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This page contains answers to common questions handled by our support staff.

  1. What is a Treasure Map?
  2. What criteria can I use?
  3. What if my Company doesn't yet have a criteria?
  4. What about competition?
  5. What is a Competitor Profile?
  6. What is the difference between an aggressive list of competitors and a reasonably certain list?
  7. What are the nuances of median income?
  8. How accurate are these maps?
  9. Why do I have to make a choice between the outlines of MCDs (towns or county districts) or the names of cities and places?
  10. I sell to Businesses, not consumers. Demographics don't make any difference to me.

What is a Treasure Map?

A Treasure Map is our answer to ring studies. We offer the opportunity to prescreen large geographic areas for those locations that meet a company's criteria. This allows a site selector to take a shorter critical path and save time and money. Using Treasure Maps, a site selector only needs to know that part of an MSA or Counties that contains areas that meet the criteria for successful sites. Can this save time over driving a whole city, identifying sites in areas that look good from an intuitive level and then ordering a ring study? We know so. Ask about our introductory offer. Click to see a sample Treasure Map.

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What Criteria Can I Use?

The criteria can be almost anything.  We have programs for home to destination trips, work to destination trips and Business to Business sales. We have quite a lot of data in-house and get discounts when buying some of the country's most popular data. We can probably buy specialty data at a lower cost than you can.

Healthcare? Patient Visits generated by neighborhood by physician specialty as a destination. We can use data from your data system provider. 

Consumer demographics by place of residence is most popular. The most popular seems to be the number of people living within a radius. Other popular criteria are median age and median income within a radius. However, customer data mining might indicate something more esoteric: At least $150,000,000 of sales of drugs and groceries within 5 miles AND at least a 2% forecasted gain in the population of 35-75 year olds within 3 miles. If you can explain it, we can probably map it.

In addition to criteria that are numeric thresholds, we can also rank locations. Say you are a reprographics company and you do most of your business with architects, engineers, advertising companies and a nearby manufacturer. We can develop a ranking system that will rank every place in the MSA by its convenience to all your customers or based on the number of nearby customers. the index can be created using the the number of firms, number of employees, sales potential by firm or a competitive ranking scheme you provide. Convenience can be measured by distance or drive time.

If your company hasn't gone through the data mining process to develop criteria, we can help.

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What if my company doesn't yet have a criteria?

In this case, you are left with few options:

  1. Fake it. Use your imagination. Take a guess at the criteria that you think are the best predictors of success. You've been in this business for a while and know your customers, so why not?
  2. Sometimes demand forecasts for a product or service other than the one you offer can be used. If your customers use a product or service in similar proportions to the usage of yours and data is available for that other product or service, then the purchase potential for that other product or service can be used as a predictor of the success of yours. For example, sales of sneakers in a neighborhood could parallel the dollars spent on clothes. Video rentals could parallel the dollars spent on electronics. While the parallelism might not be particularly close, it may be sufficient to rank locations.  
  3. You're company could hire us to do the data mining and build a model for your company. We have a unique attack to the problem that is specifically oriented to site evaluation and selection. We can compare sales data with drive time, distance, neighborhood demographics, changes in demographics, types of businesses that buy your product, etc. as appropriate to find those factors that seem to be the best predictors of success. We can interview your customers or sales people to develop an expert system. The end result is a model designed for site selection and sales forecasting that was tailored to your company and that makes makes you most effective. We want you to get BIG BONUSES.
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What about the competition?

Only a very few businesses can boast that they don't have any competition. When they do, the next sentence is often "Not yet, anyway." For those businesses that do have competition, we offer a multi-tier approach to competitor research and analysis. These are ranked from the easiest and least expensive to reliable and most expensive. Yes, you still do get what you pay for.

  1. Search a single database  based upon your business' Standard Industrial Code (SIC). We can save you money because our Marketing Consulting account with Dun & Bradstreet allows us to inexpensively get a current snapshot of business SICs and locations in a market area for less than the cost of a mailing label. We also subscribe to InfoUSA (formerly American Business Information), another leading source for business information.   We can also save you money when we get a discount on this information.
  2. Search both business databases and search multiple SICs within each database. This is the belt and suspenders approach to database searching. It is more expensive when using the freshest data available and more labor intensive because we filter the duplicates as best we can.
  3. Search both business databases, the phonebook database and the WWW. This results in the most comprehensive lead list for competitors.

The preceding searches produce some pretty good leads. 100% accuracy 100% of the time is not yet attainable. Many times the databases won't note that a business is closed or has moved. We recommend telephone surveys of the competitors identified. Those that can't be ruled-out should be visited if possible.  

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What is a Competitor Profile?

