How to Use AI in Business: 8 Practical Applications

Paige Smith

There are countless ways to use AI in your business, from simplifying administrative tasks to strategizing for marketing campaigns. If you want to leverage AI to improve your operation, keep reading. 

But first, here’s a refresher on how AI works. 

What does AI do? 

AI—or artificial intelligence—refers to technology that can solve problems and make decisions similar to the way humans do. There are a few different subsets of AI, the most prevalent of which is machine learning. 

Machine learning AI relies on algorithms to analyze and learn from data. The more data that machine learning models gather and assess, the better they become at a range of tasks, including finding errors, identifying patterns, and making suggestions. Common machine learning tools include chatbots, social media recommendations, and facial recognition technology.  

Large language models (LLMs) are a type of machine learning AI that uses deep learning—a subset of machine learning—to generate text in response to requests and inputs. ChatGPT and Google Gemini are both popular LLMs. 

Who is AI technology best for?

AI isn’t only for the most tech-savvy among us; AI tools can help any business that needs support with automating tasks, engaging customers, or gathering business insights. 

Depending on your business model, size, and customer demographic, certain types of AI might be more relevant and cost-effective. AI-powered sales platforms, for example, might have a higher ROI for large enterprises as opposed to small and medium-size companies. 

Companies in more technical sectors—like financial services, telecommunications, and IT—might also stand to gain more from AI automation and cognitive insights. 

However, one thing is certain: As AI evolves, more and more businesses are taking advantage of it. Nearly one quarter (23%) of the small businesses surveyed in the US Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Impact of Technology on Small Business Report said they already use some form of AI. 

How to use AI in business 

Because AI is such an advanced (and ever-evolving) technology, it has innumerable business uses. Here are eight practical ways to use AI in your operation: 

1. Automate operational processes

One of AI’s superpowers is automation. You can use AI-powered platforms to automate tedious manual tasks and repetitive processes, saving you time and resources. 

In the US Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Impact of Technology on Small Business Report, 82% of the businesses using AI said it improved their operational efficiency. Here are some everyday operational processes AI can automate, from accounting to sales: 

  • Update customer files with new addresses or information
  • Create segmented mailing lists for email campaigns
  • Generate financial reports
  • Sort leads
  • Screen and organize job applications 
  • Sort incoming emails based on their content
  • Categorize expenses
  • Create invoices
  • Issue payments
  • Record sales data 

2. Sharpen your marketing strategy

Customer preferences, distribution methods, and marketing trends shift rapidly, but harnessing AI can help you stay ahead of the curve. That’s because many AI tools don’t just streamline backend operational processes—they also offer cognitive insights, which you can use to make more informed decisions. 

AI can help you:

  • Conduct market research: Market research is the foundation of a thoughtful marketing plan. AI tools can assist with the research process by finding and categorizing relevant market data, including the latest industry surveys, consumer reports, and competitor news. Even better: These same tools can scan the data they find to pull out key insights and suggest specific action strategies. 
  • Create customer profiles: Personalization has become essential to authentic customer connection, and AI can make the process easier. Nearly half (46%) of the businesses surveyed in Forbes’ report said they use AI to personalize their advertising. Certain AI tools can help you create customer profiles based on customer preferences, demographics, and interactions with your website. You can use those profiles to tailor your messaging, promotional emails, and ads so they’re more relevant and compelling. 
  • Make marketing predictions: Effective marketing strikes a balance between embracing current trends and anticipating changes. The right AI tools can make this balance easier by analyzing your customer data and campaign metrics. The more insights you have into purchase patterns and customer engagement levels, the easier it is to position your products and design a successful marketing campaign

3. Improve your customer experience

AI tools have the potential to transform your customer experience, both directly and indirectly. More than eight in 10 (86%) of business owners surveyed in the US Chamber of Commerce report said AI improved their customer communications. 

Here’s how it can help: 

  1. AI can build out your customer service features: AI-powered website chatbots (or AI assistants) give customers the immediacy and convenience they crave while saving your team time and resources. Chatbots can answer questions about your business, give detailed explanations about products or services, provide product recommendations, help customers book appointments, and share useful links and resources. The best part: Chatbots function 24/7, so they’re there for customers when you can’t be. 
  2. AI can gather and analyze customer data: Certain AI platforms have the ability to gauge customer sentiment and satisfaction based on a variety of sources of data, including customer surveys, social media posts and comments, online reviews, and chatbot logs. These platforms can identify recurring customer pain points and common customer attitudes toward your products or customer service processes, which you can then use to make thoughtful changes. 

4. Speed up idea generation and content creation

Brainstorming and creating effective, engaging content takes a ton of time and strategy, but AI tools can speed up the process and jumpstart your creativity. According to a 2023 Forbes survey of 600 American business owners, 46% use AI for internal communications and reports, 38% use it to generate ideas, and 29% use it to write website copy.  

You can use LLMs like ChatGPT and other AI tools to:

  • Brainstorm blog post ideas
  • Create content outlines
  • Compile research 
  • Write first drafts of product descriptions, landing page copy, social media posts, emails, and ads 
  • Write metadata
  • Brainstorm email or blog post subject lines
  • Track metrics like page views and social shares to improve your content
  • Gather SEO formatting tips
  • Compile SEO keywords
  • Proofread and edit content

Though you can technically use LLMs to write complete blog posts and email copy, it’s not a good idea to rely on AI for start-to-finish content creation. Not only does AI-generated content have the potential for errors and repetition, but the voice and tone it uses might not represent your business’s brand the way you want. 

