This is installment #12 in my series of Quick Tips - low-cost options for adding value to the information you find.
Much in the same way I use charts and graphs for turning information into insights, I like to display place-related data on maps.
Spreadsheets are great for crunching, sorting, and analyzing data. But, as hard as it is for the math geeks among us to comprehend (myself included), columns and rows of numbers mean absolutely nothing to most people. Convert the data into a pretty picture, tough, and it all starts to make sense.
Here's an example from a recent project. My client was trying to make the most efficient use of her sales team's resources and wanted to know how many companies within several metropolitan areas met met their specific requirements (ownership type, revenue, industry, and location), and she wanted the information broken down by county. After running my search in Hoover's to find how many companies met their criteria, I created this spreadsheet for the Denver metro area:
Then, with the help of some relatively-inexpensive mapping software, I turned the numbers into this visual that my client included in her presentation at the next department meeting:
I use Microsoft's MapPoint for creating maps and have found the $300 well worth the investment (it took me about two minutes to complete this example). There are cheaper options out there, though, including Mapland, an Excel add-in. You can also download many U.S. government data sets into maps for free through American FactFinder, BearFacts, and other sites.
From demographics to business and industry statistics, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words - or numbers.