When is it a good time to pull off the motorway? Pretty frequently it seems if you look at the packed car parks of Motos and Welcome Breaks across the country.

But how many people actually plan to visit a service station? The reality is that most don’t, ending up there out of necessity – you pull up, do what you need to do and you’re on your way again.

It’s all very convenient, but not really that satisfying.

If you think about your marketing campaign plan as a journey – your content development roadmap getting you from A (the idea) to B (the results), there are the inevitable publishing stops you need to make along the way.

Rather than making these an uninspiring experience like a service station dash, see them as your opportunity to give your audiences (your passengers) something to really remember.

There’s a graph we often use when talking to clients about structuring digital campaigns for maximum impact.

The line is made up of amalgamated tweet volumes across three mobile phone launches, representing the attention given by online audiences.

The most useful thing about this is that it can be applied across the board. The trigger ‘event’ for these campaigns could be anything (a new product release, an industry conference, a World Cup final) and the timeline is relatively arbitrary; this could last a day or a month, depending on the magnitude of what is taking place.

The key to success is aligning your objectives (and your budgets) with the key peaks along this timeline.

For example, if you’re in the social media game you’re likely to have priorities around engagement, acquisition and reach. But when are you likely to achieve these goals with the content you are putting out there?

Here’s a handy table to get you started with your planning:

The nature of your activity, the relationship you have with your audience, the access you have to content and the budgets you have available all influence how things are structured across this grid.

Its purpose is to allow you to mark out a few milestones to show where the best opportunities to meet your objectives exist.

If you’re releasing a product look at:

  • Acquisition before by running a competition to win the item.
  • Reach during by amplifying positive reviews by influencers.
  • Engagement after by hosting a live Q&A with your design team.

If you’re putting on an event aim for:

  • Reach before with sponsored posts alerting audiences to ticket availability.
  • Engagement during by encouraging those attending to share their experience.
  • Acquisition after by offering fan-only access to behind the scenes footage.

You need to layer in much more than this (audience targeting, appropriate channel selection, etc) but as a rough outline it really helps to hone your efforts on the right things to do at the right moments.

You may be thinking that at the highest peak you’ll be able to get engagement AND acquisition AND reach – perhaps, but if you focus on one element at a time you’ll have a better chance of hitting your overall targets.

Across the course of a journey, yes you may have to make impromptu unforeseen stops (to deal with screaming kids, or a smoking bonnet) in which case the quickest and easiest solution is necessary.

However, with data, experience and a bit of gut instinct, you should be able to plan the precise points when you should be adding some fuel.

Photo c/o jaggers