Map Business Online Blog

Read about business mapping and how it can help your business succeed.

How Do I Prepare Business Data for Web Map Use?

Florida Sales Map  - Strategic Plan 2014The value of a map to Caesar, Napoleon, Zhukov and Eisenhower is well-known. Their business was war and winning always involved using maps. Your business may be somewhat less dramatic and historic but applying map visualizations to your business is just as important for your business battles.

So, how do you prepare your business data for use within business mapping software? Well, it is not difficult, but the process should be approached with care. The common IT adage “garbage in, garbage out” certainly applies here. You will typically be importing your business data as an Excel spreadsheet, a CSV file, or a tabulated text file for use on a business map. Yes, you can map Excel data.

Preparing your Business Data for Excel Mapping
Make sure your soon to be imported business dataset is clean. Clean up random characters that sometimes appear when you export data from legacy applications or CRM software. Tick marks and spaces can cause havoc as an online mapping application attempts to accurately place your business data on a map. Review your columns of data for clarity. Make sure place-name columns are place names, all the way down. Make sure zip codes are formatted as zip codes. In general, review your spreadsheet data columns for consistency and to make sure you populated your columns with data. Empty data records won’t stop the application from geocoding your data but you may want data in those empty buckets. Sometimes people have inadvertently typed notes in their spreadsheets that interrupt formatting.

Create sensible column headings along your first row. In other words, label city data column as “City.” Avoid odd business vernacular like “Port of Call” which can fool a geocoding engine. I always label my headings this way:

Last, First, Organization, Address, City, State, Zip Code, County, Country, Status, Type, Date, Beds, Sales, Account Rep, etc.

The geocoding engine, within the mapping application will look for those columns that indicate accurate placement on the Earth (italicized and underlined above.) You do not need to include every geocoding category. The application will locate just a city or a zip code, but including more geo-columns makes your placement more accurate. In some situations, like in third world countries, address geocoding may not be available and latitude longitude coordinates should be used instead. Nothing is more accurate than a latitude longitude coordinate. See Breaking Bad Season Five, Episode 7 – “Buried.”

Data Classification – Color-Coding by Type
To the right of the placement columns, I listed a few common data category column headings. These represent classifications of business data that you may want displayed on your map. These would be specific to your business. If you’re a sales organization you may want to see customers, in which case include a column for customer type. Customer types might include: Key account, prospect, inactive, house account, credit watch, or distributor

Classifying your data lets you color-code and symbolize your information by type. Hospital organizations like to show bed counts, clinicians, and resources. Marketing organizations often display prospects, or demographic data. Think about what is important to your business. Color-coding and symbolizing your data points is one the most important and cool features of a web map.

Use Multiple Map Views
Remember, you usually can import multiple spreadsheets into mapping software – perhaps one for sales, and one for resources. And you don’t need to show your entire business all on one map. You could set-up one map for revenue analysis and another one for work flow.

A little effort and thinking invested into cleaning and preparing your Excel spreadsheets will pay-off on your business web map. Pretty soon you’ll be planning campaigns, calling up reserves, and marshalling artillery. Well, maybe not all of that but you’ll be acting pretty cool at parties just the same. America’s fastest growing business mapping software.
Let a map help you learn about your business.


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Why Search Your Own Business Data Using a Web Map?

The Manhattan Project
Business mapping software lets users import their customer records, prospect databases, or other location-based datasets and view them on the map. That feature, which we call data visualization, is the most popular, and possibly the most powerful, feature offered by web mapping tools. For many businesses the visualization of their business data against a map background is transformative. It creates new ways of seeing your business.

The Spatial Search
But business mapping software offers much more than simply importing and viewing your business data. By querying business data geographically managers can learn more about their business. Users often query their data using map based querying tools. In full featured geographic information systems this querying device is known as the Spatial Search. Spatial Search is a very Map Geeky term, so keep it in your hip pocket for impressing acquaintances at highbrow cocktail parties and keep it under wraps at tailgate and frat parties. No need to risk life and limb over mapping software.

