We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. Images from Tiananmen Square, September 11th, or the recent devastation in Haiti are universally understood and move people to action more than words ever could. Visualizing vs. reading about events is becoming more and more prevalent, with an increasing number of people receiving their information from the web or cell phone. In parallel with the upsurge in use of images and multimedia content to communicate information, the advent of Google Earth, online maps, or car and phone navigation tools has created an explosion in the use of visual maps in every day life. Instead of reading text, we are now provided maps to more easily see how to get from point A to point B, or where to find open homes in a specific neighborhood. For most of us, seeing is understanding and believing.
Photo courtesy of Google maps.
On the business side, 80% of business data has a location component which provides a goldmine of untapped information for marketing, sales and operations. But current visual mapping and analysis tools are expensive, can only be accessed by trained specialists, and require heavy IT involvement to set up and maintain. This is a big barrier to entry for most businesses. They want to "see", understand and communicate data trends, but don't have the time nor means to invest in yet another expensive infrastructure.
The businesses that already do leverage visual mapping and analysis can more effectively and more quickly see geographic or time-based data and trends critical to sales and operations. This provides them a real competitive advantage. Many oil and gas companies for example have invested in sophisticated Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and brought in GIS specialists to gain insight on their location intelligence via visual maps. This allows them not only to plot areas with the highest potential to drill in, but also better manage their pipelines, operations, retail facilities, and more.
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Thankfully, a revolution is taking place that allows "regular" business users -with no GIS training nor deep pockets- to leverage the power of visual mapping and analysis. Enter Software as a Service (SaaS). SaaS is transforming mapping and data visualization in the business world the same way Google Maps revolutionized mapping for consumers. Using cost-effective, user friendly SaaS mapping and analysis applications, such as SpatialKey, organizations of all types and sizes can now import their business data, combine it with geographic or competitive information, and start visually analyzing trends critical to their business. Where are key customers located? How can they maximize results in their sales territories? How best to map their sales territories? Where should they open a new retail outlet? How does Q2 sales compare to Q1 on a geographic basis? What marketing campaign resulted in the highest ROI? And so much more.
Opportunities and threats previously hidden within row and column-based datasets are now clearly visible via interactive maps. Concepts difficult to explain in text or PowerPoint presentations can now also be shown and therefore easily understood resulting in better decision making. What’s more, since everyday decision makers can use these applications, “what if” questions can be answered on the fly versus having to wait for an analyst to do a new data query. Decision-making, communication, and collaboration are improved. After all, seeing is understanding and believing, even in the business world.
Note: we'll be adding blog posts around visual mapping for sales and marketing users over the next few weeks. In the meantime you can find out more at our sales and marketing and/or enterprise solutions pages.