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Venn diagrams: what they are and how to use them

By: Leanne Armstrong

Information overload can be a big problem in today’s business world. Fortunately, whether you need to draw data comparisons or work through a decision or new concept rationally, you’ll find visual diagrams far more effective for organizing and evaluating information than verbal discussions alone.

In this article, we’ll show you how using a Venn diagram maker like MindManager can help tame your data demons and allow you to focus in on the information that’s most relevant to you.

What is a Venn diagram?

As a framework of overlapping circles (usually 2 or 3), Venn diagrams are designed to show the relationship between distinct sets of data. Popularized by mathematician John Venn way back in the late 1800s, these illustrations remain in wide use today but have expanded to cover a diverse range of contexts.

Venn diagrams are especially useful for:

  • Graphically arranging information so it’s easier to understand and assess
  • Presenting the impact of data clearly – especially to a non-technical audience
  • Examining similarities, differences, and dependencies in everything from individual ideas to the various areas of an organization

By creating a Venn diagram template, you and your team can have more valuable conversations around the way two or more sets of items compare or contrast.

How to use Venn diagrams

So, what does all that mean from a practical perspective? We’re glad you asked!

Venn diagrams are a great way to visualize and think through related ideas, proposals, or processes – like when you need to streamline workflow, compare outcomes, or make improvements to a particular business area.

You might use Venn diagrams to:

  • Visualize what all your best customers have in common
  • Determine where the responsibilities of your design and development teams – or sales and marketing teams – overlap
  • Discover areas in which shared work tasks can be automated
  • Choose the best product or vendor for your project or departmental needs
  • Compare the potential results of different strategies, decisions, or processes

In a nutshell, Venn diagrams let you see what two or more groups of things have in common, which elements are unique to one or more of those groups, and what characteristics none of the groups demonstrate.

If, for example, you were trying to choose between two different messaging apps for your team, you could simplify the decision-making process by using a Venn diagram to:

  • Lay out the various features offered by each app
  • See which features were common to both
  • Take into account potential features that neither app offered

Similarly, if you needed to cut costs by eliminating workflow redundancies, you might start by using a Venn diagram to locate tasks being managed by more than one person or department.

Then, if you discovered the same questions were being asked at multiple stages of your customer onboarding process for example, you could save valuable time by redesigning your intake forms or restructuring the various workflows involved.

We’ll look at more Venn diagram examples later. But first – let’s find out how to create one.

How to create a Venn diagram

Creating a Venn diagram is easy with a visual mind mapping tool like MindManager. Whether you’re working alone or alongside a team, you can pull up the built-in Venn diagram template and customize it to your needs, or build one from scratch using MindManager’s background objects toolbar.

Here’s how to create a Venn diagram (involving 2 sets of data) in 4 easy steps.

Step #1: Create and label a circle on the left side of your diagram. Enter brief text points or criteria representing your first set of data inside the left half of this circle.

Step #2: Create and label a new circle on the right side of your diagram. Enter brief text points or criteria representing your second set of data inside the right half of this circle.

Step #3: Move your two circles together until they share an empty area of overlap.

Step #4: Highlight and drag the data points or criteria that are common to both circles into this intersection area.

And that’s it!

Now you can easily see where the two sets of information you’re evaluating are the same and where they’re different. You can even position new points outside both circles to represent details or ideas that neither set addresses.

Example of a Venn diagram

How you choose to use a Venn diagram is limited only by your team’s creativity.

If your marketing or sales department were looking for new ways to boost their results, for example, they could use a Venn diagram to visualize which traits your very best customers share and:

  • Fine-tune their marketing approach
  • Improve their sales techniques
  • Design a targeted advertising campaign

With that in mind, here’s an example of a simple Venn diagram in action.

Let’s say you’ve been struck by inspiration and want to roll out a new ad promotion aimed directly at prospects who resemble your most consistent and reliable buyers.

You’ve been in business long enough to know who the target audience is for your leased office equipment. But you’d like to drill deeper into that knowledge with the intention of bringing in new clients.

Using your sales and marketing data, you first determine what your 3 most frequently leased products are. Then, with the help of a Venn diagram maker, you create and label 3 circles accordingly:

  • Desktop all-in-one scan/copy printer
  • Standing floor model full-color scan/copy printer
  • Mobile wireless printer


Venn Diagrams 1 | MindManager Blog


Next, working with company metrics like ARR (annual recurring revenue) and CLV (customer lifetime value), you gather the traits, demographics, and characteristics associated with your biggest and longest running accounts.

Taking note of which account leases which product, you enter the criteria you’ve collected into your 3 product circles.

Circle #1 – Desktop all-in-one scan/copy printer:

  • < 10 employees
  • Single office or department use
  • In-office workers
  • Urban location
  • Finance & insurance sector
  • Single-unit lease
  • Top priority: power-save options

Circle #2 – Standing floor model full-color scan/copy printer:

  • > 10 employees
  • Single office or department use
  • In-office workers
  • Urban location
  • Finance & insurance sector
  • Multi-unit lease
  • Top priority: wireless reliability

Circle #3 – Mobile wireless printer:

  • Solopreneur/Contractor/Consultant
  • Single office or department use
  • Remote workers
  • Urban location
  • Finance & insurance sector
  • Single-unit lease
  • Top priority: wireless reliability


Venn Diagrams 2 | MindManager Blog


Finally, highlighting all the identical traits, you overlap the 3 circles in your Venn diagram and move these traits to the appropriate intersections where they’ll be clearly visible to your marketing team.

Intersection #1: Single-unit lease

Intersection #2: In-office workers

Intersection #3: Top priority: wireless reliability

Middle Intersection #4:

  • Single office or department use
  • Urban location
  • Finance & insurance sector


Venn Diagrams 3 | MindManager Blog


Now that everyone can see what your most profitable and promising sales accounts have in common, you can design ads that will hold the greatest appeal for similar clients, and choose the marketing channels where your promotion is most likely to reach the right audience.

Venn diagram use cases

Not only are Venn diagrams a valuable tool for solving problems and guiding strategic direction, they can help clarify decisions by highlighting important differences in the various streams of information being evaluated.  

As promised, here are a few final Venn diagram examples presented as simple business use cases.

Company A wants to analyze the competition in a new location.

To expand their business presence, the company is considering opening a new branch in a different location. In addition to other risk management practices, they create a Venn diagram that will help compare similarities and differences between their services and those of the local competition. Ultimately, the company discovers that while they have several advantages, they’ll also need to make improvements in a couple of key areas.

The company decides to go ahead and lay the groundwork for opening their new branch.

Company B wants to compare three new product ideas.

The company’s design team has come up with three different versions of a new product that will complement their existing line of goods. By using a Venn diagram to visually compare the benefits of each, they’re better able to assess similarities and differences in the three designs and pinpoint the most favorable features.

The company reviews their team’s findings and approves the most promising design version for their new product.

Company C wants to update their market analysis.

It’s been some time since the company performed a market analysis to determine buying patterns, uncover industry trends, and evaluate the economic environment. Tasked with carrying out a thorough assessment, the marketing department puts together a Venn diagram to help visualize the information from these three research areas so they can reevaluate and redefine their target market.

Based on these research results, the company makes some important adjustments to their pricing and marketing strategy.

Creating colorful Venn diagrams with the help of MindManager makes it easier to think visually about the connections between different groups of information. Not only will you understand those relationships better, you’ll be more likely to recall their significance when it’s time to turn data into action.


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