Metropolitan Statistical Areas – Census Geographies for Market Analysis

MapBusinessOnline includes a geographic boundary layer called MSAs or Metropolitan Statistical Areas. MSAs are area geographies designed, managed, and published by the Census Bureau.  These areas come in two types:

Metropolitan MSAs – These are defined as having at least one urban area with a population of 50,000 people, ensuring the accuracy of your data analysis.

Micropolitan MSAs are areas with at least one area with population of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000.

Read more about the Census Bureau MSA criteria here.

The MSA map layer in MapBusinessOnline is included in the Layers button along the Master Toolbar. Select the MSA layer, which will be displayed on your business map. Each record of an MSA consists of an identifying FIPs code. A map editor can edit the look and feel of an MSA layer just like a City Limit, ZIP code, or County layer; you can control boundary color and thickness, choose fill color, and turn fill on and off.

Read more about adjusting your map’s look and feel.

A nationwide MSA map showing population breakdown.

MSA – Marketing Geographies

MSA geographies in MapBusinessOnline are more than just areas; MSAs are often used as convenient examination regions for market analysis.  Reviewing relevant business and demographic data over a germane target area helps the map user make informed business decisions.

MSA demographic population criteria are intended to characterize an area’s urban intensity, such as Boston.  Any metropolitan area, like Boston, typically includes radio, periodical, television programming, and online media with advertising that directs consumers to local and regional businesses for products and services.  This demographic marketing data keeps your business informed and competitive in the market.

Using an entire MSA to represent a marketing area of focus can also save map-building time and help organize your unique business analysis.

In MapBusinessOnline, the application of MSA areas sometimes overlaps with other map analyses that could include ZIP codes or counties. A map creator can create territories from multiple ZIP codes or counties representing marketing areas. MSAs are preconstructed and might provide a similar map presentation with less time and effort.

MSAs are similar in scope and intent to Nielsen DMA geographies, which are also designed marketing areas. DMAs are proprietary and controlled by Neilsen, requiring significant investment to be incorporated into an analysis tool like MapBusinessOnline.

Here’s a demographic example using MSA geographies.  The most money spent on alcoholic beverages per capita occurs in Los Alamos, NM, not Boston, MA, as many suspect.

MSA geographies and Census consumer data on alcohol consumption.

Practical Use of MSAs

The MSA map layer in MapBusinessOnline could be used to design a sales, service, or franchise territory mapping system, just like you would using other map layers.  MSAs can be combined into groups or territories.  Applying MSA territories could be a time saver for businesses with more extensive territory operations and a way to focus on core markets. For instance, Boston, Worcester, and Manchester, New Hampshire, might combine nicely into a key territory for certain organizations doing business there.

MSAs could also serve as a franchisee territory base layer within franchising organizations.  SA easily accommodates the import of MapBusinessOnline demographic data for balancing purposes.  All territory functionality still applies, so minimizing areas of overlap is easy.

The downside of MSA territories in franchising is that the coverage areas may be too large.  Franchisee territories tend to be concentrated in heavily populated urban areas, and the outlying regions are usually too sparsely populated to support a franchise sales business.

Like other MapBusinessOnline business mapping software MSAs, geographies can be combined beyond territory maps into regions and divisions.  Hierarchical territory support constantly improves as MapBusinessOnline releases updates enabling hierarchical territory data imports.

Like other boundary map layers in MapBusinessOnline, MSAs can be color-coded based on relevant associated data, such as imported business data or demographic data.  These relevant data layers can create another view of the USA  or regions that reflect core demographic statistics.

Sales organizations may find MSAs a very convenient geography for selecting and downloading business listings.  Because the MSA areas tend to be more urban-focused, business listings will be concentrated in these populated and active centers of consumer activity.

Explore the other map layers available in MapBusinessOnline. City limits and census tracts are additional add-on layer options for your business map work.  See how MapBusinessOnline can make your location-based work more accessible, enjoyable, and effective.

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About Geoffrey Ives

Geoffrey Ives lives and works in southwestern Maine. He grew up in Rockport, MA and graduated from Colby College. Located in Maine since 1986, Geoff joined DeLorme Publishing in the late 1990's and has since logged twenty-five years in the geospatial software industry. In addition to business mapping, he enjoys playing classical & jazz piano, gardening, and taking walks in the Maine mountains with his Yorkshire Terrier named Skye.
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