In rough times it’s easy to be lured by that seductive word…FREE.  We are captivated by it, mesmerized by it…

Fooled by it.

Every day we’re offered something for free yet somehow it always ends up costing us more in the end.  It’s amazing that we’ve all been through this either in our personal lives or in business and yet we STILL fall for it.  It’s almost like every time that Publishers Clearing House letter comes, we still leave some room that we did actually win millions of dollars for doing nothing!

We, Onboard Informatics, have been very proactive lately in reaching out to our clients.  I want them to know that we realize that times are tough and that we are here to help and support during these times. We’ve even helped some of our clients consolidate projects and services, save money and create opportunity for both us and them.

Some of our best clients who are nervous about the market conditions and what’s to come, are looking to cut cost anywhere they can.  They have started to point out to us that some of the data sets we offer are out there for free.  Ah….. FREE, what a lovely word.

Let’s play a game of what if’s shall we?  What if Mercedes started putting used parts in their cars because it saved money? What if they replaced the wood panels with plastic and the leather seats with vinyl?  What if they cut out their exception service?  What if they did this for a year, and when the economy turned around, they went back to being the best at what they did?  Would we look at them the same?

We recently had an interesting run with some of our clients that had the unfortunate opportunity to experience the price of free data.  They thought they could cut some cost, which is great. Right?

Well, I guess it’s great to say you got something for free but what’s the opportunity cost here?  What are you losing when you gain ‘free’? What are you losing when you trust a source that that gets its information from free sources that don’t regularly update or QA their data?  What are you losing when you compromise quality to cut cost?

If you’re a broker you’re suppose to be an expert, you’re suppose to have the inside scoop and if your sources of information are as lousy as public information, you lose credibility, clients and eventually your business.  Like so many of our clients that are in the media industry that are considered to be credible sources, starting to post false numbers means your readers won’t be yours for long.

In less than a year these clients were back with us along with a number of their affiliates that are now new clients.  So, why did they com back? They were getting free data.

They realized that ‘FREE’ meant more money in their pockets that day but in the long run the price of timely quality information and service was far less than the price of ‘FREE’.

Do NOT to be short sighted and risk credibility or losing users in the wake of these economic circumstances.  You got here by controlling your own destiny, by setting high standards. Don’t change to save money, please.

About The Author

Marc saw a need for a company that transformed traditional local information on home sales, communities, schools, and neighborhoods into powerful online tools. He brings 20+ years of innovation and thought leadership to the culture of Onboard.

9 Responses

    Andrea Edwards

    Does the small business owner/webmaster have a shot in the real estate market of today? I would love to use your services but the fact that your prices are not even listed on the site leads me to believe that they are out of my price range altogether. So what could someone just getting started to acquire some of this top notch data and information for our website?

  2. Jackie Berg, Marketing Specialist

    Andrea, There is a definite place for this information outside of enterprise-level sites. For us it’s all about the delivery mechanism and type of data you’re receiving. I’ll have someone get in touch with you to discuss this further.

    Jennifer Dullere

    First let me say, I read this blog, outdated I see it is from as far back as 2009. Second it is need of proof reading and correcting. Third it leaves me wondering what you are really saying, are you chastizing us for looking at how best to run our businesses? It sounds like you are not seeing your own problem. If you lost clients, did you look at your business model and stand on the street corner yelling “Hey we’re better than them and we will prove it because We value our offerings so highly you can’t afford them. To prove it we won’t even tell you the costs.” Perhaps I am missing the point of this message – or you could Update it and present it better. Don’t tell me why you are better than someone else – show me.

    Steve Wiley

    I agree that poor quality is not a good option, even if it is free – regardless if it is service, product, or information.

    As one blogger stated, Onboard Informatics does not post their prices. I inquired, and yes, it’s prices are well beyond the small business owner / broker.

    While their vast array of info is a value-add to websites, I wonder if buyer prospects really care?

    Most seem to only be looking for homes for sale, and by-passing other value-add offers and info anyway.

    Is that the same experience other brokers are seeing?

  5. Jackie Berg, Marketing Director

    Thanks Jennifer and Steve for your feedback. Happy Thursday to you both. Since this post was written I can tell you we’ve examined our offering and realized that more than the top RE companies and publishers with big teams have a need for this content. What we do at Onboard is vast, but we’ve scaled the highest need content sets in a way that works best for the needs of small to mid-size brokerages. In fact we just developed an offer specific to RISMedia readers if you’d like to check it out:

    As for your specific comments…

    @Jennifer- As I mentioned in the RISMedia article which drove you here, it’s been 5 years since Marc wrote about this but the principles haven’t changed. If anything, it’s gotten more important with the emergence of big data and the commoditization of it to scrutinize the validity and sources of free-flowing information. The decisions people make with this data are just too large not to. We are going through that refinement process here as we speak, as any information provider should. Anyway, I think Marc’s point was that anyone is welcome to create efficiencies within their organization depending on what your priorities are – but don’t do it without considering what your opportunity costs are. If I were in that client’s shoes, I probably would’ve opted for a free solution as well…until I realized I added a widget that sent people off my website (if I used an application) or had to sift through thousands of data feeds (if I was building it out myself). Sure there are providers that will offer lower pricing alternatives without adequate support, if consumer experience is not a priority. I’m not sure what you are referring to regarding not communicating pricing; we don’t have a pricing page because we prefer to listen to our clients’ goals rather than giving a product-specific diagnosis which may not even be the right solution for their needs. (Similarly, I’d hope my doctor wouldn’t throw me a band-aid before giving me the chance to tell him I have the flu.) We wouldn’t be working with the top companies in real estate without that approach and that’s why our mission has always been to help brands that are devoted to getting the right information into their clients’ hands.

    @Steve – Thank you for facilitating a great conversation on the value of this information. I invite others to participate. From my POV, I don’t think the Trulias and Zillows of the world would be winning the search engine game and/or making their livelihood with local trends/school reviews/market reports if they thought this type of info was just a value add. Just my perspective- I welcome yours and others.


    Hi Jackie,

    A $1 trial of Neighborhood Navigator for 45 days, a $750 value isn’t much help for a small broker or team. That still seems to be $500 a month. How about a $100/mo. option? Maybe based on volume so as we grow you can charge more.



  7. Jackie Berg, Marketing Director

    @Dave- Thanks for your comment. I understand that in many cases, the price of Navigator (or exceeds) the cost of some websites. Our team prices our products the way it does because we’re not just passing data through to you; each client receives a level of service and consulting other providers often charge extra for. Definitely get in touch via our website if you want to mention this specifically to see what parameters the Sales team can work with based on your growth…and thanks for stopping by!


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