Six Things to Consider When Your Mapping Software is

Target_Map_GeoTargetingWith the year 2015 now firmly upon us many companies are out in the cold when it comes to mapping software. Two popular mapping software’s over the last decade have now been discontinued. The most notable is Mappoint by Microsoft, the other was one of the first web based mapping platforms, DemographicsNow. Both made announcements last year that in 2015 they would be discontinued. So what is a company using one of these discontinued products to do? Find a replacement? Sure…that’s the obvious choice, but there are some important factors you should consider before making a hasty decision. Below are 6 considerations you should make before selecting your next mapping system.

1. What was my Last Mapping System Lacking?

There are a lot of differences in mapping software. Where there some things you needed to be able to do with your old mapping tools before, that you just couldn’t? Are you a real estate manager that needs to analyze retail sites for new stores? Are you a franchisor that sells territories to franchisees? Do you manage a sales force and need to optimize their territories and track the performance of your reps? Most people think ‘its just a map’, how critical is it to my business? EVERYTHING happens somewhere. Geography is the common ground for understanding your business. Correctly allocated geographies and locations can make or break your business. Maps serve a very important functional purpose for tactical visualization and developing your strategy. Don’t look past the map, it gives you a unique perspective of your business that spreadsheets just can’t do.

2. How Accurate is my Mapping Software?

How often is (or was) your mapping software updated? Did you purchase a license once and never see an update? Is the software web-based and you see regular updates to the street networks, demographic data and geographic boundaries? Data is ever changing, if you let it go stale you’re risking making a business decision without the accurate data and that can be very costly!

3. Should I Invest More or Less?

MapPoint was very affordable which was a leading factor to the product’s success. Anyone could jump on and pick up a copy for under $300. I have used MapPoint, as a geographer and mapping expert I really liked it. With mapping, you get what you pay for. Don’t go cheap with demographics and business data because it can come back and bite you. You don’t want to make a poorly informed, multi-million dollar decision on a new site. Nor does a franchisor want to sell a territory based on bad data. Trust me, a dependable mapping program will cost you far less than your attorney. The right mapping software can greatly increase your return on investment as well.

4. How Easy is it to Use?

All mapping systems come with a learning curve, its just the way it is. Photoshop has a learning curve. Excel has a learning curve, can you just open the box for the first time and create a pivot table or use the VLookup function? Of course not…so just be ready to commit some time to learn and it will pay dividends. That being said, it shouldn’t require you to hire a dedicated specialist that took GIS college courses to use it. Make sure you go with a company that will take the time to train, support and help you with your transition.

5. How Long will the Transition Take?

So you put a lot of time and resources into your last mapping system and you are thinking to yourself, this is going to be a major time sink. Yes, we’ve all been there. Look for a mapping provider that has the ability to import your current data such as store locations, franchise territories, sales territories and even sales data. A transition should take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple weeks. A mapping company should have excellent sources of data to offer, but more importantly, make sure you find one that will enable you to incorporate your own data. Data independence is key. Loading your current territories and company data shouldn’t slow you down.

6. Who Will Help Me?

Support may be the most important aspect to consider. There are a lot of moving parts with mapping software. Whether you are using it for demographic site selection, franchise territory mapping or mapping sales territories. Data is (or should be) updated regularly, boundaries can change. You want to partner with an expert that will support you and lead you down the right path. I’ve seen poor decisions made simply because businesses were not informed. If its time to switch mapping services choose a provider that has experience in your field and ask what their customer support protocol is like. You could even take it a step further and ask for a couple referrals to see what current customers are saying.

Change isn’t always welcome around the office. Forced change can be even more challenging but you can use it to your advantage. Think of it more as an upgrade. Before you know it you will be back on track and more efficient than when you started.

Rich Mithoff

About the author: Rich Mithoff has over 18 years of business mapping experience with Franchisors, Sales Organizations and Commercial Real Estate & Retail. As a geographer with sales management and business experience, Rich is an expert in his field. Currently he is the Director of Client Services for Geographic Enterprises, LLC and resides in Bend, Oregon.