When I was a student, I must admit I thought it really didn’t relate to my (limited) worldview. Since then, I’ve found how important geography can be for business use, and the many practical uses of this subject are just as relevant as they were when you and I were in school. Be assured that, in the world of growing a business, geography is very practical as a tool for marketing tasks, delivery and scheduling decisions, and optimizing staffing levels.
Even in this age of GPS on your mobile phone, physical maps can give very useful information to marketers and managers at minimal cost. Companies analyze where customers come from. Just as importantly, they also analyze where customers do NOT come from. This is particularly useful for:
- Discovering the effect of advertising and use of media;
- Whether to invest in opening new locations or closing old ones;
- Directing salespeople to geographic areas;
- Aiding analysis of market penetration and market share;
- When overlaid with demographic data, to see whether an area meets the ideal customer criteria;
- When planning a sales trip to a regular client, a salesperson can determine where to do some prospecting;
- Figuring out logistics in moving inventory from one location to another;
- Determining boundaries for promotions, especially when using direct mail (and before you send an email, direct mail can still be a very effective medium for some businesses).
Many companies use software that can map customer distribution and market penetration to optimize their delivery or service resources. A small company that serves a limited geographic area can find it easier and more economical to use a manual method.
One company, which serves a three-county geographic area, mounted a regional map on the wall. They use different colors of pushpins to show addresses of new customers and old customers. Every three months they take a photo of the map and compare the current distribution of customers to photos from previous time periods. While this certainly isn’t a precise statistical study, general advertising and customer purchasing patterns show up vividly. Future promotional and advertising plans can be made from this information. Naturally, they remove the pushpins after they take the photo and start over.
The same principle can apply if your market is more local or much larger using zip code, state, or national maps. So, take a geographical analysis approach to track marketing results, get a better understanding of your customer and prospect base, and increase the return on your advertising investment.