The term Spatial means in three-dimensional reality. For our purposes Spatial refers to places on the Earth’s surface. These places in space are three-dimensional because the Earth’s surface includes topography – mountains and valleys. So when you are conducting a spatial search, a typical business user is looking for objects or data points on the Earth’s surface. Your map application’s data import process locates or geo-locates these points on the map based on their address, latitude or longitude placement, or some other less exact geographic placement like a zip code or a county. A spatial search is simply searching data within a specific area of space. For instance, population by specific zip code, or the number of ice cream stores within fifty miles of a specific rest area. Those are examples of simple spatial searches.

A good web mapping software will let you create a circle or radius map and search all the data within that circle. You should be able to conduct the same search within a polygon – a multisided object on the map. Businesses use these spatial searches to conduct market research, competitive analysis, or store expansion research.

A more advanced method of spatial search is built into territory analysis. When you have designed and create a series of sales territories that represent sales accountability, you should then be able to search those territories for customers, prospects, or other pertinent data records. These spatial queries might be great to file in your sales person’s performance file as records supporting territory assignments and progress against goals.

Taken a step further, demographic analysis places Census data, describing population, income, ethnicity, age, and many other statistics, in a spatial context. Mapping applications distribute that demographic data over administrative districts (county, state or zip code) and can display values in color shadings. For example, a zip code map can display population densities as varying shades of blue or any color for that matter.

So why do people query data using mapping software? They do it because it allows the user to visualize business data geographically. A nationwide database of customers in QuickBooks can suddenly become a region by region tally of customers by type. A decade old customer data dump is now a world-wide analysis of where your top five products are sold over ten years. An Excel spreadsheet that Kim used to update before she went on maternity leave is now the basis of your company’s sales territory structure.

And they also do it for the Spatial Olympics’ tailgate party – don’t forget your calculator. America’s fastest growing business mapping software. Let a map help you learn about your business.

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Is Your Map Communicating Effectively?

I regularly talk with customers about how to effectively apply online mapping software to their business. This week the customers included a major metropolitan area police department, a large medical device distributor, a citrus retailer, and a few independent sales reps – to name just a few. They all were creating business maps to communicate something to an audience. Business maps tell a story.

The fact that a map can tell an effective story makes it an excellent tool for sales and marketing applications. Sometimes the story is directed at your customer, like a retail store finder or a map that describes product availability. But the story could also be directed inward, like a wall map used to show your call center where all your customers are located, or where all of your outside sales people start their day. That same wall map approach could be used to share a resource message like where all the fire stations are located or where the search team looked for the lost hiker last night. All of these business map applications communicate information.

That’s why it is so critical to understand how well your map communicates your message. This means avoiding map clutter, not doubling up or tripling up on messages in the same map.

Map Clutter
It’s not unusual for first time map users to get excited about the new tool they recently discovered. They import every spreadsheet imaginable onto one map. They might symbolize and color code points with over twenty five classification combinations. Sure, this can be done on a web map but your audience won’t understand what you are saying. It’s too much. It is what we in the biz refer to as map clutter.

Having worked for a cartographer for 12 years, I’ve watched trained paper map experts create maps for a living. Professional maps include only the specific map layers that support the map intent. So, a road network is used to support a travel map, a satellite layer is used to support a forestry map. You don’t throw in a few extra layers because it looks cool.
Data points on a professional map may be in the thousands, but they will be organized into a few classifications that display clearly and succinctly in a map legend or key.

An example of a cluttered map would be a map that tries to classify each customer as opposed to each type of customer. Associating a symbol with more than 5 or 6 points creates map clutter ruining your business map intent and confusing your audience.
Cluttered Map

The Map Message
Your map is communicating a message. Usually it is “Hey! Look where our customers are located.” But it could also be, “If you’re in trouble, here are the key resources you can count on.” That last message is important for hurricane response efforts along the southern coast of the USA during hurricane season. Along the hurricane coast, circulated or posted maps needed to clearly identify where shelters are located so people can get there quickly. This means you don’t want your map to show too many messages – like shelters, police stations, and hospitals as well as amusement parks, rest areas, and recreational hiking areas. Keep it simple.

Fortunately a good mapping application lets the user build multiple maps. You can build one map for sales programs, one map for revenue tracking, and another for vendor management in support of a project. You don’t need to communicate everything in one map. In point of fact, you won’t communicate much of anything if you include too much data.

There are many ways to use maps to communicate with your audience. Take your time, think it through, run it by test users, and create a simple map that communicates effectively. – America’s fastest growing business mapping software. Let a map help you learn about your business.

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