Companies like Esri and Google reach a large audience of customers and potential customers with their compelling Geographic Information System (GIS) and Location Intelligence (LI) marketing messages. But not every business in the USA is ready to hear these messages. For reasons that include out-of-reach investment requirements, technology intimidation, and competing software priorities, many companies press on, year after year, without the benefit of location analysis tools. And still more companies remain simply unaware that location intelligence or business mapping software even exist.
I speak with many businesses new to business mapping software whose requirements can suddenly veer from basic business mapping into the realm of full GIS. Often these companies have no idea what GIS or location intelligence means. If I bring up GIS/LI it can become a distraction to the sales process. A customer new to mapping software is often very busy just getting through their day. To start exploring a whole new technology can be overwhelming – even a non-starter. So I try to take it slow. “Baby steps,” to quote Bob (see movie What About Bob.) After all, Rome’s municipal GIS infrastructure wasn’t built in a day.
Location Awareness in the Backseat
It is accepted that most companies use spreadsheet software to manage many aspects of their business. Location aware spreadsheets are, in my opinion, a natural next step. By simply adding address columns to a database of customers your spreadsheet becomes location enabled. Map data visualizations are in this fashion the gateway to unlocking the power of location intelligence. So what is it that stops many small companies from further exploring the power of location intelligence? Why do so many businesses not bother to include address, city and zip code in their customer data?
Put yourself in an up and coming medical clinic. You’re the new team manager there. Turnover is brisk. Your objectives, as described by your supervisor, are many and could include:
• Completion of the transition preparations for ICD-10 records coding
• Final implementation of new, web-based, medical records software
• Compliance with all Affordable Care Act requirements such as monitoring Meaningful Use measurements and or developing ACO relationships
• Supporting all medical staff through regularly occurring emergencies as required
• Driving better operational efficiencies into the business:
o Reducing overtime man hours
o Reducing fuel reimbursement totals for field work
You have a big job on your hands and in walks a location-based software sales person. The technology opportunities available to clinical managers today are mind-boggling. How does a medical agency IT director or a clinical manager know where to start? Business mapping software or GIS software could help with any number of the objectives noted above. Driving down fuel costs and improving mobile clinician productivity are proven benefits from the implementation of optimized routing and scheduling systems, and every company can use location enabled sales and marketing tools. But how would these new software services integrate with the medical records implementation? Which service has budgetary priority, training priority, or deserves more real-estate on mobile devices? Will the clinicians even use the software? They’re still struggling with the medical records rollout and the last thing they want is more software. And wait, you’re getting paged to assist with an incoming heart attack patient. Catch you on the flip-side.
There are always lots of distractions. Implementing business mapping software in a busy business, such as the one described above can be a long shot. Payback needs to be big and fast, while implementation and training need to be dirt-simple otherwise location intelligence looks overwhelming and overvalued.
And medical businesses are not the exception. They may have more emergencies for sure, but any business today can be short-handed, budget strapped, overloaded with technology while ironically in dire need of the benefits of location analysis.
And to get back to that issue of addresses in customer data, many companies use antiquated legacy systems that either do not export lists with addresses or “the person who used to know how to do that, no longer works here.”
So what’s the answer? How do location intelligence evangelists make it more of a no-brainer for non-mapping professionals to see the value in location intelligence?
Baby Steps to Specific Customer Value
The sales message has to be focused on specific customer requirements. A banker needs to understand that map visualizations will drive up her loan revenues, or expose risky investments early on. A police chief must know his maps will be quickly constructed and communicate critical details when shared during a crisis. A sales team needs to know territory mapping drives accountability, and sales planning mapping tools make sales trips more efficient and more productive, helping them to achieve their goals.
I look at location-based software services as a continuum – from basic to very advanced. The work that needs to be done is moving businesses from no mapping services to the point on the continuum that makes the most sense for their particular business and their particular needs. The mapping services sales message has got to address each industry’s specific need and have direct impact on what they perceive as valuable. Just promising to expose trends, visualize data, and improve efficiencies won’t cut it. It must connect with their specific values.
Some companies are already seeking more advanced solutions when you call them. They get the value, even without your carefully honed pitch. Other companies require very little encouragement – quick customer location visualization, their world gets rocked and they are on board with business mapping. But there are many companies mired in their particular business paradigm, too distracted to grasp the value of a new technical tool.
We know that location intelligence exposes trends. Our retail client needs to know that trend means there are 40% more customers within a 25 minute drive time of their planned store location.
We know the tools can drive down fuel costs. Our home care client needs to know fuel costs will be reduced without a loss of productivity due to a heavy software learning curve.
You can move that stuck customer from overwhelmed to location aware; from a plain list of customer names to a compelling map of customer densities by county with demographics. The journey is not far if you take baby steps and connect your application with specific customer value.
Practice by convincing someone over the age of seventy to start using Twitter.
Let a map help you learn about your business.