What I Learned at Inman NYC: Build a Bigger Moat


Joanna Lord spoke at Inman Connect last week. Lord has extensive experience in branding and marketing, specifically in the technology and start-up space, and is currently the VP of Marketing for Porch, a Seattle-based home improvement start-up. Her talk, “How to Build a High-Growth Company,” highlighted the power that comes from a strong, unified vision within an organization. In it, she touched on three points: differentiation in the marketplace, the importance of infrastructure, and the impact of serving your ecosystem. In the coming weeks I’ll explore each area and how it impacted my strategic thinking around the marketing and messaging of Onboard Informatics. I invite you to participate in the conversation through the comments section. The first area we’ll explore is market differentiation.

“Extend your Moat”

Identify what sets you apart from the competition, seize it, and run like the wind.

It’s important to understand the width of the “moat” and what really separates Onboard from our direct competitors. There’s our range of data that makes it possible for our clients to get all their local data from a single source, from schools to boundaries to listings from over 180 Multiple Listings Services, and more. There’s the breadth of our data which enables our clients to create millions of property-specific landing pages to optimize their rankings in search engines like Google. There’s our experience with over 14 years providing local data to the largest real estate and technology companies in the country, with a team on the forefront of policy changes and standards improvements.

But that’s not our moat.

Our moat – what creates distance between us and our competitors – is the intent behind everything we do. And our intent – what’s driven this company for nearly 15 years – isn’t selling data. The data is just the means to our true objective, which is helping our clients attain the vision they have for their business. To understand what they need today and what they’ll need tomorrow. And to establish the kind of partnerships that aren’t about the “close” of a sale, but about the relationships we cultivate and the results we produce. Yes, data is a part of it, and our data is the best – but the true moat we’ve built at Onboard goes way beyond datasets.

That’s why out of our nearly 150 clients, 96% stay with us year over year. And why the top 10% of our clients have been with us an average of 8.8 years. The data we sell is the start of our relationship together, it’s not the end.

And that moat helps shape our position in the marketplace and the strategic direction for our company. We’re aggressively developing technology that will allow our clients easier access to develop the online experiences that will set them apart. Consumers continue to grow more sophisticated, and we need to make the process of aggregating, accessing, and implementing local data simpler than it’s ever been to keep up with consumer expectations.

As the Director of Marketing for Onboard Informatics, I don’t know a lot about the process of aggregating and implementing local data. But I know I love coming into work every day, and I know this place is special. And I know the reason isn’t because of the datasets we aggregate or even the technology we develop – it’s the visions our collective efforts bring to life for our clients.

And that is quite a moat.