Palo Alto Startup Performs As Virtual Marketing Manager

Alicanto gives small business owners professional marketing advice without the expense of hiring an employee.

Small business owners are passionate about their chosen fields—boutique owners love clothes, restaurateurs love food—but what do they know about marketing, a key component to running a successful business? Unfortunately, for most, the answer is virtually nothing.

That marketing gap is an opportunity for Palo Alto startup Alicanto. Founder and CEO Sharon Segev describes Alicanto as a “Virtual Marketing Manager for small businesses who don't have the money to hire a full time marketing manager." He says that business owners typically end up doing their own marketing but are too busy with day-to-day operations to focus on the task.  

The idea of Alicanto is simple. Sign-up on the website, answer some questions, then receive marketing suggestions tailored to your specific circumstances. You make the marketing decisions, and Alicanto executes them.

It’s free to join and most of its services are free, although premium marketing services are also available. For example, SEO optimization is free while purchasing Google AdWords costs money.

Segev lives in Los Altos, where several businesses are already using Alicanto. He says the feedback he’s received so far is amazing. "We found that some small business owners felt like they were born again, that proactive marketing had a very positive impact on their businesses. They felt in control, not passive, about attracting business."

In addition to marketing themselves, businesses can form alliances to boost everyone involved.

Segev’s wife Ruti owns Ruti clothing store in Town & Country Village in Palo Alto. Her small business is growing, with stores in San Francisco and Santa Monica. She has fully integrated Alicanto into her operation. One option of Alicanto is sending birthday postcards to customers that may be used as coupons. Twelve percent of her sales now come from those postcards.    

While Alicanto customers are passionate about their businesses, Segev describes himself as passionate about marketing. Born in Tel Aviv, he recently became a U.S. citizen. Segev received an Executive MBA from Harvard. He spoke with Patch by phone Thursday during a business trip to New York.

Segev is pushing hard for Alicanto’s success. "We need to succeed. There are 27 million small businesses in the U.S. and when we succeed, it means those businesses are succeeding...I promise that it will work for them"

While his focus is currently on the U.S., Segev says Alicanto was designed for the entire world and its 300 million small businesses.

Alicanto has several “case study” videos on its YouTube channel. Segev believes that Alicanto is right for all business owners, whether just starting out, expanding, or struggling so badly that they're in danger of going belly-up. "I swear, I promise...proactive marketing is necessary for the small business owner."

Alicanto is headquartered at 853 Alma St., Palo Alto.

The Last Word
Segev says Alicanto gives small business owners the tools to succeed. "This is a huge opportunity for them--whatever you're passionate about, we'll take care of the marketing."

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