Becoming The ‘Jeet Kune Do’ of Design (Part 1)

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What you learn in this 3-part trilogy of Big Idea letters will be the most powerful information you have ever received. If you implement what you learn, you will become more in demand and have a long line of clients waiting to pay you a premium to secure your services.

That’s because your ability to command the highest fees is simply a matter of supply and demand. Demand for your services needs to be higher than the supply.

Your challenge is simple … how can you create extreme demand while reducing supply when there are so many architects ready and willing to drop their fees to win a project?

Simple.

Simple but not easy, unless you follow my instruction!

One of my marketing mentors, Gary Halbert, said that to create huge demand all you need is “a star, a story and a solution.” Today we are going to drill down on how to create a solution. In the next two Big Idea Letters, we will complete the training.

Let's start with the solution …

“The style of no style”

Bruce Lee claimed that traditional martial arts techniques were too rigid to be effective in street fighting. Lee decided to develop a new approach with an emphasis on “practicality, flexibility, speed and efficiency.” By getting rid of the formalized approach of traditional styles, Lee created a philosophy and martial art that he called “Jeet Kune Do” or “Way of the Intercepting Fist.” Rather than try to improve existing styles of martial arts, Bruce Lee created his own category.

The Power Of Creating Your Own Category

What you don’t want is to be seen as “just another architect” (where you are selling a commodity service and supply is plentiful).

I shop at the fruit markets on the weekend. There are stalls and stalls of fruit and vegetable stands selling the same stuff. Lots of everything. If I want a banana, I can walk past five stalls in 20 seconds and compare prices. If the bananas all look the same, most people will buy the cheapest.

Who wouldn’t?

This is why you want to remove yourself from any selling environment where you appear lined up alongside other architects. Houzz is a great example of a fruit market for architects. Much as we love Houzz, architects complain that the leads from Houzz are all price shoppers. 

Why the surprise? 

In this fruit market environment, you are nothing more than a banana. Houzz is like a beauty pageant where contestants are lined up in equal uniform fashion against the wall. When I am selling something, I NEVER want to be comparable to 20 others selling a similar service. I want to be “special,” “one of a kind,” the scarce resource that everyone wants, because only then do I have any power. 

That’s why I am a specialist marketer for architects. That is how I like it. The odds are stacked in my favor because I am an expert in a category with little or no options. An architect would struggle to form a short list of credible marketing candidates to negotiate with.

Back to my fruit and vegetable market, the only way to charge a premium price for a banana is to create a new category of banana that is in some way superior. Maybe the banana is grown in a way that provides certain nutritional content not available in other bananas, or grown in such a way that it removes some undesirable factors, like maybe it doesn’t bruise or go brown as fast. 

The difference needs to be specific, valuable and unique to a specific group of people.

Who else creates new categories?

“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” is the catch cry of the loser. 

The winner takes a different approach …

“If you can’t beat them, create a new one and plant yourself on the throne.”

Religions are the classic example.

I sat beside a church leader on a plane from San Diego to L.A. who told me that Martin Luther was a German monk who disagreed with the Catholic church that sins could be forgiven by donating money to the church leaders. Luther wrote his suggested changes to make right what he felt the Catholic church was wrong. 

The downside was that the Pope excommunicated Martin Luther. The upside was he now had his own shiny new religion and a horde of loyal followers. By creating a new category of Christianity, Luther became the top dog for all those who bought into his version of the truth.

You become #1 in a category of one.

Today I saw an ad on Facebook for a personal trainer claiming to be a “stubborn fat removal expert” for those over 35. 

Who over 35 doesn’t think their fat is stubborn? “That’s my problem … it’s not that I eat too much, I just have stubborn fat.”

His category is specific, valuable and unique to a specific group of people. If you identify with his Big Idea of stubborn fat being the problem, then he instantly becomes the #1 option.

Smart architects throughout history have created their own design categories and instantly become #1 in that newly formed category. Passivhaus was a new category of design standards created in May 1988 by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist. 

Sustainable and Universal Design are also design categories potential clients know of and might seek experts in for their project, but there are many “players” claiming to be specialists in those fields. 

The process of creating a new category of design is nothing new. 

If a client buys into the Passivhaus principles, then you are limited in your architect options to those who specialize within that category. The supply has been substantially reduced.

Lisa Bixler used the term “Invisible Design” to create a new category when existing terms like “aging in place” carried too many negative connotations related to aging. Her Big Idea behind Invisible Design is that people want style AND comfortable living; they do not want a renovation that makes their house look like a hospital. As with Cole Haan shoes, you should not have to choose between function and aesthetics. 

If you buy into Lisa’s Invisible Design philosophy, then your options are now reduced to one architect.

Eric Lam developed the new category called “Mindfulness Design” because he feels existing approaches fall short of  “well-being.” By integrating Eastern metaphysics and biophilic philosophy into his process, he brings happiness, harmony and serenity back into homes. The only place where East meets West with such harmonious balance in the form of Mindfulness Design is with Eric.

If you buy into Eric’s philosophies, then your options are reduced to one architect.

Michele Dempsey created a new category with “Strategic Branded Experiences,” to take branding another level deeper by incorporating the consumer or user experience into the design as well. “A promise wrapped in an experience” is on offer and the only place to get Strategic Branded Experiences from an architect is with Michele and her team.

If you buy into Michele’s philosophy, then your options are reduced to one specialist firm.

Julia Miner created a philosophy called “Poetry of Place,” Mona Quinn created “Character Home Renovations,” so if you want the one who wrote the book on it, then you can now connect with the expert.

Can we create a new category, with no competition, that is specific, valuable and unique to a specific group of people?

Of course. After all, it’s your job to create new spaces, so let’s design a new category of design!

Summary

The holy grail as an architect is to be providing services which are high in demand but low in supply. This doesn’t happen by accident; we need to create extreme demand while eliminating all other options.

To do this we need a star, a story and a solution

The solution comes by finding a problem no one else is addressing properly and creating a new category of design which is better equipped to solve the problem. Weight loss has always existed as a general category but “stubborn fat removal” is a new category of solution. 

Rather than try to improve existing categories of martial arts, Bruce Lee created his own.

You can become the Bruce Lee of your design category. If people identify with your new category, then your prospective clients will instantly see you as the #1 option … because you are the only specialist in that category.

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