When to use a Mekko chart

Earlier in the blog, we covered the basics of the Mekko or Marimekko chart. In this entry, we discuss types of analyses that are best suited for visualization through the Mekko chart. Note that not all readers will be familiar with these charts and it is important that they are well designed and simply convey the information.

The Mekko is a two dimensional stacked bar chart where the width and height of segments carry information. Unlike the bar-mekko, the Marimekko chart has a 100% y-axis.

The Marimekko is great way of answering a variety of market overview questions. For example if we want to understand who the most valuable franchises are by sport the Mekko is a succinct way of showing it (see chart below). Each column in the Mekko represents a sport and each segment is a franchise. In this example no franchise can exist in two different columns/sports.  This however does not have to be true for Mekko charts in general. Often the segments in a Mekko are repeated across the columns.

Mekko chart showing most valuable franchises by sport

Mekko chart showing most valuable franchises by sport

Other types of questions you can answer with the Marimekko include:

  • How many servers do Facebook, Amazon, and Google have across the world? Here we would make each continent a column in the Mekko and each company a horizontal segment
  • Who are largest medical device companies by product line? Each product line could be a column in the Mekko and each company a horizontal segment. The value plotted would be company revenue
  • Which countries grow the most coffee beans in the world? The columns of the Mekko would be continents. The segments would be the countries. The value plotted would be the amount of coffee grown.

The Mekko chart is a standard option with Aploris either on your Mac or PC. Simply select the Mariekko chart option and Aploris will provide you with sample chart and template data that you can quickly modify.

Slide design is a critical component of effective messaging

Aploris users know that creating clean, visually pleasing charts helps better convey the insights of any data set. As we look beyond the chart, however, the slide and the presentation itself are also important tools to effectively convey the key messages.

Thanks to vast improvements in desktop computing and software, building presentations has become a quick task. However, carefully crafting the visuals behind a slide or presentation takes thought and time.  Is there a better way to tell your story than just using bullets? What style and palette would best match your brand and the presenter, are the messages clear and right for the purpose?

We were recently introduced to Neil Tomlinson, CEO of a UK based presentation firm, Neil was one of the first to become a professional PowerPoint designer with a ton of experience building high impact presentations. Over the years, Neil’s business has helped organizations around the world across all industries and size improve their presentation design and better communicate – to which his impressive client list is a testament to. In our conversations with Neil we learned:

  • Presentation design is a critical part of your marketing effort along with your websites, videos, logos, and brochures
  • Outstanding visuals can help your audience remember your key messages
  • Audiences now expect to see professional high quality presentations
  • A poorly designed presentation can actually work against you with an audience

For more advice and information on presentations visit www.neiltomlinson.com

TeamSlide featured on Indezine

Aploris co-founder, Kartik Sundar, sits down with Indezine to discuss TeamSlide, a new slide management solution.

Created by Aploris, TeamSlide is a PowerPoint-focused content management system that let’s users instantly find specific slides or graphics. TeamSlide can be accessed directly through PowerPoint allowing users to stay focused and insert content into their active presentation with a single click. The TeamSlide server, which can reside in the cloud or be installed on your premises, creates a central easy-to-manage repository of PowerPoint content with intelligent search capabilities. It can even connect with existing content repositories plugging into your existing knowledge strategy.

In the interview, Kartik discusses the rationale behind the creation of TeamSlide and shares some of its core advantages. In addition, he provides an example of how TeamSlide is helping customers today.

If you’d like to learn more about TeamSlide, visit the main site or email support@aploris.com.  We are excited to bring TeamSlide to our current base of Aploris customers and believe that it will be a strong complementary solution to the charts offering.

TeamSlide - PowerPoint slide library

PowerPoint slide library that let’s you find content instantly

People-based market research

In our last post we shared methods to conduct business research using a variety of market reports. In this post, we continue the discussion and focus on methods to conduct market research based on input from people. As this approach often means collecting original data from sources it can typically be considered primary research.

Collecting data from individuals can require a large number of data points to arrive at a sound conclusion and therefore often takes a substantial investment in terms of time and effort. We’ll cover five approaches, each with its own drawbacks and benefits, that can applied depending on the key questions at hand.

