Map Business Online Blog

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

How Do I Start My First Business Map?

Your boss or your organization has recently realized they need some sort of businessmap and they’ve asked you to manage the process. What do you do? I recently watched my wife go through this process with her organization. It inspired this blog post.

First, don’t panic. There’s plenty of business mapping software options out there. Use an Internet search engine to find a few alternatives. Use their demo software or buy a reasonably priced version and start thinking about your map’s goals.

Define Your Map’s Purpose
Every map has a reason for being. What is your map’s main purpose in life? This is important because you want your map to serve one or two key purposes only. Multi-purpose mapping that handles more than two layers at once is generally the realm of GIS specialists trained to build complex maps. That’s not you. You are conducting business mapping. You want a map that supplements your business somehow. Ask yourself, “What is my map attempting to communicate to my map viewing audience?”

Possible answers:
• My map should accurately and quickly depict all the event locations that our org hosted in 2014
• My map should show all sales reps by territory with home locations and include sales for 2014
• My map should show where all of our patients are located and their top three medical issues
• My map should describe our company’s coverage area by zip code and note all competitor locations in the five state area

Make Your Map Sing Through Data Prep
The world is now full of beautiful and accurate digital maps – ours included. And no matter what business mapping software you choose, your map application will include a basic set of tools – data import capabilities, line and polygon draw tools, zip code layers, etc. But what makes your map sing is the detail and consistency of your map data. This is where your time should be invested. Thoughtfully massage your business data with an eye towards what your audience will want to see:

• Include full addressing for the an accurate and organized mappoint placement
• Review your data for holes – missing addresses or records with no data. Remember “garbage in, garbage map.”
• Assign sensible column headers – name, address, state, zip, type, status, sales, etc.
• Remove superfluous sections of your data – comment areas, instructions, multiple datasets on one sheet
• Organize your data records into types, categories, and statuses. Use these columns to symbolize and color code

Many people expect the map application to be their biggest challenge. I find the biggest challenge for most users to be compiling a clean and organized dataset to import for map display. The columns in your data will impact how well you can color code areas and points on the map. And you’ll be able to label and query based your columns too. Give your data some love before you import it.

As you massage your data think about its purpose – are you building a dataset of customers. Then you are conducting customer mapping. Are you building a dataset of retail stores, perhaps yours and your competitors, then you are conducting retail mapping. Likewise if you are creating a list of sales territories, you are sales territory mapping.

Consider Your Map Audience
The digital map you create for Donald Trump is going to look much different from the one you create for President Obama. The Donald’s map will have lots of gold and red colors, lots of exaggerated monetary figures, and lots and lots of references to Trump businesses because The Donald wants to read about The Donald. The president’s map will tend to be focused on the problem at hand with several layers of critical data supporting key aspects of the issue, perhaps highlighting worst hit areas and several areas where the problem is under control. The president wants to quickly understand the problem so he can work on a solution.

Know your map audience. Utilize the business map application’s tools to cater to their way of thinking. For example, use the map legend to describe data layers with words your audience uses every day. Add explanatory labels where necessary. Don’t make your map a puzzle to be solved, make the map something they immediately relate to. This is how you become a map hero. If your map is for the corner office, focus on describing dollars by region or territory. They’ll want to see dollars reflecting growth and regions that reflect sales accountability. Consider using the Heat Map tool when displaying sales by location. This will sex-up your map and wake up your viewers.

If your map is for operational use show customer or patient locations that are easily grasped by type. Avoid symbolizing by customer or representative when you have more than five reps. Don’t clutter your map. Instead organize your data into types or categories and color code points by that column. Use zip codes, counties or city limit districting to show areas of interest or territories. For example, instead of listing and symbolizing every clinician, color code by type of clinician – DO, MD, RN, PA, Aide, and PT.

Let the Map Do Some Work
Take advantage of the business mapping software calculation tools designed to compute totals, averages, and counts of your business data. This means, for example, you can sum or total up customer sales data from each data point in a territory label . That’s pretty cool. Or a nonsales related example might be importing a dataset of all 2014 reported influenza cases by patient address and then totaling the count by county. The results would show in the county label – “Essex County – Flu Count 345”.

