Do you know where your customers live?

You probably do, within reason. Most smart entrepreneurs invest in some type of CRM, or customer relationship management system, or keep track of customers’ names and addresses through a shopping cart payment utility like PayPal.

So you could, if you wanted, pull up a bunch of names and addresses within seconds.

But do you actually know where your customers live? If you see a Los Angeles, New York, or Seattle address, do you know which neighborhood it’s from? If you see a midwestern address, do you know if it’s close to a major city like St. Louis or Chicago?

Address Mapping Helps You Identify Trends

As soon as you start collecting customer addresses, it’s time to start mapping them. It’s possible to map the addresses yourself, but Service Objects’ address geocoding API makes the process much easier.

customer map
photo credit: DAXKO

Why map? So you can see trends. It’s one thing to know that you have a lot of customers in New York; it’s another thing to find out that they all live in Park Slope. If you see a lot of addresses clustered around a single area, it’s a good indication that people in that neighborhood have a lot of interaction with your product – either by seeing it on the street, like a North Face jacket or a Bugaboo stroller, or by sharing it with friends, like talking about the great new cleaning service they just hired.

You can also use address mapping to find out whether your product is purchased by multiple people in single households. Do a group of roommates all use your computer software? Did a husband and wife both purchase pairs of your shoes?

Or, you can use address mapping to find out if your customers are predominantly buying your product for business or for personal usage. 3M, for example, originally created products for businesses, but people soon started using 3M’s Post-It notes and other products in the home.

Address Mapping Also Helps With Target Audience

Once you begin to sort out multiple trends, it’s time to use those trends to better understand your target audience. Those Park Slope addresses: is it the husband making those purchases? The wife? The nanny? When do people purchase your products? Are they most likely to buy them late at night, or during the workday? Is the purchase an item to be checked off a to-do list, or a pleasurable luxury or impulse buy?

customer map
photo credit: Eric Fischer

If you see a cluster of purchases around a college or university, try to find out if these are professors or students, if they are pre- or post-tenure, sophomores or seniors, on-campus or off-campus. Yes, this’ll take a little detective work, but it’s invaluable for future targeted marketing. If you find out that your desk organizers are nearly exclusively purchased by first-year college students in the South, you can use that information to sell the organizers as a must-have item for incoming college students and try to expand your reach to other parts of the country.

Address Mapping Helps You Plan For Your Tipping Point

Lastly: address mapping often helps you plan upcoming strategies and prepare for your product’s tipping point. As Malcolm Gladwell notes, a tipping point is when a product goes from isolated usage to a brand-name, must-have item. This applies to everything from Hush Puppies to Angry Birds – eventually, a product must take off to be successful.

As a new entrepreneur, you probably aren’t at Angry Birds level yet – but tracking your customer addresses can help you see how your product is slowly spreading across different areas of the country. It can also help you target your marketing to similar target audiences in yet-unaffected areas, and slowly spread the word about your product until it, too, becomes a household name.

In short: take the time to learn where your customers live. It will only benefit your business in the long run.

About the Author: This article is written by Tara Miller