Google Earth and The Demand Lens

My older brother Skip is a doctor who started and runs a substance abuse clinic in Rhode Island.  His business is booming!  But if you are not in the cheap food business, pawn brokerage, bankruptcy law, or other counter-cyclical activities you and your firm are probably looking very carefully at where you can help to find new demand and grow your business in this tough market. 

My firm recently did a cool analysis of demand for an insurance client where we mashed up data on the size of the insurance market, competitiveness of the locations, demographic and psychographic data and overlaid it all on a map so that the client could see their demand by location.  I know efforts like this have been done before for layout of retail locations and other "coverage" types of businesses, but this is the first one I have seen that overlaid all that data, and competitive analysis too - especially for an insurance company.  Our tool allowed management to visualize their entire market and where it was most contested and least contested.  I'm calling it a Demand Lens.

Onto the Demand Lens we overlaid the client's assets and their deployed resources so that they could see if they had good or bad coverage.  For the first time, they could assess performance relative to potential so someone achieving $1,000,000 in revenue in a highly contested, low potential market was much stronger than someone who brought in that same dollar value in a high potential, low contested area.  It was the first time they could really assess if they had a strong agency in a tough market, or a weak agency in a strong market!  We then took their internal training and recruiting investments and mapped them against market potential - to be sure that they were optimizing their investments against demand potential.

I believe this approach of layering on all the relevant demand data - including potential revenue for a market, psychographics, demographics - along with competitive asset deployment all on top of a geographic presentation will be the new lens through which management can assess how their business is behaving - and I believe almost all firms need one - whether you build it yourself, or get someone to do it for you.

I have written before about how I believe Google Earth taps into a deep image that we all understand and the Earth will be the image that we drape data upon - so that we can understand patterns and activity.  Our effort Demand Lens effort was a first stage, and I now want to try to build this layering capability into Google Earth, or some other geographic presentation so that we could show where demand for different markets is over time, across regions, by layer and industry.

So, why should an executive care?  Well, if you have a superior representation of demand, competition, and how well your investments of people and assets are deployed, you are more likely to win in the marketplace.  What's cool is that it is much easier to geo-tag everything from photographs to news stories, so creating a Demand Lens can does not have to be a one-time event.  It can become the scaffolding you hang all your firm's relevant data "on top" of.  It will help you turn information overload into a corporate asset - with a common view on how your little world is operating - which will give you an information advantage in a hyper competitive market.

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