By understanding your map audience and the purpose of your map you’ll be better able to determine when your map is more or less complete. At this point any further data layers would probably be more appropriate for a new map. For instance, you’ve created your sales territory map for the C-suite big wigs. Now your manager wants you to add a data layer describing operational parameters and display this against demographic data. This sounds to me like a second map. Not a problem, you’ll just have two finely tuned maps to bring up. Push back on demands to solve all problems with one map. Why clutter up one finely tuned map when you can communicate more effectively using two maps?

You can always save your map as a map template. This protects the map you’ve created while allowing you to utilize it as a base-map for other appropriate layers in the future. For instance, save that sales territory map as a template. Use that template map as the starter map and include a layer of competitor locations for an additional topic of discussion in the strategic plan meeting.

My Better Half
Recently my wife required a business map for her work at the Maine Food Strategy. I set her up with Map Business Online and watched with interest as she went through the business mapping process. As usual, her biggest challenge, and the one that took the most time, was preparing her map data. After her map was complete I asked her what her thoughts were on Map Business Online. She replied, “Setting up the data layers was much easier than I expected. And MBO provided many more background data options then I had anticipated. I was also surprised by how much data column set-up impacted map use. I had many more options when I used full addressing, first & last names, plus company names. Why doesn’t the company provide any female icons in the symbol library? I see lots of potential for additional maps.”

So remember, focus on your data, know your map’s purpose, and understand your map audience. And have fun building you business map. I’ve got some research to do regarding female mappoint icons.

Let a digital map help you learn about your business

Contact: Geoffrey Ives (800) 425-9035, (207) 939-6866

MapPoint users – please consider as your MapPoint Replacement.

Please review us at Capterra, g2crowd


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The New! Drive Time and Driving Distance Query

Ever wonder what the polygon created by driving your car in every direction possible from one central point, for 30 miles, would look like? Yeah, you have. Admit it. Using your car to solve this conundrum is going to take you a while to accomplish. But fear not! Because someone has provided an answer to that vexing question about driving distance polygons and that someone is Map Business Online, America’s favorite Business Mapping Software.

Believe it or not, some people do want an answer to this driving distance polygon question. Whether you conduct customer mapping, market analysis or resource planning DTDD analysis is a valuable tool. With our latest release we’ve adjusted our Drive Time analysis tool to include an option for Driving Distance. It works exactly the same as drive time – choose the tool, drop a point, select either time or distance, and pick a number of minutes or miles to analyze.

Access Drive Time and Driving Distance in MBO
The Drive Time Driving Distance tool (DTDD) is accessed from several convenient places within Map Business Online. The tool icon is represented by this image:
Drive Time icon
Whenever you notice this shape you can conduct a Drive Time Driving Distance query.

Access the Drive Time Driving Distance icon from the main Toolbar. Find the Circle with the Binoculars icon and use that drop down arrow to its right. There’s the icon.

You can also access this tool when you plot a point on the map. One way of plotting a point is to enter an address in the address-bar and click the binoculars. Look for a small toolbar under the plotted map point. Notice the DTDD tool icon second from the left.

There’s yet another Drive Time Driving Distance toolbar option when you use the Draw Tools located on the main toolbar. Click the drop down arrow, scroll down to the bottom option – a map pin – and manually drop a mappoint anywhere on the map. There it is – that DTDD icon again.

Using any of the DTDD buttons lets you establish a polygon on the map that represents the distance or time you can cover if you travel outwards from a central point in all directions along the road network. The resulting polygon is the area covered considering the turn restrictions, speed limits, one ways and two ways, regular streets and highways, your virtual vehicle will have to travel over for the specified distance or time. Like any other MBO map object, you can choose to fill or shade the object with various colors or leave the polygon transparent. You can also adjust the line thicknesses.

All DTDD polygons are query-able. Click the binoculars to search for data within the polygon boundary. Save that file with a unique name and work with that query result. Export the data, plan a route from the data, or filter the data to develop a more refined list.

