Becoming The ‘Jeet Kune Do’ of Design (Part 3)

There is no easy way to say this to an introverted architect but … ... we are going to make you a star. Why? If you want to earn high fees and become even more in demand, then you need to start promoting yourself.Image of New York City by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A Star is Born

There is no easy way to say this to an introverted architect but …

… we are going to make you a star.

Why? If you want to earn high fees and become even more in demand, then you need to start promoting yourself.

 I know this is not what you WANT to hear, but I am telling you what you NEED to hear. 

High fees and being in-demand are achievable, but not by following the conventional methods architects use. Follow the crowd and you turn yourself into a commodity constantly battling for decent fees. To achieve outcomes other architects don’t, you are going to need to do things other architects don’t. You are going to need to cultivate three key elements …

  • Star
  • Story
  • Solution

We covered story and solution in Part 1 and Part 2, so that only leaves us with the process of making you a star. Now STOP. Don’t you go running anywhere, my shy little friend. Once you get over the initial shock of sharing more of yourself with your market, you may actually enjoy getting the recognition you deserve.

Hear me out!

Firstly, we cannot think like other architects

If I go to 10 architects’ websites, I already know what I am going to see. Ten galleries of favorite projects and not a single image of the real star.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Most architects’ websites are designed to impress other architects with their most sophisticated work. The problem is, other architects will never hire you.

There are lots of actors in a movie but it's Angelina Jolie who people pay to see. AJ gets the star billing on all trailers and posters because she is the star. People love stars and films wouldn’t make money without them. What about all the supporting actors? They don’t count. Only their mothers pay to see them. In many cases, the star is more important than the story.

How does this relate to selling design services? 

You need a star character in your firm to carry your new design category and story.

We need a Bruce Lee or a Richard Branson or an Oprah Winfrey – someone your audience can relate to. Your personality doesn’t need to be as colorful as Jesus or Steve Jobs because look at your competition. Your competition is a local supply of architects who hide on the back streets of their websites and reveal nothing about themselves. Heck, most won’t even show a photo of their face. Your competitors are most likely private, modest, introverted artists who’d rather let their work speak for itself.

Huh!!!  Most of your clients are like me. We cannot tell the difference between good and great when it comes to design, so a sea of building images and yet more images of yet another building washes over us like waves at the beach.

Here is the secret – your brand is YOU. Not your work, not your company name and not your logo. People hire people, and generally the person who is going to do the work is you. You may present a certain image with your logos, office space and home page, but as soon as they meet you in person, your personality dominates any previous perception.

So what needs to happen, and it needs to happen now, is we need to establish who you are. Your PERSONA. 

Who is the character behind your solution and your story? The term “character” is a good description of what we need because I want you to think about your character creation similarly to that of a character in a movie. The movie’s main character’s job is to sell the story to the audience. The character has to be relatable, engaging and interesting – he or she needs to have a few flaws and scars to make her real. A Bill Clinton, Shane Warne, or Princess Diana is more intriguing because, while possessing superpowers, there is a weakness, too. We relate best to someone who has amazing skills but at the same time is not perfect.

‘But my life is boring’

Here is the truth … In reality, we are all a little boring. I get to travel, speak to large audiences and live in what you might think is a semi-exotic location (New Zealand) but, if you followed me around for a couple of days, you would come to the conclusion that my life is hardly like James Bond’s.

Most of my time is spent writing articles like this, studying marketing or coming up with new strategies. Typically, I am sitting at a desk or on a couch with a laptop on my legs. So when I write, especially when I include myself in the blog or email or video, I make sure that there is some “better than real life” aspect to my story.

For example … Lessons from Vietnam, Lessons from France, Lessons from New York are always going to be far more interesting to my audience than “Lessons from my couch, watching TV, while eating yesterday’s leftover spaghetti bolognaise.”

We have to EMBELLISH our personality. Not lie but accentuate our traits and characteristics so our character becomes larger than life. We need to become someone worth following – a star, even if only a star in a very small universe.

‘But where do I tell my stories?’

You have a captive audience … your lists. These lists contain clients, Dirty 30 connections, prospects and people who have downloaded your Monkey’s Fist. This list should be growing every week if you are promoting your Monkey’s Fist properly.

Now, while the Project Planning Pack or the Dream Team Directory may be the reason you GOT them on the list originally, the way you KEEP on the list and engaged is by the stories you tell and the personality telling those stories.

You have a newsletter you should be writing to, Circle of Love emails you should be sending out and a website which should be studded with stories that reveal who you are and what you stand for (and against). 