Think of LLMs as helpful content assistants, supplying inspiration, execution tips, and first draft ideas that you can build upon with your expertise and creativity. It’s still up to you to write and polish your content, fact-check it, and make sure it’s in line with your business voice. 

5. Drive sales

Another way AI can benefit your business is by supporting the sales process. Using your business’s historical sales data, along with information about current economic conditions like inflation, AI-powered sales platforms can forecast customer demand with incredible accuracy. 

AI sales platforms can also automatically input and update prospective and current customer information, as well as categorize leads. After analyzing a lead’s interactions with your business, like the type and number of email links the lead clicks, the platform will score your leads and identify the most viable prospects. 

Certain platforms will even suggest steps you can take to drive home a sale, like sending another nudge email or sharing a promo code. From there, you can create personalized outreach emails and strategize for the most effective sales tactics. 

6. Expedite hiring

The right AI tools can save you time throughout the recruiting and vetting processes by simplifying tedious tasks. If you’re hiring for the first time or opening up a new role, you can use an LLM to help draft a thorough job description and brainstorm effective interview questions. 

Gusto’s new job post generator creates high-quality job descriptions for you using information about your industry, business model, and job position, then gives you a slew of options to customize the descriptions for your specific needs. 

You can also use AI-powered applicant tracking systems like Gusto’s to keep you organized when reviewing candidate prospects. These tracking platforms will automatically screen job applications, sort them based on metrics and keywords you provide, and then identify the most promising candidates. The applicant tracking tool can also send automatic responses to candidates you aren’t moving forward with. 

In LinkedIn’s 2024 Future of Recruiting Report, recruiting professionals surveyed said the top three benefits of using generative AI are that it makes it easier to write job descriptions, frees them up to do more fulfilling work, removes mundane daily tasks from their workload, improves their overall productivity, and simplifies communication with candidates. 

6. Simplify budgeting and accounting

AI-powered finance and accounting solutions can simplify your accounting processes and strengthen your forecasting abilities, making it easier to budget and allocate cash flow effectively. Here are just a handful of ways you can use AI to support your business’s overall financial health: 

  • Automate payroll: AI-powered payroll platforms run payroll automatically, so you don’t have to. 
  • Track expenses and run reports: AI accounting tools can update your data automatically, categorize and track expenses, reconcile payments, and alert you to spending limits. They can also create custom profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and other financial reports. 
  • Forecast cash flow and revenue: AI tools can use your business’s internal data, historical industry data, and external economic factors to predict trends and create quarterly and annual cash flow and revenue forecasts.
  • Resolve tax notices: Some AI tools, like the one Gusto is currently working on, give you the ability to upload a photo of your latest tax notice from the IRS. The tool then briefs you on the content of your notice, and tells you exactly what you need to do to resolve it in real time, helping you stay compliant and avoid expensive penalties.  

7. Facilitate inventory management

Inventory management is another area where AI-powered automation and insights come in handy. AI inventory management platforms do all the heavy lifting when it comes to tracking, forecasting, pricing, and comparisons. These platforms can: 

  • Track stock levels
  • Suggest minimum and maximum stock levels for specific items
  • Forecast demand
  • Price match vendors
  • Provide information on competitor pricing
  • Categorize procurement spending 

If you have an industrial warehouse, you can even use AI manufacturing robots to physically check inventory levels and pinpoint low stock or misplaced items.

8. Ramp up workplace productivity 

AI technology can support you and your team in a range of crucial everyday tasks, from collaborating on projects to sharing files. The result: increased efficiency, fewer headaches, and greater workplace productivity. Consider these helpful areas: 

  • Team collaboration: AI platforms specializing in project management can streamline workflows by finding bottlenecks and alerting team members to specific tasks, such as needing to review a file, adding notes to a shared document, or approving a presentation.  
  • Research: When you need to research a particular idea or business development concept, you can use an LLM to gather and synthesize information. If, for example, you want to hire a remote worker for the first time or expand operations to another state, you can ask an LLM to compile the necessary information to get started. However, be sure to double-check the recommendations since LLMs can sometimes hallucinate or make up information. 
  • Knowledge management: AI tools help you organize, store, and retrieve essential knowledge within your company. They function similarly to chatbots or internal search engines by giving employees a central place to ask questions and provide automated answers. These tools can help new employees onboard faster and also prevent loss of knowledge from employee churn. Some tools can also create reference documents for frequently asked questions and common searches.
  • Note-taking: You can use AI note-taking tools to generate transcripts from recorded conversations and create meeting summaries from team calls, complete with highlighted action items. 
  • Reports: Certain AI tools can generate reports to help you visualize different business scenarios and make more informed decisions. Gusto’s new AI report assistant, for example, can turn a simple question—like “How much time off did my employees take last quarter?”—into a clear and digestible report with rows, columns, and filters you can customize if you like.

Bringing AI into your business

AI can be applied to almost every area of your business, helping you work smarter and make more strategic choices. If you want to experiment with AI, pick one tool to start and build from there.  

Paige Smith Paige is a content marketing writer specializing in business, finance, and tech. She regularly writes for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies and small business lenders. See more of her work here:
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