Jessica Scanlon, CEO of Hot Dog Marketing, an Austin Texas Marketing Company poses for photo in front of company mural
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CEO of Hot Dog Marketing Talks Agile Marketing on International HubSpot Podcast

Jessica Scanlon, CEO of Austin Digital Marketing Agency, Hot Dog Marketing

Jessica Scanlon, the CEO of Hot Dog Marketing, joined the Agency Unfiltered podcast to share her team’s journey in moving from conventional retainers to an agile retainer approach. As Jessica explains, by using the agile methodology, the production sprints and planning cycles of her team’s retainers have become more flexible and responsive and are generating better client results. 

We’ll begin by breaking down what agile retainers are and the impetus for making this transition. We’ll then look at the transition period for Jessica’s team, including the vital elements that needed to be re-imagined across project management. We’ll then wrap up with the results: what her client engagements look like currently, the differences she’s experiencing by implementing the agile approach, and the tangible KPIs she’s seen.

Let’s dive in.

Check out the podcast here.

What is the Agile Retainer

According to Jessica, Agile Retainer is a marketing approach that involves actively updating plans for a client on a regular basis based on the latest information. This means marketers don’t simply prescribe 12 months of work and just go through it without looking at results and pivoting when needed. Instead, they use cycles and sprints. This allows them to be more flexible and give clients access to all their services rather than signing them up for a single service and being stuck with it all year round.

How was Hot Dog Marketing Operating Before Adopting Agile Retainer?

Hot Dog Marketing had a mix of how they handled their client engagement. According to Jessica, one of their major motivations was picking one strategy to work with all clients and doing it consistently. This basically meant selling subscription services—a customer would subscribe to the services they wanted, and they would provide the service to them every month.

Hot Dog Marketing started to adopt the Agile Retainer Strategy when clients requested other services or creative work. So they would add such services and charge for them as an hourly retainer. The additional services became harder to manage as more clients requested those services.

How Long Does It Take to Transition to Agile Retainer

The duration it takes to transition from traditional retainer to agile retainer varies from one company to another. In the case of Hot Dog Marketing, the transition took about 9 months. Even so, the transition isn’t 100 percent complete because there are existing customers who need more time to adopt the new strategy.

That said, there are several elements that need to be re-imagined during the transition process. These include project management, process development, team training, pricing strategies, and more. Here’s take a brief look at how these elements need to be changed:

Process Development

Developing a plan for implementing agile retainer can be challenging, especially if you are new to this concept. Jessica attests that in the beginning, she had no idea where to start and had to seek advice from Mike Lieberman (President Square-2 Marketing) on how to implement it. Some of the advice he gave me was to create a checklist before beginning the implementation process. We had to define:

  • Define our cycle and sprints
  • Define what our meetings needed to be about at every stage of the process
  • Define what resources we need to set up
  • Find the right people to help with the implantation of the project.

Project Management

To properly implement your project, you need to have the right personnel. For starters, you need to have a project manager. The person you appoint as your project manager needs to be someone who specializes in the field. They need to be organized and detail-oriented. You also need a client success team to perform all your client’s tasks. In order for project management to be effective, you need to build and rebuild it until you find the right balance.

Team Training

Acquiring a new team to handle the agile retainer strategy can be costly and time-demanding. The best route would be to train your existing team on how to perform their new tasks. In the case of Hot Dog Marketing, Jessica explains that they trained their client success team to be strategists. The training is ongoing rather than a one-time thing—they should be able to proactively plan and develop new ideas constantly. Ongoing training will also ensure that you fill in any skill or talent gaps.

Pricing Strategies

One of the significant challenges under standard retainer models is that there are several clients per client success person, which doesn’t really matter because some clients don’t need much attention. This is because they only signed up for one service and don’t require constant communication with a client success person. The goal of the agile retainer approach is to attain a lower number of clients per client success person without affecting revenue during the transition. This means engagements need to go up in price based on the amount of effort put into them. 

According to Jessica Scanlon, one way of creating acceptable pricing when implementing agile retainer is coming out of the habit of talking about how long a given task will take and talking about how much effort it will take. This means that you’ll price based on how much time the account management goes into the task and the complexity of the task.

How Agile Retainer Model Impacts Client Engagement

Client engagement will increase customers as a result of receiving more attention tailored to their needs.

In a standard retainer system, pricing is usually quoted hourly. This means that marketing agencies can end up pricing lower than they should. The Agile Systems adopt a different pricing strategy. For instance, in the case of Hot Dog Marketing, 1 point is equal to 100 dollars. When you present such a pricing model to a client who is used to price being quoted in terms of hours, it makes it easier for them to understand how the system works. This means they will be willing to pay more for the same services since they know how they benefit from them.

To wrap up, agile marketing is a beneficial tool for creativity and making abrupt shifts when the market calls for it.

For more information on Jessica Scanlon:

Press Contact: Cathy Edison,