It’s a classic ‘whodunnit?’! Join Sarah Thrift, head of digital marketing at AgathaChristie.com – she shares her clues about how (and why) she uses quizzes and interactive content to keep her legions of mystery fans engaged, clicking, and sharing.
Episode 8 – Sarah Thrift – Agatha Christie
Hi and welcome! My name’s Mike; I am one of the hosts of the Quiz Makers Podcast and I’m super excited (and not to sound too Californian) “stoked” to welcome Sarah Thrift from AgathaChristie.com. She heads up all things digital, marketing, and everything else there – and she’s graciously volunteered to participate. So welcome, Sarah.
Thanks so much for having me.
So I have to ask – because my mom is a huge Agatha Christie fan… How did you end up at Agatha Christie.com?
Well, I ended up there because I love Agatha Christie, as you imagine, we’re a small company. There’s 16 of us, and we all love Agatha Christie.
The company itself was set up by Christie herself in 1955. To make sure her works were represented and continued to be adapted and told. So it’s a real kind of pleasure and a privilege. I like a lot of the books, I’ve watched a lot of the TV shows, particularly the new BBC dramas that started coming out in 2015. And when the job came up, I got a phone call saying, “Would you be interested in applying?” And I just thought, “How can I not?”
Absolutely. When you find there are certain jobs that just ‘fit’… I would even say the same thing about myself. I used to be a high school teacher. And now I work for the quiz maker Riddle.com – it’s funny how life kind of gives you these opportunities.
Yes, absolutely. I used to work for a bigger publisher, a very big publisher in the UK, who published Christie. And it was a real honor whenever I got to include her books in recommendations, in our email newsletters, and on the website. So yes, here it’s just work on one author, as well is a real privilege because you can really deep dive into all the stories, the characters, and you can learn loads about her life.
AND get paid for it as your job!
Exactly, exactly. So I should be so lucky. Absolutely.
Okay, so that leads us to kind of a really good starting question. So obviously with Agatha Christie, I’m guessing you guys have a huge fan base of really passionate, devoted fans.
What was the main marketing problem, challenge, issue or goal, behind looking for quizzes in marketing?
So that’s a good question. I think that when I joined just two years ago, now when I joined, there were quizzes about Agatha Christie made officially but they were via BuzzFeed.
So we were sending traffic to an another website, which didn’t do data capture, we were sending it to somewhere that was unbranded where they could also discover content that we have no control over.
We wanted to really bring the community back to our website. I worked at Penguin previously to this Penguin Books, and we made great use of the Riddle quiz maker tool there. I knew how good the conversion rate was on email newsletters, and getting sign ups.
So I wanted to kind of harness that power at Agatha Christie. It’s also worth saying obviously, that after GDPR, everyone was looking for a way to bring people into the email newsletter space in a safe way, after having lost up to 75% of your database, right. So I think Riddle is a great way to give back to the community – communities love showing off their knowledge and sharing their fandom and their passion. But it’s also useful for getting them on board to find out more about what was happening on our website every single month.
Perfect. That’s really interesting because, and for our listeners who are not familiar with GDPR, there’s now a host of data privacy or privacy regulations out there. So there’s the European GDPR. There’s California’s CCPA, Canada’s got one, and I’m sure they’re just going be popping up front and center.
But why did quizzes and lead generation work in that sort of environment?
I think it is, because people love doing them. I think that by creating something with your own branding, which obviously Riddle allows you to do, your own color schemes, it also shows that they’re trustworthy by being able to embed them on your own website. That all leads audiences to trust and sign up.
Whereas if you were to put your quizzes on a third party sites with random greens and blues when all your branding is, for example, red and gray, then it doesn’t look like it’s official. There might be an extra signup box saying sign up to hear from third party senders, which we would never do. So I think it’s about that trust.
And I also think that people want more of them. Oneof the ways we try and make sure that we fulfill our promise to our audience is we create a new quiz now each month, and the first people who see that are our email subscribers. We can say “Oh, watch the newsletter on the first Sunday of the month, there will be a quiz in it.” And we only post about it on social media once all our newsletter readers have got it.
Oh, that’s clever. So that’s actually that’s an interesting use case where you are using frequency of quizzes.
So you’ve essentially trained your audience to say, “Hey, every month, this content’s coming out.” And then you’re also incentivizing signing up for an email newsletter and collecting email signups in the quiz. So for people who are not part of a newsletter, it will be like, “Hey, do you want to get these quizzes first as well?”.
