The great diamond “invention”—that diamonds are rare and valuable —is a story crafted and polished for the past 85 years.
For centuries, diamonds were found only in a few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds per year.
That was until 1870, when huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa. So prolific was the find that diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton.
Suddenly, diamonds were no longer hard to find and the British financiers who had organized the South African mines quickly realized that their investment was at risk. Diamonds had little or no intrinsic value—and their price depended almost entirely on their scarcity.
The major investors decided to merge their interests into a single entity that would be powerful enough to control production and maintain the illusion of scarcity of diamonds. The organization they created, in 1888, was De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. By limiting supply, De Beers created scarcity again.
An architect cannot form a cartel, but you can eliminate supply in the mind of your market.
Here is what to do …
Imagine a lot of architects on one side of a dance hall and a smattering of clients on the other side. As clients stroll across the room looking for a dance partner, there are fewer and fewer prospects remaining and we are left with the unselected architects.
The leftover gooseberries come to the desperate conclusion that rather than be left out of the next dance, they had better reduce their fees to appear more attractive next time.
My first architect client was almost brainwashed into feeling like a commodity because she did not understand how to control supply and demand.
“Unless I maintain low fees other architects will undercut me and I will miss out,” she said.
Belief: Too many architects and not enough projects.
The problem here is a classic oversupply. Remember the diamonds?
We needed to fix this problem like De Beers did; we need to create scarcity. Mona needed greater demand for her services than she could supply, at fees she was more than happy to accept.
How can this situation be created when so many architects are begging to give away their services?
The REAL Problem
As soon as you label yourself as “architect,” you are jumping into an ocean of architects who struggle to differentiate themselves. There are 80,000 architects in the U.S. at the moment and many of them will work for lower fees than yours. Just because your tax return says “architect” doesn’t mean you should pigeonhole yourself that way.
How To Reduce The Supply Of Architects
I am never going to be the world’s best golfer – too many people competing for that title. An easier way to become #1 is to invent a new sport no one else is playing. A friend of mine is the world Racketlon champion in the over-45 category. Now, I had never heard of the sport but it exists and he is #1 in his category. That is impressive.
Call yourself an “architect” and you will be drowning in an ocean of “architects,” many of whom are very hungry (and cheap).
What if you were to you create a new category that sounds better than “architect” and has no others in it? Then you’ll instantly become #1 like my Racketlon champ friend. We know attention is hypnotically attached to anything that is ranked #1. Think Neil Armstrong, Barack Obama, Edmund Hillary, Roger Bannister – all owned #1 labels.
That first architect client was reluctant to increase her fees, which I thought were low. “If I increase my fees people will hire another architect who is cheaper,” she countered. She was right, if she were going to label herself as just another “architect.”
We needed power, she needed to be “special.”
After a lot of questions trying to find a niche, I created a title and a category for Mona as “New Zealand’s leading character home architect.” She was told to quote this statement on every piece of communication she sent out.
Mona HATED the label because of what other architects might say.
READ THIS CAREFULLY: I had to remind Mona (and you) that her clients were not architects (pay no attention to them) but rather, less sophisticated folk like me who would not question a title. Instead, we say ‘Gee, Bob, we want to renovate our character home, this architect is the leading expert, let’s call her.’
This is IMPORTANT … No other architect claims to play exclusively in the character home category, but there are a LOT of character villa homes in New Zealand.
Low supply of perceived specialists, high demand for renovating of classic homes: This is a good game to be playing. High-end clients gravitate toward specialists. When you are the only architect specializing in character homes, being crowned #1 is an easy coronation.
Step 1: Pick your narrow niche
Step 2: Claim your title
Step 3: Use it everywhere fearlessly.