And She Whispers…’I’ve Got a Guy…’
A couple of months ago, a friend of ours talked about the ‘guy’ she had who did the more technical, ‘hard’ work maintaining her website. And again after that, we heard another contact wax poetic about ‘the guy’ who did her paid search (from some remote location…maybe a beach…lucky guy). Maybe these and others over the years have been isolated instances of expertise rolled on up in maleness. Or maybe the ‘I’ve got a guy’ trope is as ingrained and insidious as our squirming suggests. A lot of us (women, entrepreneurs, leaders) can fall into the trap of passing expertise down; even if we are more than capable of owning it ourselves. And while that’s not in and of itself a problem, there more than a whiff of sexism in assuming the best person for that job is a little bit techie and a lot male.
The Modern Tech Geek Mob
More than sexist, ‘the guy’ sounds a bit too much like how Trump would refer to Michael Cohen or even like the fictional Ray Donovan. How have we started to talk about someone who manages performance marketing or develops our websites as ‘a/the guy.’ Be it Trump or our entrepreneur friends… in both instances it appears we are talking about a ‘hired gun’ (although one in our case that shoots HTML). But in both cases we’ve developed some mystique around the hoodie wearing techie who sorts us out. The really unfortunate side of this is when a women rocks up and suggest she can do the same job we raise our collective eyebrows.
And Then He Says…’But You are a 40-Something Mom’
For so many of our tech industry cohort (e.g., started in the late 90s and early 00s in the internet industry) we have a large tool bag of skills and experiences and without a doubt can understand the language of platforms and developments while hiring accordingly. Some of us are more proficient on the product side and others on the marketing end and in all cases can be pretty geeky too. So that’s where the ‘got a guy’ thing starts to roil us. The internet industry as we know it has been living and breathing long enough for some of us to pass 45+ years of age. And we don’t really need ‘a guy’ to help us get anything done.
A very wise Millennial entrepreneur told the story of a successful Instagram campaign her team did on behalf of a client. The (male) client refused to believe it was done by a 60-something woman. So…enough said.
The Mystique of Digital
Beyond the sexism and ageism of it all though is something more troublesome. It should be intuitive that one’s website is a channel and all digital tools are a means to an end and not the end. Regardless of the industry you are in. You are selling something. Whether it’s 1989 and you are shooting a magazine advertisement or it’s 2019 and you are running an Instagram campaign; marketing needs to be looked at holistically. So putting the ‘I’ve got a guy’ thing into this perspective: we are looking at marketing too much as pieces and not the whole. If ‘the guy’ is great at keyword buying but does not understand your brand, it won’t work as well.
So This is Why We Get Those Ads
Somewhere in the narrative about the Zuckerberg-type who is going to make you money is an entire industry focused on those guys (and in some cases their female counterparts). This takes us to the millennials/digital natives who have been in this crazy Internet-driven world for their entire lives. We think that they are the audience and we all aren’t. It’s like the sheet company, the bed company… the companies that have products interesting to a wide audience but then they hire the guy… and market exclusively to him too. We need to stop looking at our digital universe as something only inhabited by the young. If you have something to sell, focus it on those same people you’d hope to attract to your physical store. They are online too (and pssst buying more).
Where Do We Go From Here
This is not to suggest we discriminate (goodness knows we all get enough of that) it’s really more about the idea of a fixer or a one-trick pony. It’s not healthy and doesn’t exist. It’s not enough to punt a problem to a person and then close your eyes and hope it’s done right. When it comes to marketing it’s so critical to look at everything holistically. We can’t separate the art and science of what marketing, especially digital marketing, is intended to do. You need brand and performance to work in harmony. And your website to reflect the feeling of your store. And we’ve yet to come across an entrepreneur not smart or capable enough to really need that fixer after all.