How to Build a Coverage Area Map

All businesses have coverage areas. From lemonade stands to wireless phone services, all businesses provide or sell services over a specific area.  Many companies turn to business mapping software to display these critical areas of interest.

Coverage areas are important because they describe where a customer can expect to receive services. Any home care agency is a great example of how important coverage area maps are. By sharing that coverage area map for potential home care patients, families can tell in a glance if the agency is right for their loved one.

Create the Coverage Area

Map Business Online provides a variety of ways to create a coverage area map. The two most direct way to achieve a coverage area map are:

  1. Creating a shaded area on the map by importing a spread sheet of covered districts
  2. Manually selecting administrative districts on the map and labeling them as a covered area or territory

Coverage areas are usually defined in terms of states, counties or ZIP codes. Map Business Online can also enable shaded areas based on city limits, Census Tracts, school districts, and even Metropolitan Statistical Areas (a Census defined market unit).  Usually a business will know exactly what their coverage area is based on ZIP codes or Counties.

A Coverage Map Example

Let’s assume that a business, Swizzle Sticks Are Us, has a coverage area made up of counties in the Cincinnati, OH area. A spreadsheet has been compiled by one of the sales managers.

For that spreadsheet to be converted into a coverage area map based on counties it will need to have at least two columns; one column for county name and one column for state. If that area was based on ZIP codes,  only one column would be necessary. That’s because ZIP code numbers are unique – there are never duplicate ZIP codes. Counties are not unique. There are many US counties with the same name. Examples include:

County State 1 State 2
Essex County New Jersey Massachusetts
Montgomery Country Alabama Pennsylvania
Morgan County West Virginia Georgia

Get the picture? A business mapping application needs to understand County Name and State in order to plot the data correctly. This is always true when working with county data – not just for coverage area maps.

Armed with the correct spreadsheet, a user can simply upload that data into Map Business Online either as a Point Layer using the Plot Data on the Map button or as a territory file using the Create Territories Button. The Create Territories approach will save a step in the process and you’ll end up with a highlight area of counties and a coverage area label.

The Plot Data on the Map button places map points on the map at the center of each county imported. Click the button and navigate to your data. Then select the data for import and placement. The Map Business Online map creator can than turn off the point layer and color shade the County Layer using the Color Code Map button (3-Puzzle Piece icon), which will then highlight the  counties as a shaded coverage area.

My preferred coverage area method is using the Create Territories button on the Master Toolbar. The Create Territories button asks the user to import a spreadsheet as well. Here the process is slightly more direct. Simply navigate to your data, import your list of counties, and make sure to confirm your County layer and your “Territory name.”  In the coverage map data include a column for Name and name it something like: “Swizel Stick Coverage Are.” Copy that name all the way down you list of counties.

Coverage areas can also be created manually (with no data importing) by selecting counties or other districts directly on the map using your mouse cursor. If a map user knows exactly which countries they want to display they can select a polygon search tool and run a draw line through the counties they want to include. Bring that draw line back to the beginning to complete the search. Map Business Online will ask you to confirm the list of Counties being searched. You can then name that area – Swizzle Stick Coverage Area or something similar.

An alternative manual method is to select one county manually with your mouse, then hold down the shift key and keep selecting additional counties until your coverage area is complete. This method is nice if you are developing the map from scratch, maybe doing it over lunch with a few peers. “Hey! You forgot Cambridge County!”

This incremental process also highlights the way territories and coverage areas can be easily maintained or edited once created. Simply select a county with your mouse and click the Blue Puzzle piece icon to delete, add or update your coverage area.

Our Swizel Stick Empire

Sharing Your Coverage Map

Once you’ve created your coverage map, I recommend saving the map as a template. You’ll find the Template options in the Save Map button.  Name the map file and then choose Template in the drop down.

By saving the map as a template you can use your coverage map as a base map for other map projects. Open the Template and immediately save the map as a My Map file – naming it as a separate project. Now edit as required and save again. Your template is still there – untouched and you’ve created another map using your previously saved worked as a starter map. This is a smart habit to get into in map production.

Once your map is to your liking, click the Share Interactive Map button to share the map with your constituents. It’s an easy process. Choose the Public Sharing option and then Share Map. This will generate a URL that you can share for free for up to 200 web sessions per month.

If you’d like to embed the link on a web map consider the number of clicks you’ll get and consider purchasing up to 5,000 sessions for $350.00. Otherwise, stick with a standard image file, PNG or Jpeg that may not interactive but still displays your coverage area.  image files sharing is free.

Coverage area maps differ from territories in that they quickly communicate the areas where services are provided for the customer. Territories clearly communicate areas of responsibility for service providers.  Typically, coverage areas are for external communication and territory maps are for internal communication.

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Find out why over 25,000 business users log into www.MapBusinessOnline.com for their business mapping software and advanced sales territory mapping solution.

Contact: Geoffrey Ives geoffives@spatialteq.com or Jason Henderson jhenderson@spatialteq.com (800) 425-9035

MapPoint users please consider www.MapBusinessOnline.com as your MapPoint Replacement.

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