You get my emails and videos, so the best example I can give you right now is to say that somehow you got on our list. You probably downloaded something or attended a webinar and here we still are – you and me and you reading my stories and stuff.  

I am no Ernest Hemingway, but you know a few things about me and can probably remember at least one story I have told you. You are reading this newsletter and, while I may not be famous to the general public, I am famous to the people on our architects marketing list.

Everything I have shared with you in these last three newsletters is what I am constantly DOING to you as an example to follow. It works. We sell a lot of stuff not just because we have great content, but also because we have great people like you, who are engaged. 

Okay, enough said, and, besides, I have a game of cricket to play today against the Australian masters team, so I need to start some stretching.

Use my checklist to help you flesh out your magnetic persona


Maven Marketing Tactic The Details Examples from Bruce Lee and others
  • Gain your market’s trust
Clearly articulate your market’s hopes, fears, problems; feel their pain. Articulate their problems better than anyone else. Identify gaps in service or quality. Bruce Lee was “anti” the traditional fighting methods, which he felt were too rigid and mechanical for practical use in street fighting.
2. Establish Persona Personality traits that make the maven more memorable in the mind of the market. Anchor your traits in their memory.  Master at martial arts. Super fit. High pitched noises while fighting.
3. Vision for design Why your design style exists. What is your ultimate goal? What is the dream vision you want others to become part of? According to Bruce Lee, life is in constant change, and unless we learn to adapt to it, we’re bound to experience tremendous resistance that will entrap us in a constant state of suffering.
4. The backstory The STORY about the beginnings of the hero, where did it start, why, and who was involved? Born in the U.S., raised in Hong Kong and then back to the U.S. after falling into trouble with organized crime. Later to appear in movies and develop his own fighting methods. 
5. Predictable behaviors Unique things you do or say that the clients can expect you to do or say. We like to be able to predict how a friend will react. One finger push-ups. One armed pull ups. One inch punch.
6. Polarizing point of view View that might resonate with your target market but might offend others. It separates your market into believers and non-believers. The denunciation of inferior philosophies and practices that are cheating your market of opportunities and value. According to Lee, the Chinese community issued an ultimatum to him to stop teaching non-Chinese people. When he refused to comply, he was challenged to a combat match with Wong, another expert. The arrangement was that if Lee lost, he would have to shut down his school, while if he won, he would be free to teach non-Chinese people.
7. Special phraseology Your iconic phrases and terminology that make you unique; e.g., for AMI, these include Monkey’s Fist, Dirty 30, Circle of Love “Be like water.” – Jeet Kune Do. 

“The style of no style.” – Bruce Lee

8. Communication channel The communication channels that your project list grows accustomed to when receiving information from you; e.g., email, video, webinars, books For Lee, movies and books. 
9.  Relationships Who are you connected with that adds to your credibility? Do you have any clients worthy of mentioning in your story that shaped your philosophies? Yip Man, Wong Jack Man, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, George Lazenby
10.  Label The title that explains you; e.g., “The Caped Crusader” for Batman, “The King” for Elvis. You could be “Boston’s leading xxxxx” An architect could be “Wellington’s leading high performance and sustainable design specialist.” (hint, hint)
11.  Your superpower Is it your ability to listen? Your ability to create solutions to problems no one else can solve? Your ability to apply a certain style in any situation? The understanding of the psychology of design, for example of a retail store,  to create spaces that make people feel a certain way and that increase customers’ inclination to spend money? Lee was renowned for his physical fitness and vigor, achieved by using a dedicated fitness regimen to become as strong as possible. Lee maintained that mental and spiritual preparation are fundamental to the success of physical training in martial arts skills.
12.  Your flaw All interesting characters have a flaw. In movies, the heroes’ flaws make them interesting and real, people we can relate to. Obviously, make your flaw interesting but not a show stopper. Bruce Lee had to leave Hong Kong after many street fights; the police threatened to put him in jail. A contract was put on Lee after he beat up a crime family’s son.


Next steps

Go through the 12-point checklist and force yourself to come up with your example of each category. Next, combine your character, your story and your solution in all communications to your lists from this day hence.

Remember … YOU are the reason they will sign your design contract over anyone else's. Get the project gallery off the front page of your website and start sharing your story. Jeet Kune Do would be nothing without Bruce Lee and his incredible backstory.

Grab parts 1 and 2 of this trilogy and, with part 3, read them again and again. Then TAKE ACTION. The world’s best content must be acted upon before you can extract an ounce of benefit. Until you take action, this advice is just ink dots on white paper. 

With your Star, Story and Solution, you have the powerful building blocks to communicate why your value is greater than any other architect’s even when you are more expensive. Turn these ink dots into money and a better life.

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