Example Applications
Companies, non-profits, and governments can all benefit from drive time distance queries. Here are a few query examples:

Chiropractor query – Develop a list of all patients living within a 25 mile driving distance of our satellite office. Determine if the resultant polygon overlaps with a 25 mile polygon drawn around our headquarters’ office location.
A non-profit query – If I drive 25 minutes from my home office in any direction, how many donors from the 2013 donor list could I visit?
Marketing query – Use a driving distance polygon to develop a demographic map displaying population by ethnicity and metro area around our top retail outlet. Query the polygon for zip codes and create an Area of Interest with demographics. Conduct a 30 minute drive time study to determine the estimated market potential for our upcoming product release.
Brookstone retail mapping query – Generate a list of all family yard sales within ten miles of a Brookstone store. Generate optimized routes to these locations and make sure they are not selling used Brookstone vibrating foot and back massagers. Destroy all used Brookstone massagers and heating pads found and payoff the home owners with Brookstone coupons. Give them a map showing drive times to the closest Brookstone stores.
Police department query – Generate a list of all Brookstone retail stores within a 50 mile driving distance of the three residential address locations reporting harassment at their yard sales. Match the Brookstone coupons to the originating coupon pad and arrest the employee in possession. See if they’ve got one of those pillows with built-in speakers, while you’re there.

The driving distance component is an improvement upon the old MapPoint drive time tool you may be familiar with. If you are a MapPoint user, be sure to consider Map Business Online as a MapPoint replacement.

As you can see, drive time and driving distance queries come in quite handy. They can be applied to many disciplines across numerous industries. It’s a little like exploring the world from the comfort of your very own Brookstone vibrating massage chair.


Let a digital map help you learn about your business

Contact: Geoffrey Ives (800) 425-9035, (207) 939-6866

MapPoint users – please consider as your MapPoint Replacement.

Please review us at Capterra, g2crowd

Filed under: Business Mapping Software blog post, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

Welcoming 2015 – Out with the MapPoint!

Wrapping up 2014, our busiest year yet, Map Business Online looks forward to assisting many more business mapping software customers in 2015. Setting aside for a moment the demise of Microsoft MapPoint, we’ve noticed a major uptick in sales to business managers who use Map Business Online as a way to communicate business strategies and drive sales accountability through shared, interactive digital maps.

We think 2015 is going to be the year of the shared map. Business managers need to efficiently communicate company objectives – especially sales objectives – with their team members. And what better way to communicate than by sharing a web map? Shared maps communicate quickly and effectively because they combine facts with places in a way that helps to clarify business objectives. Shared maps say, “Your responsibility starts and ends here,” or “Your customers live and behave in this area in this way,” or “Your patient expects your assistance with this problem right here, at 6:00PM.” By relating customer targets with locations, maps help tie objectives to results.

Dare to Map Share – Securely
There’s no longer a need to ask or answer the question, “Didn’t you get the memo?” In just a few clicks a shared interactive web map can communicate the latest sales territory boundaries, display this month’s sales results by territory, and perhaps show a heat map of key account sales activity across a sales region. And all of this information is visualized and understood in one glance – as opposed to reading a boring memo.

Most businesses have warmed to the idea of uploading a spreadsheet of customer locations onto a cloud-based digital map. There’s some understandable wariness about importing business data into a cloud service, but those security concerns aren’t stopping people from doing it. The best cloud services providers encrypt imported datasets and effectively secure all map access through SSL protocols. You have to actually give bad guys your password for them to access your business data or view maps without your permission. With security in place, and advanced mapping features more broadly available, businesses are ready to move beyond MapPoint’s ten year-old feature set and get creative with their business planning.

Critical Data That Wants to Be Shared
CRM software providers have recognized the power of a map used to share critical customer data and are actively seeking out mapping integration partners. Picture a call center associate’s computer screen. An incoming call is more quickly and accurately managed when there is a map involved. Maps provide context for a rapid resolution pathway for customer questions or needs. An incoming customer, identified by location, can be instantly visualized offering immediate options for outside contact, or service center referral, based on a quick radius search or a zip code locator. Critical contact data, account information, and other key details are a simple click from the customer location symbol. A fast resolution pathway means a happy customer – more product sales, more renewals, better conversions.

As cloud services become the new software distribution model, affordable business mapping software applications have become standard tools for customer mapping, retail competitor analysis, demographic analysis, and sales planning. By sharing these popular visual perspectives on the business landscape, companies are achieving more efficient planning and improving work-flows. There’s no sense in preserving the company sales territory map on the wall of the headquarters’ boardroom. These data visualizations need to be more universally shared to derive maximum value from your entire planning process. And sharing sales territory assignments across the corporate network just makes so much sense. Sharing territory maps drives accountability – more product sales, more renewals, better conversions.

