I just saw a blog post on Seth Godin’s blog recommending that companies build data dashboards to help track usage. It is right on, and the short post is a worthwhile read.
About 1 year ago, I was asked to evaluate a tech company for a significant investment, and I was so impressed with their data tracking dashboards used that it was clear they really were thinking straight about their business. They were managing/selling text services in Europe, and their control center was impressive. They had a tracking dashboard that monitored sales close to real-time, and compared current results with historical data (and statistical deviations) in an easy-to-see, visual graphic. They could tell very quickly if problems occurred with their technology so they could take decisive action quickly.
Regarding equipment simulations, a few years ago we built a simple tracking software program (SimTracker) and our clients love it — they can see in real-time how their demos or training are performing. Our interface is pretty simple, but then we also let clients download the data as CSV if they want to do more involved analyses. The more savvy marketers can create a ‘mini-focus group’ by serving several versions of a piece and seeing which performs best compared with their goals, based on real user behavior rather than what the group thinks the researchers want to hear.
In many of our industries (which tend to be around manufacturing), however, we’ve found that our prospective clients sometimes don’t value this because it seems web/tech companies are not doing a good job of saying why such tracking data is useful, and how to apply it effectively in marketing campaigns.