Business maps help solve business problems. That’s why businesses are willing to pay a little for the right business mapping software – one that solves a particular business challenge. The right tool for the job. For many web map users the problem could be pretty straight forward – the visualization of customer locations, or establishing clearly defined sales territories. But for some users business challenges can require more complex mapping approaches.
“You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun”
Irving Berlin, in Annie Get Your Gun, understood that you had to apply the appropriate tool, in the right way, to solve a problem. A mapping application offers more than one “gun” in its array of tools.
Complex business problems may require more creative map solutions to achieve the results you seek. By mastering individual processes you can build more complex solutions for solving bigger business challenges. As you conduct product reviews of business mapping software processes look for spatial query, drive time analysis, optimized routing, zip code gathering, and demographic analysis. Here are some things to consider that might make your mapping approach more effective in the long run.
Slow Down and Experiment
Like anything else, haste makes waste. Or as my grandmother used to say, “Godfrey! If you take it at that speed deary you’ll end up in the hospital.”
We all get excited to use new software, especially if we get effective results right off the bat. With maps and data visualization it helps to think through the problem a bit first. Don’t be afraid to break your business processes down into sections and focus on individual parts which could expose a solution that might prove effective in other areas.
For example, you might find the same geographic analysis that identifies effective direct mail campaign techniques could also be applied to some of your sales campaigns. Or you might be importing a half dozen data sets that could be consolidated into one or perhaps two databases.
I recently spoke to a customer in fuel delivery who was so excited to solve his business problems using mapping software that he imported every business data set he could find – sales, vehicles, delivery schedules, competition, and more – and created an extremely busy map that no one could understand. He came to me looking for a way to better organize his data. I suggested he create multiple maps – don’t try to solve all your problems with one map.
A Swiss Army Knife
Business mapping software is multifaceted. By mastering the various aspects of the overall software you can apply several geographic tools to your workplace challenge.
For instance, fine tune your data visualization approach by consolidating like data sets and assigning classifications in one column. In addition to color coded symbolization, you may be able to query those like records by territory in one pass, vastly improving the effectiveness of your sales territory mapping plan. And those territories that you build and maintain will be better informed by your imported and classified data.
Another example is related to the idea of using a business mapping software to create color coded demographic maps by zip code or county. Such a map can expose population segments by age or income that might present appropriate guidelines for sales territory creation or sales campaign planning. Consider using demographic maps as templates upon which to build other maps.
A map template is simply a map view that you label and save. Your map template should be a basic depiction of your business area that might include demographics, customer base, and branch locations. When you want to expand upon that map view you open the map, add layers, or tweak the view in some way, than save a new map based on the changes you made, while preserving the original map view for future use. Map templating requires some thought and careful map saving. Take it slow and you will find this to be a valuable approach.
Query, Filter, Search
Your imported data is what makes mapping software particularly useful. Just seeing it geographically is both informative and cool. Moreover, searching your data geographically helps your business managers to plan. Business mapping software typically provides multiple ways to search your own data.
A spatial search lets you create a geometric shape around your data and save that subset of your data bounded by the object. You should be able to further search or filter your data for specific records, or records from number X to number Y, or records within a certain zip code, county or state. As you work with these various querying approaches you will develop ways to expose data points that support your particular business process. For example, a call center inside sales rep can use geographic queries to isolate customers or prospects within a specified area for a campaign and then further segment that list to follow-up by zip code, perhaps coordinating with a traveling outside sales person.
Complex mapping isn’t as complex if you break it down into its individual components. Like anything else, it takes time, or, as my grandmother used to say, “Where in God’s name is your grandfather?” and he’d show up eventually – just like your complex mapping skills.
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