This article, a prequel to my forthcoming 101 Map Uses, offers 10 productive ways businesses can use wall maps. Too often, business professionals equate maps with the online digital variety that provide directions, the nearest Home Depot, and homes for sale, all from the comfort of a computer, PDA, or cell phone. Yet, millions of businesses use printed wall maps daily. Fortune 500 companies insist on using high quality printed maps in their day-to-day operations because there is simply no replacement for maps. While the digital map has its own uses, a well-designed printed map is by no means old school. To the contrary, wall maps keep up with the modern needs of business and are in high demand.
Wall maps serve a multitude of purposes, the least of which is decorative eye candy, although this is a distinct use that has more value than you may think. We’ll get to that in a minute. Printed maps are handled in the office from everyone from the CEO, sales manager, executive assistant, accountant, and truck driver. This article is less for the professionals who already use maps, but for those who want to learn what the Fortune 500 know.
1. Corporate Identity A map sets the scene and provides a sense of place. These are instrumental forces for business moral. Companies, whose stores or service area are mapped and on display, ground the staff in the here and now, never losing track of the geographic identity of the company.
2. Display A handsome or beautiful map displayed in a store or office environment is a positive reinforcement to customers and clients that the company is grounded, committed, and knowledgeable about the area. If the map reflects the company’s identity; it speaks a thousand words to customers who enjoy it. One such map that I recall was prominently framed in an office foyer. Virtually every visiting client that entered the office saw that map and made a compliment. This was a compliment to the map maker, but also to the company for having the good judgment and wisdom to have it created and displayed so prominently. The map depicted the company’s geographic service area in beautiful detail. It wasn’t a tourist map or something from the Better Business Bureau. The point of the map was not to demonstrate how clever the company is, but how knowledgeable they are of their service base and how invested they are in the communities they serve.
3. Store Locations
As a map maker, I get requests by medium and large companies to make them a map showing the locations of their stores. This may seem a mundane point, but more often than not, the map I make is the first map these companies have ever had that depicted the geographic location and relationship of their stores. This is a powerful concept not to be dismissed. There are a variety of online map tools that allow you to cobble together such a map, but they inevitably fall disastrously short of a wall size, detailed, and well-crafted map designed for the purpose.
4. Travel Time Distance A company that makes deliveries, sales visits, or service calls needs to have some basic information handy: how long does it take to drive from the home office to a given location in the service area. A classic example is the pizza delivery service, where on the wall in the pizza restaurant is a travel time distance map. The pizza delivery drivers consult the map to understand how long it should take them to reach their designated delivery, as well as where the delivery address is located. Travel time distance maps are not exclusively posted on the wall, but folded and kept handy in service vehicle cabs, such as in emergency response vehicles. From the location of an accident, an ambulance driver can quickly lookup the fastest route to drive to the hospital, which in mileage terms may not be to shortest route. Since travel time distance maps use actual traffic data for specific streets and highways, these maps are an exceptional tool.
5. Service and Sales Area Delineation Briefly mentioned earlier, service and sales area maps are vital to certain company’s day-to-day operations, but also useful in strategic planning, which will be covered soon. Each and every company strives to improve efficiency in the following categories: resources, operations, and staff time. One way to use maps to improve business efficiency is to accurately delineate the service or sales area and use this as a road map. This map will then guide future decisions and resource allocation in an informed and consistent manner.
6. Customer Demographics Demographic data have long been used by companies to know their customer base better. The United State Census Bureau routinely collects detailed census data and numerous private companies collect business related demographics. Demographic data help companies better target product and service development, customer support, and marketing strategies. Often, these data are presented with graphs, pie charts, and tables. In contrast, a wall map displaying customer demographic data within a company’s service area is a much more powerful tool as it accomplishes the following functions:
o quantifies the demographics within critical geographic blocks, such as service area, zip codes, census blocks, neighborhoods, counties, etc.,
o shows the relationship between demographics and store density, service area reach, and competitor store density or service areas,
o and others.
7. Trend Analysis
Businesses always want to know what the future will hold. How will consumer demographics change? Which neighborhoods are changing? Where will there be opportunities? Maps can answer these questions when benefited from Geographic Information Systems (GIS), software that analyzes data and geography together, including demographic data, land use plans, development plans, consumer spending by city block, and with precision. Using GIS in trend analysis for businesses is a strong field, and one that has many obvious benefits.
8. New Store Selection
Most businesses plans have a geographic component inherent in them: open more stores, expand service area, develop new markets, or simply adapt to changes in demographics. All of these objectives require a wall map for definition and planning. Though most importantly, these objectives cannot be accomplished without GIS and a knowledgeable GIS analyst consultant.
9. Strategic Planning All businesses undergo strategic planning on a regular or ad hoc basis. Strategic planning involves an honest evaluation of the past, present, and future aspects of the company and it’s business model. Wall maps, and especially GIS, are instrumental in informing the business strategic planning in the above mentioned ways: corporate identity, store locations, service area delineation, travel time distance analysis (operational efficiency), new store or site selection, and customer demographic and trend analysis. Often companies incorporate an entire GIS process and presentation map series in their strategic planning sessions.
Knowing where to spend limited marketing budget, especially with regards to direct mail or location targeted advertisement, is a very popular use of GIS and wall maps in business. Maps are a critical starting point for geographic targeted marketing where demographic data, zip codes, mailing address locations are just some of the data used to develop location specific marketing campaigns.
Putting It All Together To receive the full value and competitive advantage of wall maps, incorporate all of the ten uses together in your business’ daily practice and corporate culture. Simply stated, maps excite people’s creativity and ambition. Maps inform. Maps expand our comprehension of complex relationships often missed by mundane graphs and tables. Incorporate maps into your business today. You will be glad you did.
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