Transcript: Tips For Launching and Promoting Your Customer Training and Certification Programs with Jill Liles

On this episode, I was joined by Jill Liles, Marketing Director at Nutanix University, which is Nutanix’s training and certification program. She breaks down the exact steps it took to bring this vision to life and what she focused on in the first six months, how to ensure programs like these also support your corporate direction and the metrics they use to measure success. We also talk about the different channels for collecting customer feedback and the diversity of marketing skills required for this role. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Jill. 

Margot Leong: Hey Jill, I’m really excited to have you on the podcast. Thanks for joining us. 

Jill Liles: Oh, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Margot Leong: Can you share a bit about your background and journey to your current role at Nutanix? 

Jill Liles: So I first learned that professional development existed at my first job out of college. My first role was for a nonprofit society for automation engineers. They did professional development things like training programs and events and wrote books and magazines and that kind of thing. 

From there, I moved over to a company called Global Knowledge, which is a major training provider for the IT industry. They do Cisco training and Microsoft training for people to get better at using those platforms and those software programs. That really solidified me that this is an area that I really like and enjoy and wanna stay in. 

So from there, I moved to a company called VMware where my job was to help market their training and certification programs. I stayed there for about six years working through their programs. 

And then I moved over here to Nutanix where I am the Marketing Director for Nutanix University. And when I started here, University was a new idea. So I really got the opportunity to be part of the ground floor bringing that to life.

Margot Leong: I’m definitely more of a builder type myself so that’s always really nice to come in and help to take something off the ground floor. 

Jill Liles: Yeah, exactly. They were in like this transition state that a lot of companies go through where they’ll be doing informal training like the webinars and maybe a couple how to videos. But especially in the IT industry, a lot of times there hits a tipping point where people need more than that. They need more than the 10 minute video or the five minute video kind of thing. They need something a little more formal. And so that’s where Nutanix was. And when you get those formal programs there, other things come along with it.

Like you, okay now you’ve got the program, but no one knows about it. So how do you tell people about it? And that’s where marketing can really come in and help out. So that’s what they brought me in to do. 

Margot Leong: So would you say the difference between informal versus formal is that formal is more like codifying it, bringing it all together and then creating a brand around it. 

Jill Liles: Yeah. That’s a big part of it. The other big thing that happens is you standardize almost when you have these formal programs, like if you’re relying on webinars or if you’re relying on your sales team to train your customers on how to use your product. Your sales team in Florida is not the same necessarily as Pacific Northwest or Europe. So you’ve got customers getting different things. 

By formalizing your training, you can really standardize and you can say, look, this is the best practice. This is how it should be done. This is what we recommend. And everyone takes the same class, everyone gets the same recommendation, the same best practice.

Margot Leong: Got it. Now reps can basically say here’s a whole thing that you can do, like this whole arm that we’ve created in order to help customers get trained on the software or whatnot, allowing them to be like, I point to this place for you to go do this. 

Jill Liles: Yes. Exactly. And that’s what Nutanix University was built to do was to let the sales reps and our SEs focus on what they’re best at and not have to take time away from that of showing customers this is how you do this feature, use this feature. They can hand that off to Nutanix university. And then, in University, you hire instructors, you hire curriculum developers. That’s what they’re best at. So you let everybody work to their strengths to the benefit of the customer who at the end of the day is better able to use the platform, gets more out of it, is more engaged and has a better outcome.

Margot Leong: Just to back up for a second, you mentioned that you’ve been in this training space for a while now, and you said at one point you realized, Hey, I like this, I think this is where I wanna park myself for a while. What are the things that you enjoy the most about it? 

Jill Liles: So my favorite thing by far is that even though I work in an IT company and that’s technically B2B, my area, Nutanix University, we really are B2C.

So I am on Twitter every day. I’m in our LinkedIn channel every day, talking to customers, helping customers figure out what they need, what training will help them out. And then when we have events, I get to be there in person and help people figure out, okay, what can you help me do better at? And helping them figure out their career path that’s gonna make them happy and more successful. And then when you do certification exams, it’s always interesting that people get nervous about exams and it’s this scary thing. I’ve gotta go sit for 90 minutes and answer questions.

So just helping people like, look, you do this for a living. This is what you do. You’ve got this, you know what you’re doing, you’re gonna be fine and helping them and just really being able to engage with customers is really interesting to me.

