Map Business Online Blog

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

A Do For the Road Warrior

A hoarse pulsing alarm was sounding. Liz rolled over in her Hampton Inn bed and slammed her hand down on the radio alarm clock, found the button, and turned off the bane of her existence. She hated getting up a 5 AM but she needed time this morning.

Time was required to get the look just right – a bee-hive hairdo and a business suit with just the right amount of cleavage. She’d tested the look. It didn’t work on all customers, but it did for electrical buyers in the paper industry. And she needed this contract. One more large stores contract and she was up for that promotion that would take her off the road and place her behind a desk in Burlington, Mass for the rest of her career or until she got right-sized. Or whatever they call it now.

Her day was pre-planned. She’d used the sales mapping software Mrs. Cleaver had found to identify all of the accounts within 15 miles of her hotel room. She set up the route optimizer to allow for a last stop at the Berlin, New Hampshire mill at the very end of her route. No lunch stop today. Too many people to see and her Lindsay Diet said no lunches on Tuesdays.

After a shower Liz booted up her laptop. As she pulled her hair mountain together she reviewed the route’s turn-by-turn directions against the map. She done this trip a few times before but there were always a few new accounts and maybe one or two that dropped out each trip. She tweaked the list once more, based on Jerry’s voice mail, and reset the optimized route with one click. Jerry was her wound-up-tight Boston protégé who waited until the last-minute to tell her everything. He’d remembered to leave her a voice mail at two in the morning after the Bruin’s game at the Garden. Oh well, she’d probably fire him before summer, but the business mapping software was easily adjusted.

Liz clicked on her overall account list displayed on the map plotting software. She could see all the map symbols color coded to reflect account status. Over twenty-seven hundred accounts that she had cultivated over the years, little beautiful colored dots all over the map. The red ones were the money makers. She’d miss those calls; the dinners; the innocent flirting. She’d especially miss calling on Rob Hathaway – the handsomest man in the paper industry. Rob never seemed to grow old. His dot on the map was a special symbol – she’d imported a tiny picture of Bradley Cooper and used it for Rob’s office. Sure she’s married, but just because you own the restaurant doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu. Or something like that. At any rate Liz’s husband was in insurance. He had no clue.

After dressing Liz put the finishing touches on her bee-hive do and sat facing her laptop. She imported and reviewed the territory sales results Mrs. Cleaver sent to her last night. Not bad. With this contract her division’s results should be over the top. Best in the company, without a doubt. She could see all the colored sales territory mapping across North America, each one displaying their sales results for the quarter to date. She updated and saved her map and sent an interactive map link to her boss. Let him stew on that for the morning. She’d update him on the meeting from her home office tonight. She didn’t even remove handsome Rob’s icon. “I’m letting them know.” she thought, “This is my last run.”

Liz carefully set up her map layers and map views to display quarterly progress towards this quarter’s results. Each map view showed how over the last three years her team had shown constant improvement. She was looking forward to the presentation. She’d show how the accounts had shifted, how the territories had been adjusted to better reflect company goals and objectives. And each map led up to this glorious achievement. She was ready. Nothing like visualizing success, she thought.

Liz put a five dollar bill on the hotel dresser and packed up. One more time she reviewed her ensemble in the tall mirror. Better button up one more – don’t want to look too anxious. And with a final pat of her bee-hive, Liz was out the door, confident that her future was a little brighter and that she might just retire some day. Maybe not with Bradley Cooper but with plenty of insurance. America’s fastest growing business mapping software.

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What’s the Map Point?

Business mapping software enables geographic data visualization. This basic web mapping software benefit is very powerful and should consider as you conduct product reviews of mapping software. As you begin using mapping software you will find there are choices you’ll need to make as you import your classified or categorized datasets and display them against a digital map.
What’s the Point?

Dots On a Map
A typical web map import process easily converts your Excel spreadsheet or CSV file into dots or tacks on a map. This process will likely require decisions on your part. For instance, what columns in your spreadsheet are to be used to generate labels? Typically you will not have to worry about addressing columns – that should be handled by the mapping software – but you should consider pulling from other columns to display pertinent information on the map and make it accessible for your map users. For example, if you are creating a call center map you might want to display phone numbers or emails at the hover or click of a mouse. For sales territory mapping perhaps you’ll want to include sales volumes on the label or callout.

As you import data or just after, you should be provided with the opportunity to choose which symbols you’d like to use to represent your business data locations on the map. Often you will be able to import your own symbology (yeah – that’s a word.) Choosing symbology or map symbols requires thinking about how your data falls on the map. Do you have many overlapping points or is your data sparse and spread out? Are you looking at the whole USA or is your geographic scope just a few states? Understanding your data density or distribution will help you decide what symbols to use. Consider traditional smaller circle dots for dense distributions. Perhaps use imported logos for product branding awareness. I don’t particularly like map flags and leaning map tacks but they come in handing if you have overlapping points.