This is a company profile from one of the business information companies. Information is available for most companies. It can include number of employees, sales, parent company, and much more. Profiling is necessary for business-to-businesses companies when their market share is based upon convenience. It is the basis for ranking how important each customer site is to your site selection choices. You will make better decisions when we give you a map that has ranked every location in a market area based upon upon: 1) how convenient is it to your customers, 2) your prime customers, or 3) their potential for generating sales for your company. (If you like, we can arrange for these profiles to be used for direct marketing purposes.)

Another use of the Pirate's Profile is for competitor information. When calculating market share, the effects of competition are included. To allow you to make better decisions, the competitors are generally rated using an attractiveness rating system that can draw on information in the Pirate's Profiles. A rating system could be basic using facility size, number of employees, gross sales, or more complicated based upon characteristics that can only be understood after visiting a competitor.

We can travel to visit the competitors if it will make your job easier.

We can make calculating market share quite easy for you. We have developed some state-of-the-art gravity models. If your company is not using them or your not sure how we could help you forecast sales with a gravity model, pick-up the phone. You'll bring your company into the space age.

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What is the difference between an aggressive list and a reasonably certain list?

A reasonably certain list is one which searches one of the main business databases for competing businesses that are listed the same way (same SIC) that your business is listed. This type of list produces the smallest number of businesses and only returns those that we are reasonably certain are of the type that is sought. This type of list overlooks businesses that might be competing but that are listed differently. This list is appropriate when a quick overview is needed. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list.

An aggressive list is one that 1) draws upon all databases that we have available, 2) uses a variety of SIC codes to try and pick-up those business that might be competitors but are classified differently from your business, and 3) is verified by telephone. Include profiling and this list is suitable for near-final analysis of the effects of competition. This list is quite cost effective for site selection. It offers a good balance between cost and accuracy at an early stage of market investigation. Once a site is located, we recommend that this list be reviewed and that additional research be done to see that no competitors were missed or are likely to surface in the near future.

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What are the nuances of median income?

Median income is the income of a household that is in the middle of all households in a defined grouping. As many households have income greater than the median as have income less than the median. This estimate is very expensive to calculate for the types of analysis we do. We have found a practical alternative which generates statistics that are not too dissimilar. This is the median of the geographic areas' median household incomes. Simply put, each geographic area (county, census tract, zip code, block group, etc.) has a median income. We use the median of these amounts. 

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How accurate are these Treasure Maps?

This question involves two issues - geographic accuracy and statistical accuracy and the resultant geo-statistical accuracy.

  1. Geographic accuracy is quite good. Most geographies ultimately find their roots in the 1997 TIGER data  created by the US Census Bureau. Their geographic data seems to be within a football field most of the time. Our calculations are replicated every 1/10th of a mile.
  2. Statistical accuracy is quite good as we are generally dealing with large numbers at any particular location. Further our demographic vendor was selected because of the update methodology they use. The demographics base their current year estimates on delivery counts from the US Postal Service. In many areas, this is the equivalent of a mini-census available quarterly. Accuracy is more reliable in stable urban areas than fast growing rural/suburban areas.
  3. Geo-statistical accuracy is quite good in the more populated areas and less so in the sparsely populated areas. We have developed algorithms for compensating for sparse population, but find them to be  expensive for initial analyses. Our calculations are replicated every 1/10th of a mile and rely upon the geographic center of the neighborhoods (Census block groups) in the market area. We have observed errors of 5%-15% between different modeling methods. Part of this error is attributed to the models themselves, the balance is attributed to geo-statistical error.
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Why do I have to make a choice between the outlines of MCDs (towns or county districts) and the names of cities and places?

Legibility, in a word. We try to cram in as much information as possible, but there comes a point when a map becomes hard to read. We try to stop short of this point.   Our Minor Civil Division (MCD) files are official municipal boundary files and the Cities files are point files like you see on road atlases.

Using the Cities file, we can label cities, towns, villages, hamlets, major subdivisions, and some very small places. This gives the map an appearance closer to an atlas.

Using the MCD files, we can depict the official municipal boundaries. If you need to know where town boundary are, this is the obvious choice.

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I sell to Businesses, not consumers. Demographics don't make any difference to me.

If your bottom line is not affected by the convenience of your location to your customers or suppliers, the best we can do for you is to help you find a low cost location. We are developing what we call a geographic proforma. This system calculates the cost of doing business at each location in a region in which you are considering locating. It calculates the most profitable locations based upon distance to customers, distance to suppliers, taxes, insurance costs, labor rates, etc.

This is quite new in site selection - call Chris Miner 860-443-8405 for details.

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Questions or problems regarding this web site should be directed to Christopher Miner 860-443-8405.
Copyright 2000-2003 Miner & Silverstein, LLP. All rights reserved.
Last modified: Friday November 02, 2001.