Margot Leong: And the great part is that you have validation of all the work that you’ve done around the software once you finish some of these exams, right? Like there’s something shiny at the end of it that you can now say like, I’ve done this. I can put this on my LinkedIn. And this also can have a future impact on their career as well.

Jill Liles: Oh yeah, absolutely. Certification is one of those things that’s polarizing in the IT industry. Some people really like it and some people really don’t, but it does set a baseline that, look, Nutanix says, I know what I’m doing. They certified me. I passed their test and it gives that baseline to hiring managers for new opportunities that, look, I know what I’m talking about. You don’t have to take my word for it. You can take Nutanix’s word for it. I earned this certification from them. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. An industry like IT, there’s so many new things that people have to keep up with. It’s literally about adopting new technology, being up to date with everything that is coming up. And so to be able to say, yeah, like I know this tool really well. That’s very helpful in an industry like IT. 

Jill Liles: Yeah, absolutely. And staying current is also a big thing in the IT world. There’s something to be said for skills that you earned 10 years ago. If you’re still using that still, that’s great, but in a lot of cases, the way this software moves so quickly, the certification or the training that you took four years ago, it’s out of date now. It’s moved on from there. So you have to constantly keep yourself current and stay learning and stay in that mindset.

Margot Leong: If we were to look at what your role typically looks like, what does that entail? Like high level, what your current role entails and then yeah, what that day to day looks like. . 

Jill Liles: So high level, my role encompasses everything marketing for Nutanix University. So that’s everything from helping and working with the education development teams on go to market strategy of what courses are we gonna release in the next 6, 12, 18 months, feeding customer input back into them so that they can make decisions based on what customers are looking for. All the way down to what are we posting on Twitter for the next couple of weeks? What promotions are we gonna be offering? What’s our email campaign next quarter, gonna look at all of that. Marketing strategy to execution sits with me and my team. I do have one marketing specialist that works with me on Nutanix University. We are a small, but mighty team of two to get all of that work done. 

Margot Leong: So like your customers are basically users because you want to get them to know that this thing exists. But then you’re also, obviously working cross functionally with the teams that are instrumental in building the curriculum, using different channels internally to promote this education. So that then for example, through reps or CS, so that they’re also spreading the word about it to their customers. So you have a lot of different things as well. But I can imagine the day to day is pretty varied. 

Jill Liles: Yeah, I don’t really have a typical day. But you’re exactly right. In a given week, let’s say. Typical weeks are a little more active. I’ll have meetings with that education curriculum development and operations team. I’ll be meeting with various groups of our sales team and our SE team trying to stay in front of them, keep them top of mind that, Hey, education exists. It helps your customers, which helps your bottom line. This is something you keep in your back pocket, in in your repertoire because salespeople, they get hit with lots and lots of things and different priorities week to week, quarter to quarter.

So keeping a steady cadence of being in front of them and making sure that they keep that in their back pocket. It helps them, helps us, helps the customer. 

Margot Leong: Absolutely. Like If someone were to come to you and say, Hey people are telling me we should do an education program, I’m skeptical. What do you see as the benefits to the customer? And benefit for the company? 

Jill Liles: I’ll take that in two sections So the benefit of having a training program for the customer is that they learn to use the software in the most efficient way and the most effective way. So I give the analogy of you know, all of us these days, we’re familiar with word processing, like Word or Google docs or whatever. 

And yeah, if you put someone in front of it, they can probably start typing and come up with a basic document pretty quickly. But if you send someone to a class, then they’re gonna learn how to format. They’re gonna learn how to insert pictures. They’re gonna make better things and they’re gonna be more comfortable using it.

The same thing applies to our software. It’s just different software, what it’s doing. So the customer, after taking this training, they’re gonna be more confident with it. They’re gonna learn things they didn’t know it could do, because they just never asked the question or it never occurred to them, which is gonna get them using more of the software. It feeds into the circle of they use more, they like it, they learn more, they like it and it just builds and builds from there. 

For the company, customers who use your software more, like it more, are more likely to renew or buy more of it or buy more of different types of your software. We have core product but we want them to use all of our product lines. So if they like our core product, they know how to use it. They’re more likely to buy the adjacencies next time around. So it’s a bottom line thing in a lot of ways to have these training programs.