Today, with a little more investment and some planning, your team can share map editing privileges as well. This takes map sharing to a whole new level – beyond map viewing to shared editing. Got a rep complaining about slow or inaccurate data updates? Enable team shared map editing. Empower them to make changes on the map. Cloud services rule when it comes to shared editing. Legacy desktop software, like MapPoint, struggled with shared editing.

Contemporary mapping tools way outstrip MapPoint capabilities in the category of sales territory management. They are easier, more flexible, and visually more appealing than Microsoft’s last iteration – developed some eight years back. Prepare to be sales territory mapping amazed, MapPoint users. Your MapPoint replacement has arrived.
MBO Map Image

Seek Your Map Geeks
CAUTION: Sharing maps for editing and viewing is not for everyone on your staff. This is just a simple, albeit sad fact. Some of your associates are not comfortable viewing maps or they just don’t get their value. So don’t go buying everyone a mapping subscription right off. Be selective with your investment. Your business mapping team will be made up of a continuum of map-geeks. The true map geeks will grab hold of this technology and run with it. The map-peeks will use it for monthly reporting or for critical looks-ups when they have to. And a map-weak will not look at the map unless Chris Christie calls and scream-threatens them with twenty-one days of Ebola Quarantine. Protect your investment – be selective based on your understanding of your people.

Maps Inform Strategic Plans
Any strategic plan that doesn’t include a location-based analysis today is less strategic than it could be. Massive energy companies down to local mom and pop variety stores all develop their business plans based on an understanding of sales potential by coverage area. Can you imagine a business that wouldn’t want to understand its market potential by demography if the tools were readily available at a reasonable price? Of course not. That’s why smart companies, companies who look for competitive edges, are applying customer mapping tools in their strategic planning processes.

Business mapping tools as applied to strategic planning are the modern-day equivalent of radar during the Battle of Britain. The Germans didn’t understand how the British were using radar, so they left those strange-looking stations largely untouched. Bad move Adolph. Upon a Luftwaffe sortie launch, the British knew exactly how many bombers and fighters were on their way and exactly where they were headed, twenty minutes before they reached the British shoreline. This gave them time to assign RAF fighters to an appropriate rendezvous point for a successful counter attack. Picture those uniformed British women raking toy planes across a massive map while the big-wigs looked on – today that’s your business map! Likewise, your competitors could be unaware of your mapping advantage or they may be outwitting you at this very moment with their own mapping tools. Didn’t you get the memo?

Business mapping software in 2015 is a core planning tool complementary to other business systems like CRM, business intelligence, or order processing. Twitter may be history in five years – business mapping software will be more advanced and even more ubiquitous.

A MapPoint Alternative to Valhalla
As the MapPoint Viking longship is lit a-fire and pushed off to Valhalla, business managers don’t need to jump on board and sacrifice their sad selves. This is their chance to reassess their use of business mapping software and start exploring new mapping opportunities – in territory management, customer mapping visualizations, retail mapping, and strategic planning. There is life after MapPoint replacement. The smart competitive business person is already on our website exploring the vast benefits of up-to-date business mapping software. They’ll be sharing maps in 2015. Don’t wait for the memo.

Wishing everyone a spatial holiday season and a very mappy new year!


Let a digital map help you learn about your business

Contact: Geoffrey Ives (800) 425-9035, (207) 939-6866

MapPoint users – please consider as your MapPoint Replacement.

Review us at Capterra g2crowd, chekkt , or Best Vendor

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What’s the Point of a Zip Code Point?

The U.S. Postal Service introduced zip codes in 1963 as a way to make mail delivery more efficient. The point of the zip code was to organize the mail sort and mail delivery processes by zones – to make the postal work-flow more “Zippy.” The Post Office developed four types of zip codes:

• Standard – what most of us know to be geographic areas assigned to zip codes
• Post Office Box only – for delivery to PO Boxes at specific delivery addresses
• Military – for routing mail to military installations
• Unique – zip codes for businesses or facilities that get a high-volume of mail

Here at Map Business Online we break zip codes into two categories:
• Zip codes with Boundaries – Standard zip codes
• Point zip codes – All other zip codes (the other three categories above)

Most business mapping software users expect a zip code to be a boundary based zip code, and most of them are. At last count we list 35,372 boundary based zip codes in the MBO Data Window zip code layer. We include a complete list of zip codes in Map Business Online as a separate dataset (more on this below in this blog) and that list contains 41,190 zips. That means point zip codes account for 5,818 zip codes across the nation.

