The Small Business Machine Learning Conundrum

With the B2SMB Summit wrapping up last week in Chicago, our team is full of feels for small business owners and how to help them succeed. True to our mission to help businesses thrive in the digital economy, we’re embracing AI and machine learning tools as the answer.

As such we recently launched Acquisio Turing™ to brand our machine learning algorithms, simultaneously releasing the 2017 Performance Report to show what Acquisio Turing is capable of. We’re in the process now of promoting our Marketer’s Field Guide to Machine Learning that takes a deep dive into intelligent martech. We believe whole heartedly in the power machine learning can bring to the small business owner, and conversations at the Summit echoed this need to unlock martech intelligence at the small business level. The problem has always been though that machine learning was inaccessible to smaller size businesses for practical reasons, but that’s changing.

Goodbye Inaccessible Intelligence

Machine learning technologies are becoming increasingly accessible to small business owners despite past limitations. SalesforceIQ remarks the interminable trend that with technological adoption of any kind, the more people use it, the lower the barrier to entry is. But there may be more to the story. Making machine learning accessible to small business isn’t just a matter of more people adopting such technologies (rendering these more affordable and accessible by means of economic regulation), no, the reason lies within the data science or lack thereof.

Even a small business who is skilled at data collection suffers from a lack of inputs. And if there’s one thing machines need to operate and optimize, it’s data. Past coverage by our Lead Research Scientist on The Daily Campaigner blog discusses the challenges small businesses face in accessing machine learning technologies, like data limitations, and how Acquisio overcomes these:

As our Digital Predictions Part 1 pointed out, for many smaller companies a 3rd party tool can provide the benefits of machine learning without having to own or invest in large data sets. It’s true that even if small companies don’t have enough data to take advantage of machine learning, 3rd party providers can combine the data of many small companies. “Big Data” can be made from small data if there is enough of it, allowing small businesses to benefit from machine learning technology. … we’ve gathered an enormous amount of data with big clients and used it to build intelligent algorithms. Now that the “algos” are perfected, they can be used for accounts as small as 100$ monthly ad spend.

By aggregating big data, technology providers can in a way extrapolate the missing inputs needed to provide machine learning insights to small business owners.

Robots Open Their Doors to Small Business Owners

We’re seeing a lot of attention on our Promote product, a solution for small business owners, that few people realize is powered by automation and machine learning behind the scenes. We’ve partnered with large banks, small business service providers, and more to bring this machine learning martech to small business owners. And we’re not alone. There are many examples of increasingly accessible machine learning tools for small businesses.

For example, Quickbooks talks about cloud-based machine learning products already in use by small business owners today:

“Small business owners can now use cloud-based services such as IBM Bluemix, BigML, and Amazon machine learning to get access to comprehensive data analytics at inexpensive prices. The vast amount of data collected, sorted, and analyzed is something that small businesses have never been able to utilize without putting a substantial dent in their wallets. The bottom line is that small businesses will benefit from machine learning by saving on operating costs, making better decisions, and earning more profits.”

Indeed a host of operational tools are emerging and becoming accessible to small business owners and we’re slowly starting to see the results. Capterra’s blog provided a small business-machine learning case study featuring MonkeyLearn, an intelligent review software.

“MonkeyLearn analyzes reviews, saving small businesses the cost, or time, of reviewing them. If there are complaints about a price point, or comments about a feature that needs to be improved, MonkeyLearn’s machine learning algorithms will distill those disparate reviews into one solid report.”

Machine Learning Benefits to Small Businesses are Broad

Capterra’s article explains that MonkeyLearn automates aspects of business operations that would normally be a manual task for a small business owner or employee and this sets the stage for all the benefits machine learning can provide SMBs:

  • By putting a machine learning tool to work, you save your non-artificially intelligent workforce from doing monotonous or repetitive tasks, that can be boring and are prone to human error
  • In the process, you save time and money and increase efficiency
  • You may learn new things that you wouldn’t have had the time or ability to learn on your own, simply because no human can digest and manipulate as much data as quickly as a machine learning tool can
  • Gain a competitive advantage

Machine learning provides unique and difficult-to-uncover insights that were formerly out of reach to all business owners, let alone just the smaller ones. Either way, the benefits listed above, in a broad sense, are identical for both the large and small business owner. Machine learning can now benefit any size business.

Image Credits

Feature Image: Unsplash/Hans-Peter Gauster

Chandal Nolasco Da Silva

Chandal Nolasco Da Silva

With nearly a decade of digital marketing experience, Chandal has created content strategies for both the biggest and sometimes the most unexpected markets, while developing strategic relationships with editors and publishers. Chandal contributes to some of the highest authority industry publications, has been featured in industry events and is thrilled to be Acquisio’s Content Director.

The Marketer’s Field Guide to Machine Learning

The Past, The Present and The Future of Machine Learning

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