But it’s also for the company and this is a double edge for the customer too. They can help themselves a lot of times once they get trained. There are training services, research companies out there that do studies about how training helps companies and one of the ones that they do, or does having customers trained reduce support tickets? Across the board, every time, the better trained they are, the more classes they’ve taken, the fewer support tickets they need to fill, because they can help themselves. They can fix it themselves.

That’s great for the customer because they’re getting their problems fixed faster. It’s also great for the company because they don’t need as big a support program. And the people that they have in their support can work on the bigger problems, the gnarlier situations and not have to handle the lower level tickets customers can help themselves for.

Margot Leong: That massively reduces support burden. On average, we would prefer to do it ourselves versus to have to reach out to someone, because there’s always friction. There’s having to write the ticket and describe your issue in detail and then having to wait for a response back, like all that takes time. So you’re reducing that friction by allow them to self serve. 

Jill Liles: A lot of people in the IT industry, they’re in the IT realm because they love computers and they love software and they love these systems. A lot of them have home labs where they have built in their garage their own kind of little mini data center that they go and install the software on just to see what it can look like. And that’s how they spend their weekends is working on these things. So anything that we can give them to help them learn the software on their own, it feeds right into that mentality of the do it yourself or let me teach myself. 

Margot Leong: A hundred percent. I can totally see that because they’re naturally in this type of role because they like tinkering. I’d love to get a sense of how education has evolved at Nutanix since you joined and what you were focused on, let’s say in your first six months, your first year of coming into the company. 

Jill Liles: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of times education and training programs are looked at on a spectrum of free, informal to very formal, has a cost associated with it. And when I started at Nutanix, it was about four and a half years ago, they were in the middle and trying to figure out which direction do we want to go? What’s gonna make the most sense for where we are? And more importantly, where the company was headed. 

We have to think about Nutanix university. It doesn’t exist in a bubble. It exists as part of the broader Nutanix corporate narrative, so whatever Nutanix University becomes has to support that corporate direction. 

So one of the first questions was, okay. What do we want the ultimate outcome to be? Do we want to say Nutanix University has to make money. It has to be revenue generating. It has to cover all of its costs. And if it doesn’t cover its costs, then we’re not gonna do it. Or do you say, Nope, Nutanix University, we do this as almost a marketing function or a loss leader if you’re from the retail space and we don’t care if it makes money. It has bigger goals of getting customers trained and better able to use it, all those benefits that we talked about earlier. And it doesn’t have to be one or the other, you can be anywhere on that spectrum.

So my first months were spent helping the company and the leadership at the time figure out, all right, where do we wanna land on the spectrum? So once we got that figured out, then it was building the basics of the marketing platform and the marketing program.

What is the brand gonna be? We actually did a name change to Nutanix University. We needed to establish our visual look for what does Nutanix University look like? What’s our tone of voice? How are we gonna talk to customers? Are we gonna be on social? Are we gonna push everything through the corporate social? All of those decisions had to be made. So that’s what I spent my first six months doing when I got here. 

Margot Leong: This kind of sounds to me similar to running a customer advisory board, which is there’s interest. There’s lots of opinions. But at the end of the day, if you don’t actually understand what the goal is whether basically is this more of a check the box kind of situation, right? From an executive standpoint, is this something where they are really care about getting a certain type of feedback from their users? Is it more about specifically generating revenue, right. This is something we talked about in the podcast, which is understanding what is the ultimate outcome at this stage of launching this and also thinking about what are the resources? 

I’m curious if it’s similar in that way is if you aren’t very clear and specific on what that outcome is, you can basically get run in a bunch of different directions. The focus can get diluted. 

Jill Liles: Yes, definitely. You need to have a clear focus that everyone has bought in on, or has agreed to support. And even if it wasn’t the outcome that they were personally the champion of, but they are now on board and see why and are willing to support the program. 

The other big thing that’s probably very similar to when you are starting up advisory boards is you have to find the right executive champion, the right person that sees the value and again, whichever end of that spectrum or wherever you are gonna be, you need someone who says, no, this is what we should be doing and can rally everyone around it and rally that support and lead that.

Margot Leong: Who are typically the types of profiles that would be good fits to be champions for this?

