Ahhh, artificial intelligence. To quote myself from just a few short weeks ago, it’s understandable that this pervasive topic might be giving a few of you all feelings of anxiety. The conversations we’re having around AI — including large language models (LLM) like ChatGPT — can feel equal parts nerve-wracking and inspiring, as we continue to explore and expand upon its potential at break-neck speed.
Sure, it’s exciting. It’s also overwhelming, particularly if you’re an independent business owner. How do you even begin to unpack what real possibilities exist for you with AI? Or, is AI simply out of reach for independent businesses?
🎧 Independent Business Podcast: Transform your business with AI, feat. Dawn Richardson
The answer to that last question is, of course, no. It may not feel that way given the scale of the day-to-day discourse around AI, but it’s true.
Big corporations aren’t the only ones who can harness the power of AI and tools like ChatGPT. You can, too, as an independent business. In fact, you absolutely should — and we’re going to talk about that in just a moment, because HoneyBook is making that possible with two new AI-powered product updates they’ve announced this week.
But first, I want to talk about why I’m particularly passionate about the idea of independent entrepreneurs like you finding ways to embrace AI within the four walls (virtual or otherwise) of your business. Yes, AI can help you shore up inefficiencies in your processes or make clientflow automation even easier.
More than that, though …
If you’re a long-time listener, first-time caller of NatalieFranke.com, you may remember I am so passionate about clientflow (the entire experience your client has with your brand, from inquiry to offboarding) because of my views on time.
“Work to live, don’t live to work.”
I hear this mantra thrown around quite a bit. The reality for many of us, however, is that we’ll spend more hours working than we will with our friends, family, and other loved ones. In the moment, lost minutes (or sometimes hours) on inefficiencies within our business may not feel like that big of a deal … but those minutes and hours pile up in the blink of an eye.
Simply losing 3 hours per week (30 minutes per day) on inefficiencies — or manual tasks you haven’t gotten around to automating — will quickly total up to almost a week of lost time over the course of a year. Six-and-a-half days to be exact. A week you could have spent living, loving (or heck, even just napping), not working.
Of course, that’s assuming you’re only wasting 30 minutes per day. But are automation and AI the answer to that, or do they create more problems?
At first glance, AI may feel like a step toward dehumanizing your business at a time when it’s more critical than ever that you make it easier to trust your brand in order to buy from you — something that making your business seemingly more robotic seems to contradict. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When utilized appropriately, AI can actually free you up to spend more time doing more impactfully human things within your business. It’s kind of like taking what was already possible with clientflow automation and putting it on steroids.
This is really exciting because, as humans, we only have a finite amount of time on this planet. That means we need to work smarter within our businesses (using technology like AI) to use our time more effectively.
🍯 From HoneyBook: Leveraging AI to empower independent businesses
That way we have more time to be human. Whether that’s working on more high-impact, human-driven projects within your brand (starting a podcast, creating more video on social media, or spending more time serving clients), or being more available to spend time with those you love.
OK, now, let’s get into the good stuff for those of you using HoneyBook — or those of you still eyeing up HoneyBook as a way to make your independent business clientflow *chef’s kiss* perfect.
Now is your time as an independent business owner to leverage AI.
Let’s look at how HoneyBook AI makes that possible …
Have you ever wanted to know which of your leads were more likely to book, to be high value, or to book a high-value project specifically? That’s possible with HoneyBook’s brand-spankin’-new priority lead notification feature.
When a lead converts on a HoneyBook form you’ve embedded on your website, or shared via email, social media, or elsewhere, our AI will get to work.
Based on the information your new lead shares through the form, and your historical HoneyBook data, our little AI robots will crunch the numbers to determine if your lead is a priority — more likely to book, more likely to be high-value, or more likely to book a high-value project. If the answer is “Yes!” (and you have the HoneyBook app on your phone), you’ll get a push notification like the one shown above.
🍯 From HoneyBook: Book valuable, qualified leads faster with HoneyBook AI
What does the HoneyBook AI catch that you may not? It’s all in the data, actually. For instance, did you know that leads that come in by referral are 4X more likely to book? That’s something HoneyBook’s AI can analyze for you.
The benefit for you is that you can make smarter decisions faster about your inbound leads. Particularly since speed can often be the determining factor in whether or not you land a client.
One of my absolute favorite stats that came out of HoneyBook’s clientflow research (in partnership with Visa) earlier this year is this one:
86% of buyers we surveyed said a quick response was the reason why they selected their service provider. This is data supported by research from Harvard Business Review, which found brands that responded within an hour to an inquiry were 7X more likely to qualify that lead.
How can you make your response time faster, so you can be on the happy end of that little data point? HoneyBook’s AI composer, which enables you to generate professional, personalized email responses, so you can get back to your prospects (and your current clients!) faster. (You can join the waitlist for this BETA feature here.)
Again, I know adding more robots into your communication processes may feel like a great way to dehumanize your brand at first. But there are ways you can easily address that, particularly in those first-touch emails to prospects who fill out a form on your website …
You can create a one-to-many introduction video (like the one above!) that puts a human touch on your brand without you having to create a personalized response for every single person who walks through your virtual website door.
Pair that with one or two sentences of generated general information, you’ve got an AI-powered, automated, yet still hyper-human response you can get out the door quickly, to increase your chances of making the sale.
This is a powerful opportunity for those of you who may have concerns about AI enabling a loss of control within your business. AI composer allows you to be more efficient in a way that remains within your control — you’re just working smarter, not harder, at scale.
That’s how you set yourself apart from the competition, because no one who is truly succeeding out there in business (no matter the size of their company) is doing so with an entirely manually operated business.
One of the most common misconceptions about AI among independent business owners is that it’s incredibly complex to use, with a steep learning curve that makes it different to embrace. (This is something I talked with Dawn Richardson about in a recent episode of the Independent Business Podcast.)
To be fair, I think feeling insecure about any new technology is totally normal. Anything that disrupts the status quo or our “comfortable” ways of doing business can seem a bit spooky at first.
However, if you’re someone who sees the promise of AI, but is also struggling with fears like, “This is just too much for me to understand, I don’t think I’m smart enough to figure this whole AI thing out,” please hear me when I say this …
AI is so much more accessible than you think. AI isn’t just for the big tech companies with large headcounts, massive research departments, and experimental budget to spare.
The key here is to make smart choices about how you choose to integrate AI within your business in a way that makes sense for you. You can start by asking yourself questions like:
Don’t listen to those folks on social media telling you that you’re already a failure for not knowing “these 73,870 ways you should already be using AI in your business.” If you use AI to only save yourself 30 minutes a day, 3 hours per week, you’re a success because you’ve given yourself one week back per year to use however you see fit.
And that’s freakin’ incredible.
AI can be an extension of you in your business, with you always at the wheel, in total control of the direction in which you move forward.
© 2023 Natalie Franke