How Can Business Mapping Software Help Plan Business Expansion?

Congratulations! Your business is going well and you are seriously considering expanding. How can business mapping software help?

Usually business expansion means catering to more customers or moving into new markets. Often these new markets are defined geographically. Perhaps you currently sell very successfully to everyone in the Mount Washington Valley and you’d like to expand to several new areas like Portland, ME or Concord, NH. Here are some suggestions on how to use business mapping software to help analyze your expansion plan.

Know Your Competition
Pretty much everyone competes with another company. It’s a good idea to compile a spreadsheet of your competitor’s stores, warehouses, and branch locations complete with name, full address, and whatever else you feel is pertinent data. Then map Excel data you’ve compiled. You may be able to figure how many users or customers they have by Googling creatively or comparing Facebook likes to other competitor Facebook likes. Get creative. Sometimes you can buy competitor data through business listing companies, but it is fairly easy to use a Google search to compile your own competitive spreadsheet.

Next, import your competitors into your business mapping software for some visual expansion analysis. Look at where they do business. Perhaps you should also analyze zip code, city limit, or county map layers applying population demographics? Chances are good this data confirms what you thought – that your competitor has stores located where the people are. If you think you can compete, then you should have stores there too.

Your Customer Lists
Have you got a list of potential customers from the proposed area? Customer mapping is a very popular feature in business analysis. It is likely that you do, or you can purchase a prospect customer list that meets your typical customer profile. Import these lists and view the records on a map. Draw circles around your competitor’s store locations at various radii. Adjust your location symbols smaller so that they nicely display customer densities as you view the areas. Or perhaps use heat map views to expose densities of customers. Consider locating stores near high densities of customers.

Perhaps you are aware that complementary stores or businesses tend to draw your optimum type of customer. Compile and import those store locations. Find the highest density of those complimentary store locations and consider real estate within 1 mile of those addresses. Draw concentric circles around those stores and look at the overlapping areas. These overlap areas may reveal excellent spots for a branch location. Compare these overlaps to customer densities and think about locations.

Possible Locations
Check out real estate listings for commercial buildings in these target areas. Again, compile a spreadsheet with pertinent data – like annual costs or asking prices. Import these locations into the map. See how they fit into your analysis.

Once you’ve located some possible expansion site locations use your map application’s drive time analysis tool to consider the 15 minute, 30 minute and 60 minute drive time polygons around those locations. Can you get traffic information about these areas? Perhaps locating a store where peak traffic occurs is a good idea – or a bad idea. What about searching the zip codes within your drive time polygons? Can you answer the question, what is the highest income zip code within a 60 minute drive time of possible locations? Would Census Tract maps and demographic data help you make some decisions? If you are selling cars or furniture, this could be a critical question. If you are selling office supplies, maybe not so much.

High growth new housing areas could also be a consideration depending on your market, but I remember stores, newly place in 2007 around rapidly growing Austin, TX, that quickly folded as empty houses and condos, projected to sell in the hot real estate market, failed to sell in the tanking economy. Stores were there, but no customers. Consider importing some housing data for your target areas to get a sense of where houses are selling.

Business mapping applications provide a variety of ways for you to perceive your expansion plans. I’ve noted a few of them above. Your business will include particular location-based data points that will inform your expansion plans if placed on a map. Here are some example ideas of additional maps views that could help a business analysis:

• Property data from real estate industry sources
• Mobile CNA home locations, assisted living centers, and emergency rooms for medical businesses
• Shopping mall locations for the retail business
• Bus stops impacting taxi businesses
• Coffee Internet cafe related to electronic accessory sales outlets
• Businesses over five stories in height for elevator repair services
• Population by zip codes within 120 minutes drive of a potential baseball stadium
• Sex offender home locations within 1 mile of a proposed day care center

Use your imagination to create your business expansion map to help assure your future business planning drives a successful result.

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