Point zip codes are typically associated with large businesses, large education facilities, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and other large entities that take bulk deliveries of mail and handle the final delivery process.

Boundary Zips for Sales Territory Mapping
In Map Business Online we use boundary zip codes as the geographic base unit for sales territory creation. These same tools are also applied to create market areas, areas of interest (AOI), or coverage areas. So, as you can see, not everyone calls the these areas territories but they amount to the same thing. Sales territory creation in MBO takes place when the user groups a series of zip codes together to form a shaded area of the map with a defined name. These zip codes can be assigned incrementally – one-by-one, or lassoed using a polygon creation tool, or they can be imported from a spreadsheet. (See previous blog posts for complete instructions.) I guess you could also call this zip code mapping. And remember, in MBO you can conduct the same groupings with city limits, counties, states, Census tracts, zip 3’s, MSA’s, and even school districts.

Each territory or AOI, once created will list all of the boundary based zip codes that make up that specific area of interest. In the Data Window you’ll see your territory or AOI listed by name and neatly filed below your administrative district – zip codes in this case. In the lower left it will tell you how many boundaried zip codes you have in your AOI data set. The user is then able to export that list out of MBO for use in other applications. For instance, a territory assigned to a sales representative can be exported as a list of zip codes for that sales rep to file as his or her area of responsibility. So this answers a common question, “Can I export all the zip codes within a radius?” Yes, you can.

Where’s My Point?
Point zip codes are sometimes reported as missing from territories by MBO users. These point zip codes are actually there, embedded in the map application. Those embedded point zip codes just aren’t used to build coverage areas because they lack defined boundaries. To check this, key a missing zip code into the Address Lookup in the upper left-hand corner of the map application. If it is a valid zip code you will see a zip code point referenced on the map, and it will be located somewhere inside of a boundary zip code.

If you imported business data that included sales results for one or more point zip codes those results will be included in any sales calculation operation applied to the corresponding boundary-based zip code areas. Imported point zip code data always gets included in spatial queries within Map Business Online.

Show Me All My Zips
In Map Business Online there is a way to query each territory and generate a list of all zip codes – whether boundary or point based – within that territory. To accommodate this analysis we’ve included a dataset of all zip codes in the product. To import that list click the Plot Data on Map button – fifth button from the left on the tool-bar.

• In the resulting dialogue page choose the lower option labeled “Select data you have already uploaded to server”
• Note the “Public data” folder is now available to you – hit that drop down arrow and choose Public Data
• Go all the way to the bottom and select ‘Zip Codes Q2 2014’ and process by hitting next. This puts the entire zip code list in your map as a layer. You can turn off the points on the map that result from this import and proceed with the analysis.

Back in the Data Window you can now search or filter that layer for records. In the Data Window activate the Data drop down and select the Zip Codes Q2 2014 layer. To the right side of the Data Window tool-bar, select the Yellow Puzzle Piece Icon and choose a target territory – that geographic area of interest you want to query. The result will be every zip code from the Zip Codes Q2 2014 file in your selected territory – including point zips. Save and export as required.

In this way Map Business Online is truly a zip code mapping tool. In addition to color coding your maps by zip code users can plot zip codes on a map, show population by zip code, find all the zip codes within a radius, or simply color code one single zip code. As with all MBO layers you have complete control of zip code fill shading, borders, and labeling options. You can even calculate sales totals by zip.

Cocktail Party Impressions
So, the next time you find yourself trying to impress a new acquaintance at a cocktail party try working point zip codes into the conversation. No one will know what you are talking about. If nothing else you’ll get an understanding of their tolerance for hot topics like the United State Postal Service and business mapping software. And the chances are good you’ll at least secure their home zip code for future follow-up, which is much better than state or county for successful locating, but not as good as a phone number. Believe me, I know.


Let a digital map help you learn about your business

Contact: Geoffrey Ives (800) 425-9035, (207) 939-6866

MapPoint users – please consider as your MapPoint Replacement.

Review us at Capterra g2crowd, chekkt , or Best Vendor

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,