Jill Liles: They tend to have customer success backgrounds. I’ve worked with people that have come up from support side of things into customer success. But really if you’ve got that, that CS, customer success executive, that’s a great fit for education because it dovetails nicely in with other things that they’re doing with those programs. I’ve seen education sit in sales which is interesting. I’ve seen it sit in a bigger employee and partner enablement program and they said, oh, by the way, we’ll train customers too while we’re at it. 

But to me, the successful place is really in that customer success, professional services, support area.

Margot Leong: We also had Sarah Steffen on the podcast as well, who oversees the whole team, the Connected Customer Experience team, which I believe that you are on. And so is it under the umbrella of marketing or is it under somewhere else? 

Jill Liles: So here, we’re split. So I am under the umbrella of marketing on Sarah’s customer experience team. The education program, Nutanix University, they report into the customer success group which includes our professional services and that ultimately reports up to the revenue officer. But I sit in marketing, so I have dotted line over to that group. 

Margot Leong: And so you said that your first six months was a ton of conversations, a ton of planning trying to get on the same page with people. And give me a sense of who were the teams that you were partnering with in order to help get this off the ground. 

Jill Liles: So the core teams to get it off the ground were that nucleus of the education development. It’s grown significantly in the four years since then. And then it was myself and it was Sarah’s predecessor on the marketing side. We were trying to help them verbalize their goals so that we could turn it into the messaging for the program and the brand for the program. It was in them, like they knew what they wanted. They knew what they wanted to do. We just had to get it out and then turn it into something digestible that we could then present to customers. A lot of conference calls, looking at PowerPoint decks, looking at competitors, competitive research, what is so and so doing with their program, trying to come up with the distillation of this is the best, this is what we want to do. 

Margot Leong: And so that was the first six months. I’m assuming that you guys set some sort of official launch date or something like that. What did that look like? 

Jill Liles: So it ended up being about another year from when we had nailed down that conversation about this is what we want. This is our strategy. The reason it ended up taking that long was because at the same time that my team and I are working on what’s our marketing strategy, what’s our brand look like, the education team was working on what’s the delivery mechanism look like and a new learning management system to actually deliver the training.

So it worked out nicely that we were able to dovetail, okay, here’s our new brand, here’s our new messaging. And here’s our new platform all at the same time. 

Margot Leong: And tell me a little bit about how you guys thought about the messaging for this, how you thought about the brand. That would be really interesting to know about. 

Jill Liles: So the Nutanix University brand, our logo is actually a rocket ship, which I really like. And so our core message and our core foundation is, there’s two parts to it. One, it’s that we do not want to deliver boring training. Everyone has sat through the training where it’s a recording with a PowerPoint slide on one side and a person talking on the other side. And it’s an hour long of watching this person read slides to you. That is the opposite of what we ever wanna deliver as training. So that’s core one. 

And then the other piece is that Nutanix as a company is all about choice and all about simplicity. So we wanted to infuse that into our Nutanix University brand as well. So we let people choose what training path they want to take. 

Do they wanna take online training? Great. Here you go. Do you want training with an instructor, does that help you learn better to have a person? You can ask questions ? Great. Here you go. We give them those choices and those options both on how they take the training and what they get trained on. 

If they are focused on end user computing, we have a training path for that. If they’re into cloud and cloud infrastructure, we have a training path for that too. So all of that combined with, we don’t wanna be boring, gel together into this brand that we have in place and I like to think it’s been very well received. I do get lots of comments when we have conversations face to face at our events.

People like it, they get it. It’s fun. And it’s uniquely ours. 

Margot Leong: I definitely want to sort of underline this point, not only is it about, okay, what’s the ultimate outcome, but then you’re also thinking about what are the values of the brand? What do we want to make sure when customers use this thing that they come away with feeling, right? And that it all ties back to their perception of the brand. And I think that people can lose sight of that when going into projects like this, because there’s so much to do, like even just thinking about delivering the training itself, thinking about the channels to promote this thing, but making sure you don’t lose sight of okay, not boring training, like that is a cornerstone of what we wanna make people feel. That’s part of the brand. That’s really smart. 

And then of course you also said choice and simplicity. So making sure that allows for people to choose, pick your own adventure type of thing versus only being allowed to do go down one path. 

