As all digital marketers are well-aware, the field is constantly evolving as new technologies and needs arise. Just ten years ago, 'Social Media Coordinator' wasn't a job title, the retargeting ads that follow you around as you browse the internet didn't exist, and abandoned cart emails didn't miraculously pop into your inbox when you left an item in your shopping cart. As the digital marketing landscape continues to evolve, it's important that your team (both in-house and agency side) defines and continually refines what success looks like, and has systems in place to measure and analyze performance. Below is a single question that will help you think through your assessment of marketing initiatives:

Do you have meaningful, measurable goals that are reported on and accompanied by intelligent analysis?

Defining Goals

As with any initiative big or small, it's important to agree on what success looks like before you begin. Without setting goals at the outset, performance is nebulous and subjective. This goes for both online and offline initiatives. With burgeoning improvements in cross-device tracking (Google is on board) and new technologies that allow marketers to combine and correlate data from mobile devices and POS systems, the once un-measurable is now becoming measurable. You may also want to set secondary goals for higher lever conversion points (e.g. newsletter signup) that drive users into the top of your marketing funnel.

Choosing the Right KPIs

Effective marketing teams choose KPIs that provide the best possible data to assess performance not only at the marketing level, but at the sales level as well. They are intrinsically tied. A campaign may result in an outstanding click-through-rate, but if it doesn't lead to conversions, and ultimately sales or closed deals, the campaign is worthless to your bottom line. By properly setting up E-commerce tracking or pushing channel/campaign data through to lead records in your CRM, you will be able to close the loop and directly tie marketing performance to business performance.

Frequency of Reporting

Digital marketing will never be "set it and forget it". As a general rule of thumb, comprehensive marketing reports should be put together on a monthly basis. However, digital media performance should be monitored by team members directly managing campaigns on a weekly, if not daily basis, depending on budget levels. The higher the budget, the more data is available, and the more opportunities for optimizations on the fly. For channels like SEO, too-frequent reporting will be like waiting for a pot to boil and is ultimately a waste of resources-better to not obsess on a daily basis since there is nothing to gain by doing so.

Intelligent Analysis

At the end of the day, all the data and reporting in the world won't help your marketing team be more effective in their decision making unless it is accompanied by thoughtful analysis informed by historical performance and knowledge of external factors that may impact results. In order to leverage reporting to create a successful marketing strategy, you need to understand the story the data is telling, both in the big picture and granularly. True insights-rather than observations-will inform decisions on what is working and needs more investment versus what you need to optimize or cut as fast as possible. This process of intelligent analysis will help you avoid a lot of wasted man hours and marketing budget on initiatives that aren't growing your business.

Inspiration for Testing

Once insights are mined from your reports and you refine your focus, don't stop there. Use these learnings to strategize new tests to optimize conversion rate, whether it be a simple email split test, a an entirely new advertising platform, or a website test. Remember, the most effective marketing allows for failure when venturing out in new directions, even when informed by insights. Testing is just that-a test, not a guarantee-so don't be discouraged if a test doesn't succeed, just know when to cut your losses.