A Brief Word About Your Boss
I’m sure your boss has lot’s of good ideas, like those tacky pictures hung up everywhere. Just remember, the big guy or gal isn’t building this map – you are. Some times your boss’ “do more with less” directives fall flat, and maps may be one of those situations. I hear things like this almost everyday, “Well, my boss wants really big fluffy pink icons that sparkle.” So, listen to his or her vision of what they want to see, but try other ways to display your business maps. You just find your geo-vision to be a little more practical.

Grow Your Own Symbols
Supplement the library of symbols available from your business map’s point color coding tools. You can usually import bit maps or small jpegs to expand your symbol options and communicate more effectively. Often, particular industries have symbol sets available – medical, electric power, and industrial safety symbols come to mind. Look for them online and import them into you mapping application. You can also use Brand labels to identify products, store locations, or large business headquarters. Think Coca-cola, Charmin, or Denny’s.

Map labels and mappoint callouts can also be used to display critical data values associated with that location or area. For example, labels will be associated with zip code, county or state layers. You should be able to display the total revenue received from that area within that label. Callouts are typically associated with points on the map, but you can still append that callout with value averages or totals associated with your data points within jurisdictions. (See video)

Use Administrative Districts Instead
You may also find that what you originally conceived of as a map with point symbols might actually be better expressed by color-coding zip code maps or counties based on that point layer data. In this case, you would turn off the point layer display and simply color code the counties or zip codes based on your data values. For instance, you can display data density by color coding zip codes as progressively hotter based on the location counts per zip code.

When it comes to business mapping software there are many ways to skin the cat. More perhaps then there are actual ways to skin a cat, which I always felt was limited to maybe four or five ways – max. America’s fastest growing business mapping software.

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Hey! My Map Data is Wrong. What Gives?

Well, it might be wrong. Map data – streets names, addresses, boundaries, points-of-interest, building footprints, and everything else you see on the map – is subject to error. Digital maps are not perfect – consumer maps or business maps. This is a fact of digital life, for now anyway when it comes to data mapping software.

The good news is every map business or organization I know of wants to help make their map data better. So be sure to let your map providers know if the map data you see has an error in it. Most providers will quickly fix the problem.

Why Isn’t My Map Data Perfect?
This is a valid question. The information that we all take for granted on a business map, a Google map or other digital maps, is compiled by people and processes. When you consider the sheer size of the databases involved, perfection begins to feel like a lofty goal. Most maps today must display accurate details of the world at a wide variety of zoom levels, from the entire world view all the way into city block detail or better. Decisions need to be made and processes implemented that enable certain details to show up at certain zoom levels. Examples include zip code labels showing up at specified zoom levels or small towns beginning to show at the county level. Think about it, if neighborhood street names showed up at a USA wide map view, your map would be covered with street names all mashed together. So there’s a lot of map data to consider and it is very carefully arranged.

Map Data is Subject to Change
Map data changes. That’s a fact. You have new streets, renamed streets, deleted streets, to name a few. Or at a world level, the Sudan splits in three or a big nation like the former Soviet Union splits up into component nations. These changes have to be updated on maps and you will find there are opinions as to what the correct new boundaries and names are going to be. Does the boundary follow the river or is it a random line over the mountain? Decisions like these have to get made.

All those streets, bodies of water, administrative districts, and points-of-interest have to be properly located and named. In some cases this can be automatically accomplished but many map objects are cataloged manually, introducing human error. Human error could be responsible for bad address placement, incorrect spellings, and unfinished data polishing.

Just this weekend, my Mom and I were using a Google map, looking at Rockport, Massachusetts to locate a road we were not familiar with. We found the road, but to our surprise Google had located Rockport’s Front Beach (a lovely sandy beach on the Ocean) on upper Main Street, across from the police station. The real Front Beach is three miles away and the tourist parking on upper Main is just atrocious.

The ability to route your vehicle on your digital map is largely a function of correct map data. All those roads need to be topologically correct as a complete network and they include speed limits, turn restrictions, one-ways and two-ways – to name just a few classifications. (Think about it Houston!) Recently we found a routing failure due to a bridge naming convention. Any route over the Richard Henderson Bridge would error out because the name included the nick name “Dick” in quotations. The quotation marks killed the route just as sure as Babson killed the bear. It was reported to the data supplier and quickly repaired.