Jill Liles: Exactly. And like I was mentioning earlier, Nutanix University, we exist to support the higher corporate brand. So we knew from the start that we could not, would not come out with something that was the opposite, or it did not mesh with the corporate brand messaging at the time. We worked very closely with our brand team, with our corporate art director and our corporate content teams to make sure that whatever we were building out was fitting in and did have the same influences filtered throughout backwards and forwards. 

Margot Leong: I’m totally curious now that you said, not boring training, do you have any examples of the things that you guys put in that are uniquely Nutanix that revolve around this focus?

Jill Liles: Yeah, for our online training, they started doing demos and simulations really early. If you take a class from us in person with an instructor, you’re gonna log into a live lab environment and you’re gonna do certain steps as part of this lab exercise. And the online version, we can’t really do the live.

So what they do is they have a simulation of it and a demo of it. So you watch the demo first that shows the mouse on the screen going to the various places. And then you get a simulation where you get to do the same thing, not the simulation, you’re a little more locked in, you can’t go click random other things. It has some guide rails on there, but early days, we did that. So it’s not just watching someone or watching a recording of someone talking about, you would click here on this screen and go to this menu and that menu here and type in here. You’re actually getting to do that through the simulation. 

Margot Leong: It’s actually hands on as much as possible, learning via actually doing versus glazing over, watching someone else do it. Then let’s talk about launch, right? I’m sure that you were incredibly involved with figuring out how to announce this launch. Tell me about what had to happen leading up to that from marketing perspective and how you guys were thinking about promoting this, announcing this to the world. 

Jill Liles: So we did everything we could think of basically to get the word out there. I kind of joke, I was like, maybe I should call all of our sales people and just make sure they knew. And it’s like, okay, we’re not gonna call people. It was a brief impulse, it was there.

But yeah we pulled out all the stops that we could think of to launch the brand and the new platform. We do have an install customer base, which is great. So we were able to get email out to them, inviting them to come in and check out Nutanix University and the new platform.

We did all of your usual corporate marketing and communications things. We did blog posts and social media posts. And we did social advocacy posts where we sent out to our employees: Hey, we’ve got this new thing, post this on your personal LinkedIn or your personal Twitter.

We did also get funding and did some paid social advertising as well as the organic, primarily on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a natural fit for promoting education, because it is where people are thinking about other professional development and their career goals. On the back end from a marketing side, you can get very specific who you’re targeting. And because it is that career development, there are affinity groups for whatever you may be interested in targeting. 

So for instance, there’s a Nutanix University LinkedIn group that I’m sure people are targeting to market to, so you have a lot of nice targeting options that are based on their career aspirations and their career accomplishments that you can put your message in front of. 

Margot Leong: How do you think about success? How do you measure the ROI of Nutanix University?

Jill Liles: For me and my team, we have two sets of metrics that we’re measured against. One is part of that dotted line that I mentioned over to the education creation and delivery group. So jointly with them, we have goals around number of students trained in person, number of users on Nutanix University online, number of certifications given out for a year. So we have a joint metric around those types of goals. 

But then more specifically, we do also have your typical marketing metrics around channel subscribers, engagement on social media activity that we do, the email open and click through rates, advertising impressions and click throughs, all of those typical marketing metrics we also look at as well. 

Margot Leong: And so did you guys, by the way, end up deciding to have a separate social presence or keep it all under Nutanix? 

Jill Liles: No, we actually ended up splitting it out. So we do have a separate Nutanix University Twitter account, LinkedIn page and a separate YouTube channel. So it didn’t exist when I started. And so we tested what happens when I push a specific Nutanix University message out through the corporate channel, specifically LinkedIn, was where we did a lot of the testing and it got drowned out. 

There’s a huge follower account on the corporate handle. So you would think, oh that’s great more people, but they’re interested in so many other things, not necessarily the training that we offer, that we didn’t get the same engagement that we were looking for. When we broke out and started a Nutanix University dedicated channel, the volume, the number of people subscribed to that is lower, but our engagement came up on the posts. So that was our initial test. Let’s see if we can prove it with Twitter. We proved it with Twitter. And then we moved over and created the LinkedIn page as well. And we’re building that up. It’s about two years old at this point. 

Margot Leong: There’s the big launch, right? And then there’s the ongoing work that you are doing to continue to support the program and promote the program. Give me a sense of what are the channels that you’re using to keep people informed and what’s the strategy there.