We started with a bulk upload, we did four or five, to launch and now we’re doing one every month. And it’s a really good way of enhancing the website – the way we kind of choose which quizzes or quiz topics to do is based on which areas of the sites are most popular.
So it’s a no brainer that the Hercule Poirot area of our website is really popular. So there should be a Hercule Poirot quiz. Once you’ve built that, you know that there’s an appetite for the Miss Marble quiz, which you can then pinpoint as a couple of months down the line.
So yes, it’s been a good discovery for us to see which areas we can explore. We haven’t yet been able to go as granular as individual book quizzes, because we’ve kind of tried to do each character and time periods and locations and themes first, but we have had quite a lot of requests for individual book quizzes.
Oh, I bet!
Yes. So that would line up hopefully for us with a monthly book club we have online. So we’ll see how that goes. But yes, we read one book every month as part of an annual reading challenge, which I established in 2019. That would be hopefully our next test case – give people who attend the book club online a quiz at the end.
Fantastic, Sarah, that is super clever. Again, this is a very innovative and unique use case. I mean, you’re basically using quizzes to attract, retain, and also punctuate (if that’s even the right word) events and things like that.
So this is almost a virtuous circle, where you’re getting all these benefits from quizzes for people who are new. Sure, you have an advantage, Agatha Christie is a known brand with amazing content and a big fan base.
But the principles of quizzes, engagement, and collecting data, they will work across everything from insurance to sports to whatever. If you were to give some advice to people who are new to creating quizzes with this marketing approach in mind, what are some tips you would give?
Absolutely. I actually spoke to someone about Riddle recently and he worked in in pensions, and he said, “Could I use it?”
And so we talked about kind of what sort of things people might ask, and how you could add a fun spin to pensions with quizzes. So I definitely think it’s kind of for everyone.
I’d say the most important thing is to make sure you take time to build an exciting quiz. Regardless of what the content is, I think you get out what you put in.
So make sure that even if the quiz is on something quite simple, you use good imagery, you support it with a range of multiple choice questions. I think it’s quite fun to include gifs, then in other cases, you use still imagery, then a little audio clip. Basically – mix it up a bit.
I guess in terms of for us, obviously, we do trivia. But we will look to do a kind of personality quiz in the future where “if you like X, you should read book Y”. And I think those are quite clever ways of getting to know your customer base as well.
If you’re not sure you can do a trivia question based on pensions, you could probably do a personality quiz around “What sort of person are you?” Someone who saves for a rainy day? Perhaps someone who blows all out on a big holiday or someone who’s isolation spending has gone off the charts.
That might be me. I’m feeling guilty about my purchases these past few days.
Absolutely. So I think that there are different types of quizzes for everyone. And I do think that the personality one’s particularly interesting.
I also think the polls are very useful. I think we use quite a lot of polls on Facebook and Twitter anyway to ask our audience what they think. Even just adding an interactive poll to the end of a in-depth news piece is a fascinating way of getting people to engage and encouraging that activity of clicking on your site, which you can then lead them doing a longer quiz later down the line.
Perfect. This is great for people who are listening. And thank you so much for all the plugs about Riddle! There are a wide range of quiz makers out there. So this is not a Riddle-only product podcast, although we are quite cool. We know there’s a number of them, but the principles are constant. You use engagement, data collection. So for example, that pension person, he’ll know that Bob from Bristol answered a question too, like, “Hey, are you a saver? Are you a spender? When are you going to retire all that stuff?”
When he has a call with him later or sends out an automatic email, it can be tailored to those those preferences. That’s super cool.
Thank you so much for that insight. We’re going to wrap things up because like quizzes, we want to keep these podcasts short and punchy. And so we don’t want to have this going for too long. But controversial question for you with your fans. Brace yourself…
What is your favorite Agatha Christie book and why?
Okay, I would say I’m probably similar to some fans. In that your first Agatha Christie is often your favorite. My first was “Death on the Nile”. And so it is my favorite.
I think the combination of a love triangle mixed with multiple murders with a glorious setting on a steamer down the Nile makes it really special to me. When I was a teenager I was always really intrigued by these exotic holidays. My mother lived in in Cairo at my age, so it was the first one I picked up. It didn’t disappoint and it still doesn’t.
Fantastic. Especially now in the time of the Coronavirus reading these escapist novels are such a great way to scratch that travel itch.
Absolutely, and I think armchair travel is the new destination, isn’t it? I am embracing it fully.
Absolutely, Sarah. Thank you so very much for your time. I love the answers, love your creative ways of using quizzes and to engage and also to collect data with your audience… and basically just rocking at marketing. So thank you so very much.
Thanks so much for having me!