Contact and the research firm Ascend2 surveyed 486 SMB owners and decision-makers in June 2023 to discover how businesses use AI and automation to boost their business. 

Here are a few findings from the research study. 

Finding #1: Small businesses unanimously say their biggest challenge is customer acquisition. 

Attracting new customers is the biggest challenge for 60% of the SMBs surveyed, and it also takes more time to address than any other challenge. 

What are the greatest challenges your business is currently facing?

Tip: How can AI help with customer acquisition? Start by leveraging AI-powered segmentation.  

One of the key benefits of AI in customer acquisition is its ability to analyze vast amounts of data to identify and segment potential customers more effectively. SMBs can use AI to create particular customer personas based on demographics, behaviors, and preferences. By understanding their audience better, businesses can tailor their marketing messages and campaigns to resonate with specific segments, increasing the likelihood of acquiring new customers. This precision targeting saves resources and enhances the chances of converting leads into loyal customers. 

Finding #2: Small businesses are flocking to AI, but some still have questions. 

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of SMBs are interested in using AI for their business, and 55% reported their interest has grown in the last six months. However, 80% of those surveyed report having only an intermediate or beginner understanding of how AI could benefit their marketing efforts. 

Level of understanding benefits of AI

Tip: Maybe you can start using AI with your current marketing technology. Find out if your existing tools use AI technology to automate repetitive tasks like email campaigns, social media posting, and content creation.  

AI also empowers SMBs to personalize customer experiences at scale, using data analytics to deliver targeted content and recommendations. Chatbots and virtual assistants enhance customer support and engagement, ensuring SMBs are available 24/7 to meet customer needs. Moreover, AI-driven predictive analytics can help SMBs make data-informed decisions, optimizing ad spending and identifying market trends, ultimately improving ROI and enabling SMBs to compete effectively with larger enterprises in the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape.  


Nearly three-quarters (74%) of SMBs are interested in using AI for their business.
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Finding #3: Small businesses that have adopted AI are seeing immediate value. 

91% of AI users say it has helped make their business more successful, and 60% reported it saved time and greater efficiency. Further illustrating AI and automation’s value, 28% expect their business to save more than $5,000 in the coming year due to using AI in their marketing. 

How much money do you expect to save in the coming year as a result of using AI and/or automation technology in your marketing? 

Tip: Saving time is a priceless benefit for small business owners. In the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship, time is a finite and valuable resource, and its efficient use can make or break a business. Here are some key advantages:Top of Form 

  • Focus on Core Activities: Time saved can be redirected towards core marketing activities like customer acquisition, increasing customer engagement, and strategic planning. This enables small business owners to concentrate on what truly matters and drives growth. 
  • Increased Productivity: With more time, small business owners can accomplish more tasks, increasing productivity. This can translate into the ability to serve more customers, take on additional projects, or expand the business. 
  • Better Work-Life Balance: Time savings allow for a healthier work-life balance. Small business owners can spend more time with their families, pursue personal interests, or relax, reducing stress and improving overall well-being. 
  • Strategic Thinking: Time provides the space for strategic thinking and long-term planning. Small business owners can assess market trends, identify new opportunities, and make well-informed decisions to steer the business in the right direction. 
  • Innovation and Creativity: Time allows for creativity and innovation. Small business owners can experiment with new marketing channels, refine marketing tactics like email marketing, and stay ahead of the competition by continuously evolving their offerings. 

Time is a valuable asset, and AI can help you maximize that asset.   

 Finding #4: SMBs use AI for social media and content creation but could EASILY use it for much more. 

Where are SMBs putting AI to use? Social media, content creation (writing or images), and in their email campaigns. According to those surveyed, these areas are among the easiest to implement AI.  

In which of the following areas of your marketing do your currently use AI and/or automation?

Tip: Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can leverage AI to enhance their email marketing campaigns and achieve better results. Here are five ways AI can be used for this purpose: 

  1. Personalized Email Content: AI can analyze customer data and behavior to create highly personalized email content. SMBs can use AI to segment their email lists based on demographics, purchase history, and engagement patterns. This enables the delivery of tailored messages, product recommendations, and exclusive offers to each recipient, increasing the likelihood of conversions and customer loyalty. 
  1. Predictive Analytics: AI-powered predictive analytics can help SMBs determine the best times to send emails, the most compelling subject lines, and the content that resonates most with their audience. By analyzing historical data and A/B testing results, AI can provide insights that inform email marketing strategies for better open and click-through rates. 
  1. Automated Email Campaigns: SMBs can use AI-driven marketing automation tools to create and send emails automatically based on customer triggers and behavior. For example, an abandoned cart email can be sent immediately to customers who leave items in their online shopping cart. This ensures timely engagement and increases the chances of completing the purchase. 
  1. Optimizing Send Times: AI can analyze recipient data to determine when individual contacts will most likely engage with emails. SMBs can improve open rates and overall campaign effectiveness by sending emails at optimal times. AI can also consider time zone differences to ensure emails are received at the right time. 
  1. Email Content Generation: AI-powered tools can assist SMBs in generating email content, including subject lines and even entire email drafts. While human creativity remains essential, AI can provide valuable suggestions and streamline the content creation process, saving time and resources. 

By incorporating AI into their email marketing strategies, SMBs can enhance personalization, increase efficiency, and ultimately drive better results while optimizing resource use and improving the customer experience.Top of Form 

Finding #5: SMBs are getting to know their customers better because of AI. 

How well do you know your customers? Thirty-eight percent of SMBs that have been using AI for more than one year say they have gotten to know their customers better due to using AI in their marketing. AI can help small businesses segment contacts, understand their behavior, and spot trends in their engagement history. This allows them to send more effective and efficient marketing communications and build stronger customer relationships.  

Describe the biggest impacts that AI and/or automation technology has had on your marketing.

Tips: By harnessing AI for customer data analytics, predictive analytics, and real-time customer interactions, SMBs can gain a more comprehensive understanding of their customers. This knowledge enables them to make data-driven decisions, offer personalized experiences, and foster stronger customer relationships, ultimately driving business growth and success. 

Conclusion 

AI will only grow in how SMBs use it to improve their marketing and business. The time is now to start experimenting with using it in your company.  

To learn more, download the research study, An AI Awakening: How Small Businesses are Using AI and Automation to Bolster Their Business 

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