How can small local service businesses use AI to improve their digital marketing?

When many of us hear about how AI will change the world – digital marketing in particular – our thoughts (and sometimes fears) wander to how large corporations will use machines to transform the work of legions of copywriters, designers, and other content creators. creators to do.

Large companies with equally large customer bases and competitive content requirements are looking for sophisticated AI systems to generate content and process and analyze data to stay ahead.

But the possibilities that AI offers are not just for the grown-ups.

In fact, small local businesses with fewer resources and often less time can certainly benefit from some of the innovative time and cost savings that AI solutions offer.

A particular challenge of running a small business these days is keeping up with the often overwhelming demands of digital marketing, which in itself can be a full-time job.

Businesses looking to grow are expected and required to maintain a comprehensive, up-to-date and relevant digital presence and enable increasingly savvy customers to engage with your business across multiple channels.

Again, how does a small business owner keep up with the increasing demands in an area they may not be comfortable with?

Enter AI as your digital marketing virtual assistant.

How can AI support small business marketing?

AI can take many forms, but when it comes to marketing applications, generative AI is the most popular application right now.

AI engines like ChatGPT are referred to as large language models, which are basically AI algorithms trained on huge datasets or content to understand, summarize and generate new content on demand.

Therefore, the AI ​​can quickly and effectively create content on virtually any topic covered in the data set it was trained on.

Website, blog and social content

The first natural use of AI writing tools for small businesses is to create educational, informative, or otherwise helpful content for your website visitors, social followers, and search engines to consume.

When it comes to establishing online authority, content still matters. One way to differentiate yourself from the competition is to create more and better content that your audience will want to read, like and share.

We’ve found that AI can generate content on any topic you want, and for most small local businesses, the needs of their customers are relatively uniform.

The key to getting high-quality, compelling AI-generated content is the quality of the prompt provided.

A well-structured request can result in a blog post, how-to article, FAQ section, webpage, or social media post that might only require minor tweaks and personalization to be ready for your audience.

If not, you can ask the AI ​​again to use a better version, and over time it will continue to learn and produce better, more relevant content.

To be clear, the step of reviewing and editing the content to ensure it is unique should not be skipped.

AI is known for its “hallucinations”. It’s a fancy way of saying that AI has a habit of occasionally being inaccurate, so all work needs to be checked for accuracy.

It’s also crucial to ensure that the end product is humanized, as the text can sometimes sound awkward or formal. You should also ensure that the content both reflects your brand and is your own by adding your unique signature — whether that be by including your anecdotal point of view, your tone, or by linking to other relevant content you’ve produced or curated .

Direct customer communication

In addition to the content that companies create to share en masse via websites or social networks, there are direct-to-consumer campaigns designed to promote, educate, or inform.

Even if these are short and in the form of emails or SMS messages, time is still required to develop campaign ideas and deliver the resulting content to the target audience. AI can help in both phases of the process.

First, the AI ​​can be asked to provide a list of topics or ideas that a campaign could be based on.

For example, I asked ChatGPT to “Provide me with a list of promotions that a small local plumbing company could run to increase their sales…”

To which the virtual AI marketing assistant quickly responded with this abridged list of suggestions:

“Certainly! Here are some promotions a small local plumbing business can run to increase sales:

  1. Seasonal Maintenance Package: Offer a discounted package of seasonal plumbing maintenance services such as: B. Drain cleaning, water heater inspection or leak detection. Promote this pack during certain times of the year when homeowners typically focus on maintaining their home.
  2. new customer discount
  3. Loyalty Rewards Program
  4. Bundle Packages
  5. Referral program for friends
  6. Limited Time Offers
  7. Exclusive social media offers
  8. Senior or military discounts
  9. Maintenance Plan Subscriptions
  10. partner discounts

Remember to promote your promotions across multiple channels including your website, social media, local advertising and direct mail to ensure maximum visibility and reach. Monitor the effectiveness of each promotion and adjust your strategies based on customer response and revenue growth.”

Then the AI ​​can be used again to suggest the messages itself. A well-structured solicitation for a marketing message can address any or all of the following:

  • message type: advertising, announcement, invitation, greeting, thank you, education, information, etc.
  • Services or products to mention: For corresponding message types.
  • Specific words to include: Featured offers, discounts, special offers, etc.
  • Specific words to exclude: Competitor names, unwanted alternative product references.
  • Demographic targeting information: gender, age, marital status, etc.
  • writing tone: Chatty, friendly, informative, professional, welcoming, funny, etc.
  • writing perspective: First or third person.

As previously mentioned, the more detailed the prompt provided to the AI, the more accurate and effective the generated response will be.

SEO and paid search

AI is at the heart of SEO as AI algorithms have been powering Google and other search engines for years.

So why not use the same technology to save a few steps in creating the structured content that the search engines are looking for?

For small business owners or employees who have the time and knowledge to take website matters into their own hands, generative AI for SEO can be used to perform keyword and content research, create page titles, meta descriptions, or more advanced aspects of the website Optimization.

Not surprisingly, AI is already built into many paid advertising platforms and forms the basis of services like Google Ads, with content automatically recommended or created based on existing content and/or past performance.

Advertisers, large or small, benefit from shared knowledge of each other’s campaigns.

Website Support

Website chatbots have been commonplace for a while. Nevertheless, AI opens the door to a new level of chatbots that will be able to more seamlessly interact with your website visitors and, even more precisely, extract the information they are looking for.

Just as AI LLMs are trained to sift through and interpret vast amounts of content on the web, they can also be trained to catalog your little corner, which is your website that contains all the important details about your products, services, and business practices .

When website visitors encounter obstacles or ask questions for which the bot has not been trained or does not have the necessary content to provide an answer, intelligent systems allow customers to ask their questions through other channels such as SMS or email forward.

future thinking

AI-generated text-based content is just the tip of the iceberg, as we’re already seeing photorealistic images being created by systems like DALL-E2 and Midjourney based on simple voice prompts, while full-size videos aren’t far behind.

Again, there is real potential for creating compelling business content.

Beyond content, AI offers the promise of automating content personalization and optimization – getting the right content to the right people at the right time, which has long been the modus operandi of Google.

But now it won’t just be Google and the search engines that can deliver this level of tailored content. Open source AI solutions open this door for everyone.

Solutions like predictive analytics will allow small business marketers to stay ahead of the curve by building on and automating the tactics that worked before and ignoring the ones that didn’t.

But… AI is just a tool

As much potential as AI has in terms of saving time in content creation, it should by no means be viewed as a complete replacement for human writers or editors.

Since AI-generated content is based on content that has already been created, there is certainly a risk that great similarities will arise as some creators publish this content verbatim.

A recent article in the Washington Post rightly points out:

“Experts say that even advanced AI can’t match a human’s writing skills: it lacks personal voice and style, and often provides incorrect, nonsensical, or biased answers. But for many companies, the cost reduction is worth a loss in quality.”

That’s not what your audience or Google want to hear. It’s becoming increasingly important to take what AI has to offer and build on it by adding your own unique voice, perspective, and anecdotal anecdotes.

Google remains committed to its EEAT principles (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) as primary content ranking factors. EEAT is what small business owners need to add as a starting point to what AI can offer.


AI-powered digital marketing offers tremendous opportunities for small local businesses to improve their online presence by producing rich, relevant content, improving customer experience, and generating more leads.

However, to reap the benefits of this revolutionary technology, organizations must understand their challenges, set measurable goals, strategize, and continuously monitor and optimize their performance.

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