Technology is evolving faster by the minute, to the point where adopting some form of artificial intelligence in your business is no longer a choice. According to 2019 research by software giant Oracle, 37 percent of businesses have already implemented artificial intelligence (A.I.), while another 41 percent plan to do it this year. If the thought of taking that on seems overwhelming, the good news is that you don't have to go all in right away. In fact, it is not recommended. Here are three steps to get you off the sidelines and ready to leverage A.I. this year. 

Know what you're getting into, and do your homework.

The first step in determining your A.I. strategy is to understand the strengths and limitations of A.I. While humans are still far superior in social and creative intelligence, A.I. reigns supreme in tackling routine work. It is easy to want to adopt A.I. to reduce costs and become more efficient, but without a firm understanding of these limitations, adoption can be more costly than simply doing nothing. 

Identify the biggest problems A.I. can solve in your business.

The second step involves getting crystal clear on your objective and determining if it is indeed a problem that A.I. will be able to solve. This seems like a simple step, but don't let that undermine its importance, especially in the world of sales and marketing. Various A.I. software solutions can seem innovative and groundbreaking, but if they don't solve your biggest problems, they will end up being a detriment before they are a paver of success. Most A.I. solutions I have tried for sales and marketing entail a lot of heavy lifting to get right. They're still valuable, you just have to understand adopting new technologies is a process, and you must bake in the time and energy to get your team to adapt to the changes. 

Move fast, but start small.

One way to start is to adopt a chatbot for your website, which can provide incredible value for communicating with customers and increasing conversions. But be aware that the wrong implementation can cause more harm than good. 

Fully operational website chatbots require a form of A.I. called natural language processing (NLP), which is not easy to get right. Ever shake your fist at Siri or Alexa? They rely on NLP and prove that even brands with an abundance of resources struggle to achieve perfection. Understanding language, spoken or written, and then delivering the right response requires a level of intellect beyond a typical bot's capabilities. A.I. falls short when it comes to expressing empathy, understanding the context of a situation, and offering the best solution for edge cases. 

By starting small and solving one problem at a time, chatbots can still be incredibly powerful in your business. For example, they can answer routine questions from customers and direct them to more information. They can also assist your sales team in gaining answers to valuable qualification questions in a way that is more natural than filling out an endless form. The key when starting out is to eliminate open-ended questions and instead rely primarily on multiple-choice buttons. 

For example, take cosmetics retailer Sephora, whose mobile bots are conversational, but they take you on a guided path, leveraging multiple-choice questions to find the right product that you are looking for, which in turn increases online and mobile conversions.

It's also important to be very open about the fact that your customers are interacting with a bot. This minimizes the likelihood that they'll get angry when the bot fails to understand the context of a given situation. Avoid that issue by making it easy for the bot to escalate to a human, who can handle sensitive questions or frustrated customers. 

New technology is becoming more readily available, less expensive, and easier to leverage. The key is to resist all the hype and start slow. A.I. is an inevitable part of the future for all businesses, but that doesn't mean you should think of it as a panacea or try to push it through all at once.