It is also possible for disgruntled data processors or map technicians to perhaps apply an off-color naming convention to a road or point of interest; a hidden gem awaiting the eyes of an alert old lady. This happens.

Crowdsourcing, or the practice of obtaining content from large groups of users, is becoming a common way to improve map data. It is fast and cheap. But crowdsourced data works best for crowded places. A rural road in a remote part of the world will probably be underserved by crowd sourcing. Crowdsource tools are great for creating object redundancy – collecting GPS enabled bike files covering the same trails over and over can create a fairly accurate trail – but making sure the name of the trail is correct is a trickier task. For instance, what do you call the Fire Tower Trail, also referred to as the West Trail, and also called Mountain Road? And who is the authority on mountain bike trails?

Many streets and trails are created from aerial imagery sources today – either through automatic feature extraction or through heads-up digitizing by map technicians. Either process will have a percentage of error.

A major creator of crowdsourced map data is Open Street Map (OSM) at OSM is an open source organization. I checked my Mom’s address in Rockport and OSM was off by a block or two, but they did have Front Beach in the correct location.

Proper Sources
These naming and classification decisions are often left up to the jurisdiction in charge – the state, county or city government or perhaps the government agency in charge of a national or state park. Map compilers contact these organizations regularly and collect the latest updates to the map data. These relationships are a critical component to the mapping industry.

So I guess my overall point is maps are less than perfect for a reason. If you find issues with your map data contact the map provider and let them know of the inaccuracy. And realize your one point of contact may not be enough to make the change. They’ve got lots of records to maintain and your suggestion will go into a system of requests for update, and will wait patiently for its turn to bring your business maps back to almost perfect. America’s fastest growing business mapping software.

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What Else Can You Display On a Business Map?

Throughout this blog we’ve discussed displaying or visualizing customers, prospects, competitors, and resources on a web map. You’ll find several blogs and videos that address the idea of visualizing and symbolizing those business data types. What other sorts of data can you display on a business map?

Show Them the Money
Business mapping software is used most often by sales and marketing folks. In addition to the usual data suspects, sales and marketing users like to display sales and marketing results. Mapping software can help you visualize sales values, revenue values or campaign results by geographic area. By projecting, collecting, and reflecting campaign results by zip code, county or state you enhance the presentation of your projects results.

Use your map to describe both component and total sales dollars – such as sales by county and then sales by territory. Insert your sales averages or totals into your county, zip or territory labels for a succinct display of dollars associated with an area. All bosses are very interested in visual graphics showing business dollars in relation to effort, time, or other variables. Using a map to display revenue or sales dollars connects real value with critical areas of business interest. Maps easily relate business values to demographic data extending the value of location-based monetary visualizations.

Think it through. You can color code by location point, geographic area, or use alternative symbols like charts or oversized circles. And you can combine multiple methods, but make sure your map tells the story you want it to. Be careful, lest the map tells the story of how disorganized you are…

Another Dimension – Time
Recently an account of mine was interested in viewing events by both location and scheduled time on a web map. They needed to identify all possible event overlaps and duplicates across an area represented by a 2 hour drive time polygon. They had quite a few events and locations to compare. Trying to view each event’s specific time would have created map clutter – and lot’s of it. So we created a time range that we could color code. We added a column in their spread sheet for “Week Assignment” and assigned a two-week period of time to each record. Each record had one or 26 time assignments. We than color-coded the data by the Week Assignment column in their spreadsheet. This way, with a simple glance at the map we could quickly see all of the events within an area that were at risk for redundancy over a two to four-week period.

By converting time values, or other values into classifiable records within a spreadsheet column you can add a whole new dimension to your business map. Classification just means being organized. By choosing to color-code based on your classified column you organized your map making it much easier for your audience to view and comprehend.

Sales organizations are usually focused on selling and marketing products. Product offerings or product lines are often presented as an array or matrix. A widget, file, or service may be further classified by model name, brand, and manufacturer. Call support and sales centers like to be able to reference product information quickly. In some case, a map can be useful in linking geographic location with product availability. In a simple form this might be a Store Locator Map on a web site. I live at this address and I’m interested in buying new sneakers. Where can I shop for my product and brand?

By using a business mapping software to connect location and product, a business can inform their call center associates of critical product details like:
• What products are the most popular sellers in a particular county?
• What store location has the largest inventory of alternative styles?
• What is the ratio of Coach bags sold, vs. knock off bags sold, by metropolitan area?
• Where you ate ham sandwiches last week – are you’re still paying attention?

You can see that you can display many elements of business activity on a good business map. I’d be interested to know of more examples from your business world. America’s fastest growing business mapping software.

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