Remember the halcyon days of the floppy disk?
For some readers, that era is already ancient history, having grown up in the internet and cell phone age. But there are many working in sales who can still recall how hard it could be doing outside sales without the modern convenience of accessible GPS mapping.
Think for just a second about how you’d try to find someone nowadays with nothing more than an address to go off of. Now imagine trying to plan your entire day around a series of these addresses, only without the benefit of Waze or Google Maps or anything else remotely smartphone-related.
Tough, right? Beyond tough, even. And yet that was exactly the problem facing most outside salespeople before the dawn of the Internet Age. Or at least, it was the problem people faced before Microsoft MapPoint was released.
Started by 5 friends in a garage in Esher, a small town in Surrey, England, MapPoint was a massive hit almost as soon as it was released. As far as virality went back then, MapPoint went viral — at one point, half the computers in the United Kingdom were running it — and it quickly became one of the best-selling consumer application in the market.
Then one day, in 2014, it disappeared from the world.
Why did one of the biggest and best selling consumer softwares exit the scene as suddenly as it arrived? And, more importantly, what alternatives are salespeople supposed to use now?
History of MapPoint
It was in 1988 that Mark Atherton and Ian Mercer started building the product that would later become MapPoint.
To facilitate the process, the team started a company called NextBase Limited, which focused on creating digital maps. The team was entirely self-funded, and often took outside jobs in order to supplement their income while they worked.
During the late ’80s, most software programs were totally text-based. However, the NextBase team wanted to stand out from the marketplace as much as possible — so instead, they focused on graphics.
After over seven months of coding, the crew managed to get together a working copy which team members then distributed to journalists. They loved it — nobody had ever seen graphics in software quite like this. So it made sense that, after receiving rave reviews from these same journalists, MapPoint quickly blew up.
According to this New York Times article, MapPoint sold over 400,000 copies, making it the top-selling consumer application on the market.
What Was MapPoint?
But what was MapPoint in the first place?
Microsoft MapPoint allowed its users to view, edit, and manipulate maps using custom data, and then analyze it visually. It might not have been as slick as Google Maps is now, but it made up for it by being early and having a lot of features that even a lot of today’s GPS programs don’t offer.
At an account fee of $250, some of those features included:
- One of the first GPS systems
- Trip planning tools
- The ability to visualize territories
- Territory reports
- Mileage, drive times, and expenses calculators
- The ability to export digital images
- The ability to combine business data with demographics to find and target potential customers, and focus your business decisions.
This was all groundbreaking back when MapPoint was released — at the time, digital maps and GPS were largely unheard of outside of science fiction.
Why did it end?
Microsoft ended up buying NextBase, at which point the NextBase team moved from England to the United States, and for a while, things remained good for MapPoint.
But in 2013, Microsoft chose to discontinue the product and in 2015 it ended MapPoint’s support lines.
Why did this happen? It was mostly thanks to a little thing called Bing.
In 2013, Microsoft was pouring resources into Bing, largely due to an ongoing arms race it was in with Google. It was Microsoft’s hope that Bing Maps would eventually compete with Google Maps, which hasn’t exactly panned out so far.
At the end, MapPoint released a goodbye message urging their customers to use Bing Maps instead. But Microsoft made the mistake of tailoring Bing Maps to everyone, and — as a result — they lost sight of the business market that MapPoint had once held.
Can MapPoint be replaced?
It wasn’t long before Microsoft lost the attention of its business audience. But for a long time, that audience had no suitable alternative.
Most sales reps wound up resorting to free mapping software — like Google Maps, because who the hell uses Bing Maps? — and manually entering each data point themselves.
This led to a lot of frustrated customers, including (of course) ourselves.
The year was 2016, after all, and we were stuck running our sales like it was 1988. It was inefficient, it was boring, and in the end, it just didn’t make any sense. Why hadn’t a good alternative cropped up yet? What was getting in the way?
Nothing was, it turned out — people were just waiting for someone to come along and bring the solution to them.
So in 2016, we built Map My Customers, using the best of what MapPoint had to offer:
- Customer Visualization — Visualize your customer data on a map to identify geographical insights.
- Route Optimization — Reduce travel cost/time by using leading routing algorithms.