Jill Liles: Yeah. So Nutanix University, we are open to everybody So prospects, current customers, potential customers, our partners, our employees, everybody can come to Nutanix University and get trained. So employees, when they log in, they will see a slightly different list of courses than a customer would, which should be fairly understandable.

 But it is open to prospects. You don’t have to be a customer to come to Nutanix University. If you just wanna learn about our technology, that’s completely welcome. And so we take that approach on our social media as well and our outbound media is that we’re open to the world.

We do have our own blog that we post things on. The email program that we do that goes to both current customers and prospective customers. We work with our partner communications team to make sure that the partners are aware of new programs and new courses and new certifications. So those are our main outbound activities. 

We also do a lot working with our sales teams to enable them, keeping in front of them on a regular basis, making sure that they remember training exists. We wanna make sure that they’re aware of the latest courses that we offer. We wanna make sure that they’re aware of the discount programs that we may be offering. We don’t want our sales team to be surprised by their customer asking them a question about a Nutanix university event or campaign. We wanna make sure that they have that information before a customer may bring it to them.

Nutanix has an intranet. So we have our own Nutanix university subset within that intranet where we post all of our courses and all of our news. We actually have a dedicated page for the sales team, which is the one stop shop of everything from, here is one slide you can insert into your sales deck to talk about training to here is an actual recorded training module. You can listen to yourself to teach you some of these things about the questions to ask if you wanna get a little more in depth on it. 

Nutanix is a Slack company. So we do a lot of Slack. So we have a specific, dedicated global education Slack channel that we post messages into and of course all of the other relevant channels we post there as well.

And then over the years, I have developed my own personal email distribution list of people who have either reached out to me with questions or interest or want to be notified whenever new things are coming out. So I send a personal email to that group whenever we have new things. There’s also a couple of internal newsletters that we use to get the word out as well. 

Margot Leong: With the email program, does everybody go down the same track currently? Is it everybody gets maybe like a monthly newsletter, updating them about some things. Is it more of a nurture track of built in via the learning management system where it’s: there are these courses left to take, you’re on this track. Give me a sense of what that looks like. 

Jill Liles: When someone joins the learning management system and creates their account, they’re presented with: here’s the common things that we recommend. They can choose to do them, or they can ignore that. All of this is open, back to we believe in choice. We wanna let them choose their own adventure. There is a regular, not super invasive email cadence that goes out to them once they have logged in around, hey, thanks for joining. Here’s some things you may wanna check out, but it’s pretty low key. And it’s again about giving them here are the most common things that we see from people.

Margot Leong: At the beginning of the conversation, you mentioned one of the things that you enjoy the most about this type of work is that you’re really helping customers. You’re helping them serve themselves ultimately, but it sounds like there’s this element of feedback where you are talking to customers or monitoring social media or listening to think about what are the best ways that we can improve this program? And so give me a sense of what that looks like. I’m interested in kind of these feedback mechanisms and how you think about continually improving the program. 

Jill Liles: We have multiple channels to get feedback which I personally really enjoy. And I think it’s a good way to get a variety of feedback versus, if you just do a survey once a year, yeah, you’ll hear from your survey people, but it’s gonna depend on their most recent interaction and memory. Versus if you have something that’s open all the time, you’re gonna get that continual feed. 

We do a couple of things. We always have our social channels open to feedback, and we tell them that. We will post periodically like, Hey, if you’ve got thoughts or suggestions, let us know. Our DMS are open. And we do get responses from that. We do a regular annual brand awareness survey that we send out. So we have those baseline metrics and we see how it fluctuates up and down. But in between we have these other things always on. 

The other thing that is part of having a formalized training program that’s super helpful is we do these post-course training surveys. So every student that goes to a class is sent an email asking them to take a survey. Now they don’t all do it. But the ones that do give us really good information and we get the commentary there about everything from the registration process to the content to their next steps and how they’re gonna use what they learned in class. That post course feedback goes right back into the education development team that they can use to iterate and improve on the courses. 

We also use that for marketing as well. I get some great quotes from the students. We have a series on our social channels on Friday. I think we call it feedback Friday where we just are running quotes every week from those post course surveys of students saying everything from, I think my favorite was “10 out of 10, no notes.” But then we’ll also get paragraphs of Hey, this actually fixed a problem that we were struggling with. I can’t wait to go back and tell my boss, I know how to fix this. It is great to see that real world impact. 