Cold calls: You can use a combination of LinkedIn and Google to email and call industry experts and customers. If you can establish a social connection (e.g. you went to the same school or lived in the same city) about 15-30% of them should be willing to speak you. Analysts are also a good target for short calls to clarify report findings.

Expert networks: If you have the budget, expert networks, like Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) or Guidepoint, are a great way to line up calls with several industry experts in a short amount of time. Company policies and client provisions may stipulate the exclusion of certain individuals, e.g. those currently employed by a direct competitor of the client.

Offline surveys: In addition to expert interviews you could conduct a large-scale survey to better understand the customer. In-person interviews have the advantage of much flexibility to collect quantitative and qualitative data. Also experienced interviewers can assess the reliability of responses. However, this likely is the most expensive surveying option and mostly used to capture a very specific set of customers. Alternatives include phone interviews or sending questionnaires by mail.

Online surveys: Conducting surveys online can help you reach a large audience at a cheaper price point. Tools like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang help users build and conduct surveys as well as find potential respondents. You can typically decide if responses are only accepted after a personal invitation or if the questionnaire is open to the public. In the latter case, keep in mind that results may be skewed because of a biased, self-selected audience.

Mystery shopping: Test purchases can be conducted to learn about customer service, product features and company recommendations. Typically this approach is used in a business-to-consumer (B2C) settings and while traditionally used in physical stores the approach works for online sales as well. As the shopper obscures his or her real intentions, company policies may include restrictions or guidelines for this method.


Aploris offers standard software the enables users to employ Microsoft PowerPoint more effectively. Consultants and other PowerPoint business users benefit from Aploris Charts for designing data charts that follow corporate design requirements and highlight insights. Besides regular graphs like pie or bubble charts advanced types, e.g. waterfalls and Gantt charts, are supported. Existing charts and other PowerPoint content can be managed using TeamSlide to access relevant corporate knowledge directly from PowerPoint.

Methods to help collect business market information

As we discussed in our last post, defining a market is a critical first step in developing a strategy. In this post, we’ll focus our attention on methods to collect information required to help define the market.

Methods largely fall into two categories:

  • Based on existing reports – Depending on the size and maturity of your market, reports are an excellent source to quickly grasp market trends.
  • Based on people input – While it can be tedious at times, speaking with industry experts and customers provides a level of detail and color that can help bring numeric data to life.

In this post we will cover the approach based on existing written sources.

Analyst reports: Many markets are well covered by analysts at either a research organization or at an investment bank. For example research houses like IDC and Gartner publish a large variety of technology reports. These reports, however, are expensive and can easily cost $10,000 and more. “Initiating coverage reports” by investment banks tend to have the best market data. These too are expensive but at times at quick Google search may reveal some of the main points/charts being publicly available.

Company reports: Mandatory publications like 10-Ks in the USA and public marketing material can provide in-depth company financial data, capability overviews as well as general market trends. These are free and typically available through a companies investor website. Depending on local legislation mandatory reports can often be obtained from a public register. This is particularly helpful when data of competing players in a market is needed.

Official and statistical publications: In many countries supervisory and statistical bodies (e.g. the PRA in the UK) collect data from market players which is published in detailed or aggregate form. Trends and background information may be shared as well. Because the relevant institutions are public bodies reports are typically freely available. Though depending on national regulations, the availability can be expected for industries with a strict governance due to a high public interest. This often includes financial services, healthcare, telecommunications, transportation and food industry.

Industry associations: Leading market players often establish lobby groups. Among others these mostly publish qualitative and quantitative reports on market development and trends. However, because the associations must keep neutrality towards their stakeholders and assessment or rating of individual companies cannot be expected.

In the next post we will consider options for collecting market insights from the ground up without relying on existing quantitative data and analyses.

At Aploris we develop tools for more efficient use of Microsoft PowerPoint for consultants and other PowerPoint business users. Aploris Charts for data visualization allows users to build column, line, waterfall and bubble charts as well as Marimekkos, which are specifically powerful to display market segments. TeamSlide is our knowledge management suite that facilitates effectively sharing content in teams and increasing quality and productivity.