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AI Tools for Small Businesses: Which Ones Do You Need?

Explore what AI tools can do for small businesses and which tools in 13 categories will be most helpful for catapulting your company into the future.

Carla Groenewegen
Writer at Motion
Mar 12, 2024
Table of contents

AI is everywhere in the business world, right? At least, that’s how it seems. But according to the US Census Bureau, only 3.8% of businesses use artificial intelligence (AI) to produce goods and services.

For small business owners, this shocking statistic is good news. It gives you a chance to develop smart AI integration strategies and get ahead of the pack.

But to take advantage of what’s out there, you have to know what AI automation can do for small businesses — and which tools in particular you need to outpace the competition.

Email tools? Project management tools? Writing tools? All or none of the above?

To help you sift through the noise, we’ve curated a list of top AI-powered tools organized into 13 essential business categories.

Dive in to discover how these tools can transform your operations — especially in the areas where you need them most to jump ahead.

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The exploding global AI market

AI is having a huge impact on today’s business world. In fact, it’s poised to add a whopping $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

No doubt, big companies will snap up a lot of this growth — but we’re still in the early stages of this boom. Any business leader with an understanding of what AI can do for their company can get ahead of the curve by integrating AI into their operations right now.

But there’s work to be done. You have to find out what’s out there. Learn what AI tools can do. Try things out. See what works and what doesn't. And then, accelerate your business like never before. Go, little guy!

Top AI tools for small businesses and startups

Our curated list of top AI tools is designed to get you started on the right foot in this new adventure. It paints a picture of the current AI landscape and will help you tune in to how your company can best profit from the global AI trend.

To make the most of our list, begin by scanning the category headings and descriptions. Look for weak or problematic areas in your company where AI tools would be most likely to make a difference for your workforce. Then, explore the individual tools to find examples of functionalities that best meet your needs.

1. Project management tools

Project management is an area where even small changes can have big, immediate benefits.

AI-enhanced project management tools help with better planning, execution, and monitoring to ensure projects are completed on time and within budget. Specifically, they automate task allocation and track project progress.

These tools provide predictive insights that are hard to come by manually. Plus, they help teams collaborate more effectively and achieve their project goals more easily — saving you time and money and giving you an edge over your competition.

A graphic showing Motion’s Project Manager

‎zTop tools:

  • Motion’s Project Manager: Adds project work to team members’ calendars and creates a customized, prioritized schedule for every employee.
  • Asana: Combines elements of project management, file storage, and collaboration to help teams organize and track work progress.
  • Trello: Uses boards, lists, and cards to organize tasks and projects in a highly visual and intuitive way.
  • Offers a customizable workflow platform that adapts to various project management needs with AI-driven insights and automation.
  • Smartsheet: Combines spreadsheets, project management, and automated workflow capabilities for comprehensive project execution.
  • JIRA by Atlassian: Designed for agile teams, offering powerful project tracking and collaboration features.

2. Sales automation and CRM

AI sales automation tools streamline the sales process, from lead generation to closing deals. These apps process vast amounts of information in no time and give you real-time insights into customer behavior so that you can quickly adapt your sales strategies to your target market.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools improve customer interactions and sales processes. They can automate repetitive tasks, such as capturing and organizing your leads and contacts from various channels into a centralized database.

These tools also automate personalized email campaigns and follow-up messages based on customer behavior and preferences, resulting in a better customer experience.

Top tools:

  • Salesforce Sales Cloud: Offers a comprehensive suite of sales automation, CRM, and analytics features to drive sales and improve forecasting.
  • HubSpot Sales Hub: Automates sales tasks and provides valuable insights into customer interactions.
  • Zoho CRM: Uses AI for sales prediction, automation, and personalized customer engagement.
  • Freshsales: An intuitive CRM software with AI-based lead scoring, email activity, and predictive contact scoring.
  • Insightly: A CRM and project management tool that leverages AI to offer customer insights and improve sales efficiency.

3. Calendar and scheduling tools

AI-powered calendar and scheduling tools automate the process of managing appointments, meetings, tasks, and events. They reduce the risk of double bookings or missed engagements.

These tools can synchronize across multiple calendars, suggest optimal meeting times, and even handle rescheduling with ease.

