Revenue Architects Marketing and Sales Blog

RIAs: What Your Ideal Client Wants | Fiduciary Financial Advisor

A prospective client may assume that a financial advisor, when giving advice, is acting in their best interest.

Fiduciary Standard for Financial Advisors

Indeed this prospective client may have heard the word FIDUCIARY Financial Advisor bandied about by talking heads and journalists in the financial media and that is now a Rule of Law.  For an independent fee-only Financial Advisor (RIA), being a fiduciary will matter a great deal to your ideal client and can be a key if not prerequisite selling point. But they may not grasp the full meaning and intent.

Positioned right, being a fiduciary can be a major point of differentiation from broker/dealers claiming to be financial advisors, but who are associated with vertically integrated brokerage firms that sell products with ‘hidden fees’.

One advisor quoted in the article in a recent New York Times article said  “The fiduciary rule ultimately comes down to the fact that some people are making a lot of money at the expense of other people who have no idea how much their adviser is getting paid.”  A video from a large independent advisor, compares butchers and nutritionists.  Butchers push meat. Nutritionists advise you what to eat, because they have the best interests of the client at heart.  The latter is the fiduciary.  A Revenue Architects client says, “the professional fiduciary is expected to perform and advise you based on your best interests, even if it comes into conflict with the advisor’s own interests.”

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The secret information inside UPC barcodes

Some people believe all Universal Product Codes (UPCs) contain the number 666, representing the number of the beast or the anti-Christ.

Snopes cites the relevant Bible verse: “No one could buy or sell unless he had this mark, that is, the beast’s name or the number that stands for his name” (Revelation 13:17-18).

In a story on UPCs and this theory, The New Republic quotes from Revelation, which discusses the End Times:

“He forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark in his right hand or in his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.” What is that number? “Let he that has wisdom count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.”

As interesting as this sounds, it stems from a misinterpretation of the bars that appear on UPCs. They were interpreted to read as 666. But in reality they are just separating marks or guide bars, which look like the bars that represent sixes but are slightly different and have no numeric meaning.

Scanners read the width of the bars and the gaps between the bars in a UPC to convert them into a number that represents the product.

I’ll describe the UPC-A version of the barcode, which is used in the United States for most retail products. Other types of barcodes exist for some product categories, like books, and in countries outside the United States.

Number system digit: This number determines the product’s category.

  • 0, 1, 6, 7, 8: Most products
  • 2: Products sold by variable weight, such as produce and meat; determined by individual retailers or warehouses
  • 3: Pharmaceuticals sold by National Drug Code (NDC) number
  • 4: For retailer use; indicates loyalty cards or store coupons
  • 5: Coupons
  • 9: Reserved

Manufacturer code: This set of five numbers is assigned to a manufacturer by GS1, a nonprofit that governs the assignment of U.S. UPCs.

Product code: The manufacturer determines this set of five numbers; it can be any code the manufacturer desires.

Check digit: This number is determined by a formula. The scanner calculates this formula on its own and then checks against the numbers it scanned to determine whether it scanned the correct digits. If there was an error—say, due to a smudge on the package—the check digit won’t match, and the product will scan with an error.

Note that the information conveyed only identifies the manufacturer and the product.  No pricing or other information is provided. At a retail location, the register will look up the product information and cross-reference it to find the right price or any other information. There are no series of sixes or any other information included in a UPC that can somehow personally identify a shopper. Furthermore, these codes have not been affixed to people, as some have feared.

Some other notes and resources:

1. Using UPCs in syndicated data like Nielsen and IRI: I usually look for the 10 digits represented by the manufacturer code plus the product code. Most U.S. products that I’ve worked with start with a zero as the number system digit, and those leading zeroes are omitted by Nielsen and IRI. There have been a few instances where I have worked with products that contain a non-zero number system digit, and one must be careful to include those digits when searching.

2. If you need to obtain UPCs for your products, talk with GS1. There are some UPC resellers who can sell single UPCs, but that will make it hard to do business with anyone but the smallest of retailers.

3. Wikihow has a good tutorial on UPCs, and Keyence can help you decipher the bars in case you don’t trust the numbers printed below them.

Under the Microscope: Go-to-Market Strategy and Plan

This blog post is part of a series providing an in-depth exploration of each dimension of the 12 Dimensions of Revenue Architecture

Go-to-Market strategy is the foundation of a company’s revenue producing structure. To generate revenue, it is necessary to have defined channels to interact with customers.

To achieve this, a company needs an effective Go to Market strategy that makes the company easy to buy from and easy to sell for. A go-to-market strategy and plan is a blueprint for how the company will reach customers.

In a world where customers are becoming increasingly inundated with competitive options, it is more important than ever to effectively engage over the right channels. Your Go-to-market strategy allows you to reach customers at their various touch-points and optimize your service processes; customers can more easily interact with your company and, in turn, you can be more responsive and personalized in your customer responses.