- Customer Notes — Everything you need to know about your customers organized in one place.
- Territory Visualization — Visualize, draw, and manipulate sales territories on the map.
We also improved on some of the worst parts of MapPoint—MMC is not only desktop but mobile. We’ve added dashboards to organize and analyze your data and easily transfer data between sales team members. We also have a way better UI. But above all — we promise not to disappear.
#1 MapPoint Alternative: Map My Customers
So as we’ve established so far, there are a whole lot of people out there looking for a Microsoft MapPoint alternative on a daily basis. But we wanted to dig into some of the reasons why customers choose us now that MapPoint is gone.
To reiterate a few things, here were some of the biggest reasons that salespeople used MapPoint:
- It allowed them to stay organized and prepare for their day ahead of time
- It allowed them to create optimized routes guaranteed to save them time on the road and money on gas.
- It allowed them to edit their routes & view customer notes on the go from their computer.
At Map My Customers, we’ve found that many of our users were once MapPoint fanatics. They actually found Map My Customers by searching for an alternative solution. Since using our tool, these users have become huge Map My Customers advocates because we offer them the core capabilities MapPoint had (and more) at a market-best rate.
We’ve already mentioned a few of these capabilities, but let’s dig into them a little more, starting with customer visualization.
MapPoint Alternative Feature #1: Customer Visualization & Route Optimization
With a very quick and simple import, you can view all of your customers on a map on our platform.
You can plot pins anywhere across the US or the world and even assign different colors to different types of customers. With this visualization component, we make it very easy to be able to create a route:
We can help you save 30% in time and money on a weekly basis by creating multiple optimized routes for up to 23 stops at a time. Creating a route on our platform is actually much easier and faster to do than on MapPoint.
Since our platform is powered by Google Maps (proven by CNBC to be more accurate than Apple Maps) you can rest assured knowing that the route directions you receive will always be the fastest route possible.
The video above goes through the steps of creating a route and shows what your route looks like on the map.
In the route view, you can see what the route would look like on a stop-by-stop basis. You’ll also see that we tell you how many miles you will travel on your route and how long this will route takes. From here, you can click “Directions” and open up Google Maps to get the directions for each stop.
This feature is also available on our app on iPhone, iPad or Android devices. Changing the order of a route is also very simple. Simply drag and drop each stop and rearrange it in the order you want it to be in.
From this route page, you can also go in and add/review notes for each customer. Which leads us to our next topic…
MapPoint Alternative Feature #2: Customer Notes
One of the amazing advantages of MapPoint was that it allowed you to pull up notes for each customer visit.
In this way, you’d know exactly what the conversation was about last time you saw your customer, making it easier to tailor the conversation. With Map My Customers, you can do the exact same thing.
We offer standard fields like name, address, lead status and groups (categories). Below those fields, you’ll also see we offer one “big notes” textbox in order to log your notes after each meeting.
Additionally, we offer the ability to create up to 30 custom fields to allow you to track all of the information you may need for each customer.
MapPoint Alternative Feature #3: Territory Visualization
Salespeople have been using territories for decades as a way to geographically categorize customers from different regions and strategize their sales approach. MapPoint allowed users to create visual territories.
Now, Map My Customers allows you to easily visualize and create a territory by drawing it or submitting a zip code range. At any time, you can go to the Map My Customers territory feature and see exactly which customers are within your or your coworker’s territory.
What More Can Map My Customers Do As A MapPoint Alternative?
One of the biggest advantages of Map My Customers is that we are both a web and mobile solution. You can easily create routes on the web and have it be available and accessible from your mobile device (iOS or Android) and vice versa.
You can access any of the information you have on your Map My Customers account from the mobile app.
Besides mobile access, other great mapping features that we offer are:
- Offline access of the app
- Up to 25 colors that can be used to color code your customers
- Ability to filter through customers by Group/Category
- Route creation in a particular order
- Sales funnel & circle sales map
Our users themselves claim that Map My Customers is the best MapPoint alternative not only because we offer the best value and price point in the market, but also because of our great customer support. If you haven’t jumped on board yet, what are you waiting for?
Feel free to reach out with any questions!