What Are Best Practices to Benefit from Business Mapping Software?

This is a common situation. Your company has done well using its current work flows. You may or may not have a CRM in use. Or perhaps you’re a QuickBooks accounting user? You may use Excel spreadsheets to manage contacts, sales commissions, and practically everything in your business. Or your company may be an Oracle or SAP client. No matter the situation, you’ve discovered that viewing and managing your business data geographically provides a huge up-side. So what do you and your managers have to do differently to extract the most benefit from business mapping software? What are location intelligence software best practices for basic business users?

Breathe easy. You may not have to change much at all.

Be Intelligent About Location Intelligence
First of all, let’s put mapping software into perspective. Digital maps cover a lot of waterfront in the software world. Our most advanced government agencies use digital mapping software tools like Esri and other products to conduct military situation analysis, and space exploration. Across industry verticals like public safety, scientific analysis, and energy exploration companies have invested millions of dollars in Geographic Information System (GIS) and location intelligence (LI) software to manage their location data. But no matter the acronym, your business just needs a few basic mapping features to help it better visualize its customers; to discern patterns and to assign accountability based on its location data.

Location Intelligence expert Joe Francica recently analyzed study results from Gartner and Ventana Research that took a peek at how location analytics is applied to businesses today. Find Joe’s article here: http://www.directionsmag.com/articles/location-intelligence-hits-gartners-hype-cycle/395333 What I found to be most interesting about these studies were two things:
1. Most businesses are using Excel spreadsheets to manage their location data – you are not alone.
2. When location intelligence software was appropriately matched to the business use case, users were very satisfied with the results – they got clear benefit from using mapping software

What this means to businesses that are new to business mapping software is that you are on the cusp of gaining a whole new perspective on your business, and you should take it one step at a time.

There’s no need for you to have HR hire a team of rocker scientists or to force your admins to start using slide rules. Take it slow. Business mapping software is a great place to start.

Spreadsheet It
Location data is just that – your business customers, prospects, or competitors by location. Like most companies, your business uses spreadsheets. That’s where you should start. Whether you pull customer data from a CRM system like SalesForce.com or Oracle, or you have semi-retired Milly the lifer track it manually, just find that location data and pull it into spreadsheet format. Use a column for each data component: name, street, city, zip. (Some legacy systems export all the data into one record. Use Excel tools to extract it into columns.)

That’s it. You just leveled the playing field. Now import this data into your business mapping software and view it geographically. Your business mapping software will let you conduct some basic analysis of that data. Spatial analysis used to be restricted to GIS functionality but now business mapping tools include basic analysis for your work flow:
• Conduct radius searches at varying radii – 10 miles, 30 miles, 100 miles
• View your data against zip codes, counties or other administrative districts
• Create drive time polygons around store or event locations – 30 minutes, 60 minutes
• View your business data against demographic data – population, gender, income, age
• Compare store data to customer data to consider proximities and distances
• Create sales territories that reflect and measure company sales objectives
• Have fun experimenting with your business data & map views

The Power of Address
I often hear new business mapping users or map trialers describe their business data as zip code data. They have all their customer data stored by zip code, not address. My advice: where ever possible use full addresses. Sure, business mapping software will locate the zip code data but then you’ve got multiple customer records located on one point in the middle of a zip code. Your data is much more valuable visually if you break it out by address. Or use latitude/longitude points, if that’s what you got.

With fully addressed data points, routing tools are able to accurately access mileages and times. Proximity assessments to stores and events are far more accurate. And drive time analysis has more meaning. Make sure your work flow supports using full addresses.

Territory Management & Overlap
Sales territory management visualizations can help all sales organizations drive accountability into their work flows. Franchise orgs use the same tools to set up areas of sales ownership. All sales teams using territory management tools should consider how you want to handle sales overlap.

Sales overlap is a fact of life. You either want it or you don’t, but it will happen. “Jenny you are responsible for every account in your territory except Scott Paper which has been the bosses account since he was fresh out of college.” So either you allow sales overlap or you don’t, but your mapping software should help you display overlap so you can act accordingly.

Use Multiple Maps
Some companies get so excited when they discover the power of business maps. The boss asks the map administrator to import every possible business data onto one map of the USA so they can view everything all at once. As powerful as that image may be, all those syMap Business Onlinels and labels everywhere, one should consider limiting the use of a particular map to one or two subjects at a time. Create a map for sale planning, and another for marketing. Use one map for revenue analysis and another for territory management. These may be times when you mix map views, but in general you should avoid map clutter and trying to solve too many problems with one map. God gave us multiple map views – so use them!

Lastly, after you’ve derived some benefit from a business mapping solution think about your business and mapping future. Maybe you haven’t even scratched the surface on how much power you could derive from mapping software. Perhaps your organization and your industry could benefit from an even more advanced use of mapping tools like GIS or advanced Location Intelligence software. By all means, explore those options. The location analytics world is your oyster and you should take whatever advantage you can from it, using organized and fully addressed data.

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