Go-to-market is particularly crucial for services businesses that require heavy customer interaction.  Go-to-market strategy streamlines and establishes a strong focus on the steps that a company must take to co-create value with customers.

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Instacart’s secret markups accidentally disclosed

A curious post about Instacart appeared recently on Reddit’s Boston subreddit that deserves some attention in grocery retail.

Instacart delivers groceries and other products from a range of retailers. Here in Boston, they deliver from Whole Foods, Costco, CVS, Star Market/Shaw’s, Market Basket, Russo’s, and Petco, plus some liquor and specialty stores inside the more urban parts of the area. My family and I are regular users. (You can try the service yourself with my referral link, which will get you and me both $10.)

Originally, the service didn’t disclose whether the prices were the same as in-store or different, and that changed in 2015 with clearer disclosures.

Some retailers are official partners and the prices online match what’s available in-store. But many retailers available on the platform aren’t official partners, and it’s no secret that Instacart’s prices are “15%+ higher than in-store,” as disclosed when shopping. The plus symbol leaves a lot of latitude, leaving the extent of the mark ups opaque for consumers.

That brings us to the Reddit post, which made the mark up practices much clearer.

The message writer received an Instacart delivery where the order picker accidentally left the store receipt from Market Basket. The customer compared the price he paid versus the amount Instacart charged and posted the details. I took prices from the scanned receipts and made some charts to help understand how and where they were marking up prices.

It’s interesting to see how the markups vary by product, with some staples having low (and even negative) markups. Market Basket is rightfully known for having low prices, and I wonder if Instacart is using what it knows about prices in other stores to raise low in-store prices to be similar to what it sees across retailers or even across markets.

Overall, Instacart marked up prices by 43%. Add the delivery fee ($5.99 flat) and service fee (10% and optional), and it comes to a 64% markup on groceries that cost $86.35 at Market Basket. That’s $55.30 to cover Instacart’s cost of shopping and delivery.

(Note: The service fee is separate from a tip, a change that Instacart made in late 2016, to the confusion of customers and anger of their contractor shoppers. The service fee is optional but selected as a default, and a tip is also optional but set to zero by default. And when faced with defaults, most people leave them as-is.)

Sure, it would be straightforward to make this comparison by simply looking at prices in store, but those who are paying to have groceries delivered to them probably aren’t taking the time to visit a store to observe actual prices. So, is it a good business practice to have such an opaque markup practice? That’s up for discussion and will likely get some attention from regulators as Instacart and its competitors grow.

By comparison, here in Boston, Ahold Delhaize’s Peapod (referral link for $20 off) offers delivery for $7 to 10 depending on order size, a $60 order minimum, and disclosure that prices may differ from in-store at Stop & Shop or Giant. Local chain, Roche Bros., offers delivery for a $10 fee with the same prices as in-store, and no order minimum. Tipping is optional with both.  (Edit: Tipping is optional with Peapod, and Roche Bros. employees are not allowed to accept tips.)

Some more miscellaneous points:

1. The cost charged for russet potatoes looks like it might have been a mistake. Instacart charged $4.25/pound, which is a steep increase over the typical $1.00 or less per pound I pay, even at Whole Foods, and more than the $0.59/pound shown on Instacart’s Market Basket page. So if we count this as an outlier and make the markup for that item zero, Instacart still has an overall markup of 32% for the products in this order.

2. The tax is interesting. Market Basket charged $0.52 and Instacart charged $0.84. Instacart paid $0.52 to Market Basket and then collected an extra $0.32. I don’t know what the rules are, nor do I know how Instacart handles the surplus tax, but I know the details here have tripped up companies in the past.

3. A follow-up post indicates that Instacart’s CEO, Max Mullen, reached out and made adjustments to the order of $10.39, which I am guessing is mostly the high-priced potatoes.

4. Instacart just raised $400 million at a valuation of $3.4 billion.

Under the Microscope: Market Strategy

This blog post is part of a series providing an in-depth exploration of each dimension of the 12 Dimensions of Revenue Architecture.

A Market Strategy is a core element of a company’s revenue architecture and differentiated strategy. Revenue leaders need to define how to approach the Market Strategy based on attractiveness, competitive positioning and fit.

This post dissects Market Strategy and its components, and explores why it is essential to any business.

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5 Tips for Using HubSpot as a Partner Agency

5 tips for using hubspot

HubSpot is a premier marketing and sales software platforms for inbound marketing. For HubSpot Partner Agencies, one of the main benefits is that, instead of having various marketing and software systems in place and having to switch between them all, HubSpot allows your business to have a one-stop shop for all of your marketing and sales needs.

However, migrating your existing website and software capabilities over to HubSpot can be tedious at times – albeit rewarding in the end. Once you’ve integrated HubSpot into your technology systems, you have their vast array of features at your disposal.

To help with this process, here are 5 tips for using HubSpot that we recommend for anyone starting out in HubSpot.

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