Margot Leong: You’re part of this very customer focused team as well, the connected customer experience team. How are you working within that larger team? 

Jill Liles: One of the things that we do here at Nutanix is we have a program called X tribe, which is our gamification system and basically customers can log in to X tribe and they can earn points for doing things like sharing blog posts or filling out quick two question surveys, and then they turn their points into Nutanix swag. So we have real relationship with them from the education side of the house to do things like if you get certified, which is a big deal, we give you a lot of X tribe points that they can turn around and get nice swag for.

If you do things like fill out our survey on what class do you wanna see us build out next, we give them points. When we have new videos added to our YouTube channel, that automatically gets added as another opportunity within X tribe. So we really work back and forth with the X tribe group to take advantage of the community that they have built and by sharing our content with them and that we also use on our education channels, like Twitter and LinkedIn. We remind people, Hey, X tribe is over here. This is a great way to get more engaged and you get cool stuff. How great is that? So it really does work back and forth. 

We do similar things with other marketing organizations outside of just the connected customer experience team, like our field marketing team. We work with them about, Hey, if you guys are building webinars, I have a channel of 6,000 Twitter followers that love nothing more than to find out about new things. 

Margot Leong: They are like hungry. They’re voracious. 

Jill Liles: That’s what they love. Tell me about your webinar and, oh, by the way, when you’re doing a bootcamp in your region, just remind them that they can go and keep learning more at Nutanix University. So it really does become this back and forth relationship with those other groups both on the customer marketing team and the bigger marketing team. 

Margot Leong: Let’s say that we have people listening who are like, oh, this sounds really interesting. Maybe this is a type of marketing or sort of an area I would wanna pursue in the future. What do you feel are good traits or skills or characteristics that either you’ve looked for on your team or that you would advise for people to have getting into this sort of role.

Jill Liles: I think there’s probably kind of two core things that I would look for. One is a underlying focus that whatever it is we’re doing, it’s ultimately for the benefit of the customer and by benefiting the customer, we benefit the company. It’s that order is we benefit the customer, which benefits the company versus benefiting the company, and, oh, by the way, it helps the customer too. It really is the other way around, I think. 

The other aspect I would say is the range of marketing skills is crucial. 

Margot Leong: It’s really interesting because if you are doing this type of role, this can dovetail nicely into most other types of marketing and you’re basically figuring out how to market it to all different types of audiences and channels to reach all of them. And then you’re also working cross-functionally to then figure out how to market it through these channels. 

There’s so many things that you’re doing and touching on from a marketing perspective, you’re, doing the social pieces, you’re thinking about the email marketing and the life cycle, you’re thinking about what are the best channels to reach people? There’s so many things that it would help you get to speed on from a marketing perspective, versus only specific types of marketing. 

Jill Liles: That’s exactly right. When I hire for the specialist position that sits on my team, it’s really hard to write that job description because they really need to know kind of everything. I’m not hiring a social media manager that focuses on social media. I’m not hiring an email manager that just does emails, campaigns and analytics. I need someone who can write an email in the morning and then that afternoon build out a social media campaign and then pivot to, oh, we’ve got an event coming up. Do we have all of our electrical ordered and the chairs and the swag, all the stuff for the event? 

Project management is definitely a big skill. I am a to-do list person. I have a to-do list with indented to-do lists and subtasks and all that. 

Margot Leong: Jill, this was an incredible conversation. This is an area that I didn’t know much about. I’ve learned so much more from talking to you. If people are interested in reaching out to you, picking your brain on more of this stuff, or just learning about what you’re doing, what’s the best way for someone to reach you?

Jill Liles: Yeah, that’d be great. I am on LinkedIn. I think if you just search my name, I’m one of only three or four. It’s not a real common name. 

Margot Leong: I will put that into the show notes so that people can reach out to you. But Jill, this has been a wonderful conversation.

So thank you again for coming on. 

Jill Liles: Oh, thank you for having me. This has been really fun. 

Thanks for tuning into this episode of Beating The Drum. For more interviews with advocacy leaders and tips on creating customers that will sing your praises, head on over to our website, If you enjoyed today’s show, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to rate and review us. If you know someone that would be a great fit for the show, I would love to hear about it. You can reach out at Take care, everybody. 



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