Alicanto Brings The Automated Marketing Assistant To The Small Business World

Alicanto, launching today at Disrupt San Francisco 2012, is bringing machine learning, data analytics and the concept of forming neighborhood business alliances to the small business market.

Alicanto is entering one of the most difficult markets to tackle. The small business market is local, businesses are run by people who have little time for marketing. They are not particularly tech savvy. Reaching them is a challenge.

The company sees the opportunity in offering a platform that acts in some ways like an automated marketing assistant. The service manages and executes marketing programs such as list management, direct mail, promotions and tie-in opportunities with other businesses. The difference, though, is in the machine learning. The service looks at a wide variety of parameters such as the user, the location and the industry that the business plays in. Alicanto claims it can notify companies about how the larger retailers are pricing or marketing their products.

They do this in the form of daily recommendations. These recommendations can be acted upon by doing email offers and other marketing services pre-built into the Alicanto service.

Alicanto uses a news feed  as the dashboard for customers to show the history of the recommendations. A calendar shows when the campaigns took place. The service is designed with search engine optimization technology.

Alicanto’s neighborhood alliance program will allow small businesses to partner with other local businesses using the Alicanto marketing platform. For example, a local gym may partner with a retailer to offer each other’s products and services.

“We are trying to increase the foot traffic,” said Alicanto Co-Founder and CEO Sharon Segev.”Foot traffic is a key factor — we are trying to increase the pie.”

Alicanto’s strength is in its easy-to-use service. A campaign can be created in a few clicks. A small business person can segment their customer lists so a postcard can be sent with a special promotion. One done, a new recommendation is made for a different marketing effort.

Alicanto uses a freemium model, which could be a challenge with small business customers. The trick will be to show that the Yellow Pages just doesn’t work like it used to and it’s time to be more aggressive. This is especially true as brick-and-mortar businesses increasingly have to compete against large companies with big marketing budgets and more sophisticated online tools.