Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Search Insider: Crossing Google's Chasm: Three Bing Blunders

Crossing Google's Chasm: Three Bing Blunders

Preeee-SEN-tiiiing... Bing! Guaranteed to leap tall queries in a single bound, anticipate your every search need, and fulfill your every online desire.


(I'm giggling as I remember Marge Simpson saying, "And all this time I thought Googling yourself meant the other thing!")

Microsoft is hoping, of course, that Bing will wipe out Google's dominance in one fell swoop. That, next month, their $80 million ad campaign will cause their 8% market share to morph into 80%. That they'll finally be able to put that pesky Google decade behind them.

They won't, of course. They won't because they seem to be forgetting some key fundamentals of the space in which they operate.

Fundamental #1: The bulk of Google users feel no pain.

How many times do we have to hear this before it sinks in? Your product or service has to make your customer's pain go away. But wait! I hear you cry. What pain did Facebook soothe? What pain did Twitter soothe? Yes, in those cases, we didn't realize that we were in pain to begin with. But once an industry is established -- as search is -- it should be pretty well apparent where the pain is. And let's face it: the vast majority of Google users, the ones who aren't reading this column and who think A/B refers to the beginning of the alphabet, those people are not in pain when it comes to search. They're certainly not in any kind of pain that Bing will fix.

Fundamental #2: Eat your elephant one bite at a time.

Microsoft is massive, but when it comes to search, they're just tiny Davids next to Goliath Google. So what makes them think that, after so many failed tries, that an all-or-nothing, mass-market-blitz approach is the way to go?

In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore makes a compelling case for the beachhead strategy. When you're up against a formidable enemy, he argues, you need to tackle the smallest vertical you can find, as long as it has the potential to lead to your bigger target. Wolfram Alpha is doing this well right now, with their "smartest-people-in-the-room'" and "we're-not-even-a-search-engine'" positioning. Bing is not.

Fundamental #3: The market that matters doesn't care about features.

I love all these reviews where people run searches side-by-side on Bing and Google to determine which is "better." And, to be fair to the folks in Redmond, lots of verdicts have come down on the side of the new guy. But back to Crossing the Chasm: you and I are not the market that matters.

The market that matters is our grandmothers and our mothers and our friends who've known us for twenty years and still don't understand what we do for a living.

At most, the market that matters changes one online habit per year. When you were first telling them about Google, they were saying, "I've finally started emailing -- don't confuse me!" When it comes to switching search engines, you've got one shot, and that one shot is the aggregation of thousands of reminders, building up over time into an inexorable force that even they cannot resist.

This market does not want to experiment, no matter how good the commercial. This market wants to know that once they put the effort into learning a new habit, they can sit back and rest for a few years. You must be exhausted from learning that newfangled search engine, dear. Have a cup of tea and a lie-down.

Back to behavioral basics, Bing. I admire how smart your new search engine is --- but I don't think it's going to help you cross the Google chasm.

Kaila Colbin blogs for The Web Genome Project, a movement to create a virtual topography of the World Wide Web.

Search Insider for Tuesday, June 9, 2009:

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