A graphic showing Motion’s calendar app

‎Top tools:

  • Motion’s Intelligent Calendar: Combines tasks, to-do lists, meetings, and activities into one optimized, time-blocked, dynamic schedule.
  • Calendly: Automates meeting scheduling by allowing others to book times based on your availability, eliminating the need for back-and-forth emails.
  • Acuity Scheduling: Offers customizable scheduling options that integrate with your existing calendars and allow clients to book appointments.
  • Chronify: Tracks and analyzes how you spend your time, offering insights and suggestions for better schedule management.

4. Time and attendance management tools

AI in attendance and time management helps businesses track employee hours and manage shifts effectively. It automates time tracking, reduces payroll errors, and offers insights into workforce productivity.

Time and attendance management tools can also help you ensure compliance with labor laws. For instance, they can be configured to send alerts to HR when employees are approaching or have exceeded predefined thresholds for regular hours and are entering into overtime.

Top tools:

  • UKG Ready: Combines time and attendance management with HR, payroll, and talent management for a comprehensive solution.
  • BambooHR: Offers time tracking and attendance management integrated with HR software, simplifying payroll and performance management.
  • Time Doctor: Tracks time spent on tasks and provides detailed insights into productivity, helping teams stay focused and efficient.
  • Clockify: A free time tracker and timesheet app for teams of any size, providing simple time tracking and reporting.
  • Deputy: Streamlines scheduling, timesheets, tasking, and communication, making it easier to manage your workforce and stay compliant.

5. Research and data analysis

AI research and data analysis tools are designed to sift through large volumes of data to extract actionable insights. They automate the data collection, analysis, and visualization process. This helps company leadership understand market trends and customer behavior so they can make more informed, data-driven decisions.

Data visualization examples

‎Top tools:

  • Google Analytics: Provides insights into website performance and user behavior.
  • IBM Watson: Offers advanced data analysis and predictive modeling capabilities.
  • Alteryx: Provides advanced analytics, data science, and process automation in one platform.
  • MonkeyLearn: A text analysis tool that uses AI to automate business workflows, such as data analysis and insight extraction from text data.

6. Writing and content creation

AI writing and content creation tools use natural language processing to generate written content quickly and efficiently.

These smart tools can produce everything from blog posts and articles to product descriptions, social media posts, and email content. The results usually need some editing, but they’ll save you tons of time upfront.

Top tools:

  • GPT-4 by OpenAI: Advanced language model for various writing and research tasks.
  • Grammarly: Enhances writing quality by suggesting grammar, punctuation, and style corrections.
  • Generates marketing copy and content ideas.
  • QuillBot: A writing and research tool that helps improve and refine content with paraphrasing and summarizing features.
  • Jasper (formerly Jarvis): An AI content creation tool designed to help generate high-quality content across various formats and niches.
  • Writesonic: An AI-powered writing assistant that generates marketing content, articles, and more tailored to your brand’s voice.

7. Design and creative projects

AI design tools create visual content, from logos and branding materials to social media graphics and website design. They streamline the design process and can customize images to fit the company’s brand identity. This can significantly reduce the time and skill required for high-quality design work.

A person using an AI design tool

‎Top tools:

  • Canva: Offers AI-driven design suggestions and templates.
  • Adobe Sensei: Integrates AI and machine learning in Adobe's creative cloud for smarter design workflows.
  • Figma: Utilizes AI for collaborative design and prototyping.
  • Designhill: AI-powered logo maker and design tool for creating professional logos and branding materials.
  • Autodraw: A Google AI experiment that turns your sketches into polished drawings and illustrations.

8. Video creation and editing

With AI video creation and editing tools, you can produce professional-quality videos without the need for extensive technical skills.

These tools can automate editing, optimize your videos for SEO, and even generate video content from text inputs. They make video marketing accessible to businesses of all sizes.

Top tools:

  • Lumen5: Converts text into engaging video content.
  • InVideo: Offers AI-powered video creation and editing tools.
  • Synthesia: Creates AI-generated videos from text in multiple languages, offering customizable avatars.
  • Magisto: An AI-driven video maker that automatically edits your videos and photos, adding music and effects.
  • Clipchamp: Provides AI-powered video editing features, including automatic video optimization and easy-to-use video creation tools.

9. Customer support tools and chatbots

If you’re short-handed in the customer service area, AI customer support tools and chatbots can offer 24/7 assistance to customers. They handle inquiries and support tickets and even improve sales processes by offering personalized service and recommendations — all while reducing the workload on human staff.

