Microsoft Bing: Behind the Scenes of the Decision Engine

Hello all from Austin, TX and the annual South By Southwest conference where Bing seems to have brought the Seattle weather with us.  Microsoft was here in full force this week on panels ranging from the future of the semantic web to geolocation services and today we’re wrapping up our participation with a discussion on how we launched Bing, our new Decision Engine.  The talk covered the gamut – think of it as a speed-reading class for how large companies sometimes need to go back to their roots when launching a new product.

In our talk we let the crowd in on a few things we’ve learned during the course of our launch.  At the core we talked about how in order to get people to try Bing we have to move from traditional marketing tactics to a model that enables us to have a dialog with our customers.  Since people were already fairly happy with their search experience telling them that we had this new, cool search engine wasn’t going to get folks to come and give us a try.

In our case the Bing launch meant we needed to rearchitect our communications strategy to break through in a crowded media landscape.  It meant we needed to think like a startup and win customers one at a time, wherever they are.  It meant appealing to both peoples’ heads and hearts and not leading with feature lists and bulleted value props.

Some interesting things you missed if you were otherwise predisposed in Austin…

  • An emotional connection to the brand drives more product usage.  This means telling stories rather than telling people about particular features.  Bing needed to let the personalities behind the product and the personalities of those in our community shine through.  We needed to showcase the passion of the people behind the scenes who believe search still has a long way to go before it can sleep.
  • Social media is non-deterministic.  In other words, you need to try and measure dozens of messages, channels, and touchpoints because you will never be sure of which of your messages will catch fire and spread.
  • When you screw up, say so. In today’s networked world mistakes spread like wildfire but that means corrections can spread just as quickly.  We’ve had our share of missteps during the Bing launch, but handling them quickly and transparently.
  • People who come to Bing through Social Networks are more likely to engage with the product.  Four times more engaged than those who come through other means. 

At the end, we felt a quote from Chris Brogan helped sum up the efforts: “The difference between an audience and a community is which direction the chairs are pointing”.   He’s referring to the fact that an audience is often spoken to whereas a community is often speaking to each other.  We’re grateful for the success we’ve had to date with Bing and we recognize that it is partially because of our community of passionate users who are never afraid to tell us when we’re doing well and when we can use some improvement.  

Thanks and so long from Austin!

Posted by Stefan Weitz
Director, Bing