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Most Small Business Owners are Using ChatGPT Wrong. Here’s How to Be Ahead of 99% of Your Competition.

Small business owner using ChatGPT for creative work in a cozy studio.

Ever since ChatGPT was released and went viral, countless small businesses have been playing around with it. But for most, that’s where their exploration ends – chatting with an AI for fun before moving on to other tasks. If that’s you, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

ChatGPT and other AI assistants like Claude, Bard, and Gemini have powerful capabilities that can help small businesses in meaningful ways – you just need to know how to leverage them properly. 

A businessman and a AI ChatGPT bot sharing a moment of connection.
Small business owner using ChatGPT for creative work in a cozy studio.

In the months since ChatGPT’s release, it’s been fascinating to watch countless small businesses experimenting with conversational AI for the first time. Many see it as a fun novelty – chatting with an AI to test its abilities before moving on to other priorities. But this shallow exploration is doing more harm than good, because these businesses are missing out on a huge opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

Conversational AI has matured far beyond parlor tricks. Tools like ChatGPT, Claude, Bard and Gemini have powerful capabilities that can tangibly help small companies, if you know how to apply them strategically. The businesses that figure this out first will gain a major competitive edge that lasts for years. It’s time to start viewing AI as more than a distraction – it deserves a prominent place in your strategic plans.

Imagine if you had an employee working 24/7 who didn’t take breaks, get sick or need benefits. An AI can fulfill many of those roles – and crucially, allow your human employees to focus on higher value work. Here are just a few ways forward-looking companies are already gaining an advantage with conversational AI:

Generating Ideas Using IA

Bob was the owner of an independent outdoors equipment store that had been in business for 10 years. However, in recent years he noticed sales starting to decline as more customers purchased gear online or from big box retailers. He was feeling uninspired by traditional strategies like coupons or seasonal sales.

Bob decided to have a creative brainstorming session with ChatGPT to see if it could spark any unconventional ideas. He asked the AI to suggest 3 new business initiatives that would help make his store stand out. One proposal really intrigued him – developing an equipment rental program. ChatGPT pointed out that many recreational activities only require gear occasionally, so rentals could lower barriers to entry.

Bob spent several months researching the equipment rental market and putting together a business plan. The following year he launched his new rental service, offering items like kayaks, snowshoes and camp trampolines. It was an instant hit with customers, especially families and novice outdoor enthusiasts. Thanks to the rental revenue stream, Bob’s overall sales grew 20% within the first year. He credits the AI for helping him think outside the box and unleash new possibilities for his store.

Try this Chat GPT Prompt to Generate Ideas

I'm the owner of a [enter business type] in a [name of your city]. I'm looking for some innovative ideas to help attract new customers and increase sales. Please suggest 3 uncommon or disruptive strategies I could try implementing over the next 6-12 months.

24/7 Customer Support Using AI

Amanda was the founder of an online boutique specializing in sustainable fashion. As her brand grew in popularity, customer service was becoming a huge challenge for her and her small team. Emails and social media messages lingered for too long, hurting the customer experience.

To provide more timely support, Amanda decided to build a conversational AI using the Claude API. She trained it by feeding it a knowledge base of answers to common questions. Examples included shipping policies, sizing information, return timelines and promotion details. The AI could quickly retrieve and deliver these responses without human delays.

Once launched on her website’s help page, the impact was immediate. Average response times dropped from over 8 hours to just a few minutes. Customer satisfaction scores noticeably increased as well. Plus, Amanda and her employees were now freed from answering repetitive queries, allowing them to focus on more complex customer issues. Since 2022, the AI has directly answered over 35,000 customer questions, vastly improving support scalability.

Refining Your Marketing Message Using AI

As a new yoga studio owner, Jenny was constantly trying out fresh social media posts and emails to engage her audience. However, without formal training, she often found her marketing messages fell flat or did not resonate as intended.

Jenny had the idea to leverage AI feedback before publishing any campaigns. She used the conversational AI Bard to roleplay sample posts, ads and emails, asking for its honest opinion. The AI provided thoughtful critiques, highlighting when wording came across as dull, pitchy or irrelevant to her typical customer.

Taking the AI’s suggested tweaks, Jenny was able to finely tune her messaging over several iterations.She focused more on benefits rather than features. She tested softer calls to action. Photos showed diverse body types practicing yoga.

The results spoke for themselves. Open rates on her emails jumped 15% while click-throughs on Instagram rose 10%. New student registrations and merchandise sales also increased noticeably versus prior campaigns. By refining her marketing with AI input first, Jenny ensured every campaign was a success.

Try this Bard Prompt to Refine Your Marketing Message

I'm drafting a new Instagram post to promote our weekly yoga classes. Here is a draft:

[Copy and paste a draft of your message]

Bard, could you please review this draft post and provide your honest feedback on how I can refine the message to better engage my target audience?

In particular, let me know if there are any aspects you think could be improved in terms of tone, benefits highlighted, call to action etc. I want to make sure this post is as effective as possible before sharing.

Streamlining Office Tasks Using AI

As her small accounting business grew to a team of 5 people, Lisa found basic bookkeeping and administrative work eating into time for client services. Processing invoices, data entry and filing taxes consumed over 20 hours a week combined.

Lisa enlisted Gemini to evaluate which back-office functions could be automated or augmented. The AI identified invoice processing as the top priority, as over 80 similar invoices came in monthly. It mapped out the manual steps taken previously.

Gemini then built a custom pipeline to digitally process and file all invoices automatically. It pulled data from emails, extracted necessary fields, and populated records in Lisa’s accounting software. Now invoices were handled without any busywork, freeing up 2 full days per month for Lisa’s team.

Pleased by the results, Lisa has Gemini continuing to find new tasks for the AI to streamline, like record keeping for inventory and receipts. This has transformed workflows, boosting client capabilities and opening opportunities to take on more business.

Boosting Sales Conversions Using AI

As a Sales Director, Kevin knew landing impactful initial meetings was pivotal but also one of the most challenging parts of his role. Prospecting took enormous time yet converted unevenly. He wanted to qualify leads better and ensure his sales team started opportunities strong.

Kevin had Gemini carefully study his company’s offerings, pricing, targeted clients and core messaging. It then joined his team’s weekly prospecting calls anonymously, asking questions to further understand needs, pains and priorities.

This additional level of qualification proved incredibly useful. Gemini was able to spark more engaging conversations and surface key information faster than humans alone. ItScheduling demo meetings directly when interest was high.

In the first month, Kevin’s team saw meeting conversion rates increase over 35% with assistance from their new AI co-pilot. He’s since trained it even more and now deploys Gemini independently for initial discovery calls. This allows maximizing prospect interaction while freeing bandwidth for his team to focus on closing vital deals.

Take the Leap

The applications go far beyond these examples too. Any routine tasks – research, data entry, basic tech support – could potentially be offloaded to an AI. Early adopters who view these tools holistically will find ways to strategically augment operations at every level.

While others see conversational AI as a novelty, the smartest businesses see it as indispensable to productivity, customer service and growth. Don’t let buzz or skepticism hold you back – start testing creative applications today. Your competitors may be training their own AI assistants right now to gain an edge. The winners will be those integrating AI into their core strategies, not those still unsure of its potential. Your path to outmaneuvering rivals begins with a chatbot.

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