How Can Small Local Service Businesses Utilize AI to Enhance Their Digital Marketing?

Discover how small businesses can improve their online presence by leveraging AI technologies to generate valuable content, enhance customer experiences, and drive lead generation.

When we think about how artificial intelligence (AI) will transform the world, particularly in the field of digital marketing, we often imagine large organizations using machines to replace copywriters, designers, and content creators on a massive scale. These big corporations, with their vast customer bases and content demands, are turning to sophisticated AI systems to generate content, process data, and analyze insights to maintain a competitive edge. However, the potential benefits of AI are not limited to big players alone.

Small local businesses, despite having fewer resources and limited time, can also reap the rewards of innovative AI solutions that offer time and cost savings. One of the major challenges for small business owners today is keeping up with the overwhelming demands of digital marketing, which can often be a full-time job in itself. Establishing a dynamic and relevant digital presence and providing multiple channels for customer engagement are now essential requirements for businesses that aspire to grow.

So, how can small business owners meet these increasing demands in an area they may not be familiar with? This is where AI steps in as the virtual digital marketing assistant.

How Can AI Support Small Business Marketing?

AI manifests in various forms, but when it comes to marketing applications, generative AI is currently a popular choice. AI engines, such as ChatGPT, are powerful language models trained on massive datasets, enabling them to comprehend, summarize, and generate new content on a given topic. With AI’s capabilities, businesses can quickly and efficiently create content covering a wide range of subjects related to their industry.

Website, blog, and social content

For small businesses, a natural application of AI writing tools is the creation of educational, informative, and useful content that can be consumed by website visitors, social media followers, and search engines. Content remains king in terms of establishing online authority, and one effective way to stand out from the competition is to produce high-quality content that resonates with your audience and encourages sharing.

AI can generate content on any desired topic, and for most small local businesses, their customers’ needs are relatively consistent. To obtain compelling and valuable AI-generated content, the quality of the prompt provided to the AI is crucial. By structuring a well-defined request, businesses can generate blog posts, how-to articles, FAQ sections, web pages, or social media posts that may only require minor adjustments and personalization before being ready for the audience. If needed, businesses can re-prompt the AI for better versions, allowing it to continuously learn and produce improved and more suitable content. However, it is essential not to skip the step of reviewing and editing the content to ensure its uniqueness.

AI sometimes tends to generate inaccurate or awkward-sounding text, so it’s vital to humanize the content. Adding a personal touch, reflecting the brand’s identity, and incorporating unique elements such as anecdotal viewpoints, tone, or links to relevant content can help establish a distinctive voice.

Direct customer communications

In addition to mass-shared content on websites and social media platforms, businesses often engage in direct-to-consumer campaigns for promotion, education, or information dissemination. Although these campaigns may be short, such as email or SMS messages, they still require time for idea development and content delivery. AI can assist in both stages of the process.

First, businesses can ask AI to provide a list of topics or ideas that can serve as the basis for a campaign. For example, a small local plumbing company can ask AI to suggest promotions aimed at boosting revenue. AI can quickly provide a list of suggestions such as seasonal maintenance packages, new customer discounts, loyalty rewards programs, bundle packages, refer-a-friend programs, limited-time offers, social media exclusive deals, senior citizen or military discounts, maintenance plan subscriptions, and partner discounts. By advertising these promotions through various channels like websites, social media, local advertising, and direct mail, businesses can maximize their visibility and reach. Monitoring the effectiveness of each promotion and adjusting strategies based on customer response and revenue growth is crucial.

Moreover, businesses can leverage AI to suggest messaging for their campaigns. By providing a well-structured prompt, businesses can specify the message type (promotion, announcement, invite, greeting, thank you, educational, informational, etc.), services or products to be mentioned, specific words to include or exclude, demographic targeting information, writing tone (conversational, friendly, informative, professional, welcoming, witty, etc.), and writing perspective (first or third person). The more detailed the prompt, the more accurate and effective the generated response will be.

SEO and paid search

AI plays a pivotal role in search engine optimization (SEO), as AI algorithms have powered Google and other search engines for years. Therefore, leveraging the same technology to streamline the creation of structured content desired by search engines is a logical step.

Small business owners or employees with sufficient time and knowledge can use generative AI for SEO purposes, such as conducting keyword and content research, creating page titles, meta descriptions, and other advanced aspects of on-site optimization. It’s worth noting that AI is already integrated into many paid advertising platforms, including Google Ads, where content recommendations or creations are automatically generated based on existing content and past performance. Both large and small advertisers benefit from shared knowledge and insights from various campaigns.

Website support

Website chatbots have become commonplace, but AI is taking them to a new level of sophistication. AI-powered chatbots can seamlessly interact with website visitors and efficiently provide the information they seek. Just as AI language models scour the web to interpret vast amounts of content, they can also be trained to catalog a small business’s website, containing important details about products, services, and business practices. If visitors encounter roadblocks or ask questions that the chatbot hasn’t been trained on or lacks relevant information, smart systems can enable customers to forward their inquiries through other channels like SMS or email.

Future possibilities

AI-generated text-based content is merely the beginning, as we are witnessing the emergence of AI systems, such as DALL-E2 and Midjourney, that can produce photo-realistic images based on plain language prompts. Full-scale video creation is not far behind. These advancements open up possibilities for creating compelling business content across various media formats.

Beyond content generation, AI holds the potential to automate personalization and content optimization, ensuring that the right content is delivered to the right people at the right time. While Google has long prioritized experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) as primary content ranking factors, AI-powered open-source solutions are now making this level of customization accessible to businesses of all sizes. Predictive analytics and AI-driven insights can help small business marketers stay ahead of the game, automating successful tactics and discarding ineffective ones.

However, it’s important to note that AI is just a tool. Despite its potential to save time in content creation, it should not be seen as a complete replacement for human writers or editors. AI-generated content is based on existing content, which poses the risk of producing repetitive or low-quality material when some creators publish it verbatim. Experts rightly emphasize that even advanced AI lacks the writing skills of a human, such as personal voice, style, and accuracy. While AI-generated content may offer cost-cutting benefits, it is crucial to build upon it by adding a unique voice, perspective, and anecdotal spin. Businesses should strive to incorporate E-A-T principles and add their own value to the content provided by AI, ensuring both audience satisfaction and