Top tools:

  • Zendesk: Incorporates AI for smarter customer service and support ticket management.
  • Intercom: Uses AI to power conversational chatbots and personalized customer messaging.
  • Drift: Offers AI-driven marketing and sales chatbots for businesses.
  • ManyChat: Empowers businesses to create AI chatbots for customer service, marketing, and sales on Facebook Messenger.
  • Aivo: Offers customer service solutions that use AI to engage customers across different channels with voice and text-based chatbots.

10. Marketing and email automation

AI email and marketing automation tools help businesses personalize their communications and optimize their campaign timing.

These tools analyze customer data to deliver targeted marketing messages, which improves engagement rates and increases the number of conversions.

An email marketing dashboard

‎Top tools:

  • Mailchimp: Uses AI to optimize email campaign performance.
  • ActiveCampaign: Offers AI-driven email marketing and automation.
  • HubSpot Marketing Hub: Provides comprehensive AI-powered marketing automation features.
  • Moosend: An email marketing platform with AI features for audience segmentation, campaign optimization, and personalization.
  • Omnisend: Offers advanced email marketing automation with personalized messaging, segmentation, and A/B testing capabilities.

11. Operations and logistics

AI tools in the operations and logistics area optimize supply chains and improve inventory management and delivery processes.

These tools make it possible for businesses to predict demand more accurately. This reduces operational costs and improves overall efficiency in their supply chain and logistics operations.

Top tools:

  • Flexport: Uses AI and big data to offer more efficient freight forwarding and logistics solutions.
  • Locus Robotics: Provides autonomous mobile robots integrated with AI for warehouse and fulfillment operations.
  • Project44: Applies AI to supply chain management, improving demand forecasting, inventory levels, and shipping accuracy.
  • Shipwell: Combines AI and machine learning to offer a connected platform for freight shipping with real-time tracking and logistics optimization.

12. Human resources (HR) and recruitment

Data-driven AI tools in HR and recruitment transform how businesses manage talent acquisition and employee engagement.

These tools can automate repetitive tasks such as employee scheduling, provide better performance management, improve candidate screening, and generate insights into employee satisfaction and productivity.

Top tools:

  • HireVue: Offers AI-driven video interviewing and pre-employment assessment solutions to streamline the hiring process.
  • Pymetrics: Applies AI to create career path recommendations and improve hiring decisions with neuroscience games and bias-free algorithms.
  • Workday: Provides AI-powered insights and automation across HR functions, including talent management and workforce planning.
  • UKG: Utilizes AI for personalized employee experiences, predictive analytics, and smooth HR processes.

13. Finance and accounting

AI in finance and accounting revolutionizes how businesses manage their finances, from automating bookkeeping tasks to offering predictive insights for better financial decision-making.

These tools can help improve data accuracy, detect fraud, optimize cash flow, and save you time on your financial operations in general.

A graphic depiction of finance automation

‎Top tools:

  • QuickBooks: Offers AI-driven insights for cash flow, invoicing, and expenses, simplifying accounting tasks for small businesses.
  • Xero: Uses AI and machine learning to automate bank reconciliation, invoicing, and other bookkeeping tasks.
  • Expensify: Automates expense reporting and tracking, using AI to scan receipts, categorize expenses, and approve reports.
  • Plaid: Provides technology that allows applications to connect with users’ bank accounts and analyze financial data for better insights.
  • Zoho Books: Uses AI to automate financial workflows, manage cash flow, and provide actionable insights.

Incorporate any of these tools into your business operations, and watch your company’s efficiency and productivity soar!

Step into the world of AI tools for small businesses

Armed with the information in this article, you’ll be well-prepared to start reviewing and selecting the types of AI tools you need most for your company — those that are most likely to make a big difference in critical areas of your daily operations.

Whatever tools you settle on, make sure to include an intelligent, AI-driven project management tool like Motion that can revolutionize your company’s efficiency and productivity in everything from IT and marketing to legal matters and design.

Ready to check this out for yourself? Try Motion for free for 7 days.

Carla Groenewegen
A certified content writer and SEO strategist, Carla Groenewegen writes about success principles and practices aimed at SMBs and not-for-profit organizations.
Written by Carla Groenewegen