Have you ever attended a class or seminar that taught you everything you wanted to know about a business concept except how to apply it in real life? By the end, your head is swimming with theories. You know why you should do it. You just have no idea HOW to do it.

CMI HomeWell, if content marketing is high on your priority list to implement in your business, there’s good news. Joe Pulizzi, author of Get Content, Get Customers, and his team at the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) have purposely built their site around practical, how-to information and advice.

In their own words: “We launched the Content Marketing Institute in May 2010 as a meeting ground for the brightest minds to give you real-world how-to advice about content marketing in any venue: online, mobile, in-person and in print. No fluff, just practical insights.”

The Content Marketing Institute blog is at the top of my reading list so when Michele Linn, CMI’s Executive Editor and co-founder of Savvy B2B Marketing, asked me to become a CMI contributor, I was thrilled to say the least. What an honor to write alongside the brilliant contributors CMI has gathered. And how exciting to interact with and learn from the global professionals visiting CMI daily.

If you haven’t already discovered this gem, take a few minutes today to browse through the Content Marketing Institute blog. You won’t be disappointed.

Now, before you go, tell me:  
What are your top 3 “how-to” questions about using content marketing in your business? 

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European marketers and business owners: are you interested in B2B (business-to-business) opportunities in the United States? I'm guessing that places like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago spring to mind, right? Of course, these are huge metropolitan areas filled with every kind of business you can imagine. Yet, allow me to direct your attention to the southwest for a moment. Texas, to be more precise. What springs to mind now? Cowboys, longhorn cattle, and rodeos? Oh, but there's so much more.

This year's ranking by CNBC crowns Texas as the top state in the USA for business in 2010, citing Texas' strong economy as an important factor. In fact, the study describes the Texas economy as "the 15th largest in the world, according to government figures; larger, for example, than all the Scandinavian nations combined."

Now, Texas is my home state and I'm certainly "Texas Proud" about a lot of things the Lone Star State has to offer. But when it comes to business opportunities, I'm not unduly biased. The evidence is clear.

Here are just a few of the characteristics that make Texas a top place to consider for B2B marketing and other business opportunities in the USA:

Business:
Since 2008, Texas has been home to the most Fortune 500 company headquarters in the United States. (Tied this year with California — each has 57.)

Location:
Texas is centrally located, making communication and travel across the USA's four time zones very convenient. Texas is home to two of the world's busiest international airports: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), with DFW ranking 3rd in the world for operations.

Cost of Living:
Business and living costs in Texas are relatively low. For example, you can buy a 4,000+ ft² (370+ m²) home in a Dallas suburb for less than $400,000 (300,000 Euro), while a comparable home near Los Angeles, California could cost millions of dollars.

Technology & Innovation:
Texas has a strong presence in technology research and education. My own alma mater, Baylor University, ranked among Tech's 29 Most Powerful Colleges this year along with the University of Texas. Also, Austin (the state capital) hosts the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences and Festivals in March, which include a world-renowned Interactive Festival highlighting emerging media and creative technology.

Population/Workforce & Land:
Texas is 268,820 mi² (696,241 km²) — larger than any country in Western Europe. As of 2009, the state has an estimated population of 24.7 million — 2nd largest in the USA. Yet, in population density, Texas ranks 26th. (I.e., It's a big state with lots of room.)

Amenities:
Texas has a lot to offer — from friendly people and fantastic food to outdoor adventures and a sparkling social scene. You'll find sandy beaches in the south, pine forests in the east, prairies and rolling hills in the middle, and deserts, mountains, and canyons in the west. And, of course, big cities like Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio offer everything you could want in dining, entertainment, arts, culture, music, education, high tech facilities, and more.

More Fun Texas Facts

► Interested in learning about effective B2B marketing, communication, content marketing, corporate communication, and copywriting for Texas and the rest of the USA? Please leave a comment or contact me with specific questions and/or topics.


Related Posts:

How to Avoid the Stereotype Trap in International Marketing & Communication

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It was HOT in Sweden this week. And being from Texas, I don't use that word lightly. Now, before all my friends in Texas start hollerin' at me for complaining about Nordic temperatures: yes, of course, I realize it's not as hot here as it is in Texas. However, there's a big difference in how we experience warmer temperatures in Sweden.

After our bodies have acclimated to 8+ months of cold weather, it's a shock when the temperature suddenly rises. And here's the catch: we can't escape the heat. There is no indoor air conditioning here. There hasn't been much of a breeze, either. The sun is up until midnight, and our upstairs bedrooms act like little greenhouses — storing all the heat they can. And the office? Yikes! The computer monitors add to the heat, making concentration nearly impossible.

At 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (26-32 C), I've been more miserable than I was on most triple-digit days (40+ C) in Texas. Is it any wonder most Scandinavians take long summer vacations and spend countless hours at the beach? Growing up in Houston, I thought my family in Scandinavia didn't know what "real heat" was. How could they complain? Now, I understand.

Here's the point of my heat wave rant:

When marketing your products, services, or ideas, remember: your perspective is not their perspective — and their perspective is more important.

That seems basic, right? We know it's vital to connect with our audience, and we know many factors influence audience perspective: cultural norms, peer influences, available local resources, history, climate, languages and dialects, standard technology and equipment, etc.

Yet, it's still easy to fall into the trap of assuming some things are the same for everyone. Because of our own natural perceptions and life experiences, there are factors we wouldn't even think to consider. Things that seem innate, universal. After all, wouldn't many of us assume 80 degrees (26 C) feels the same for everyone?

The danger is if, when we become aware of differences, we ignore them or judge them.

People living in different parts of the world may experience and perceive your business, services, products, and website in some unexpected ways. Their problems, "pain points," likes and dislikes in these areas are real and serious. If their support is important to you, address their experiences properly.


P.S., To my family and friends in Scandinavia: thanks for not saying, "I told you so."

Happy summer! I'll be at the beach with my laptop if anyone needs me.

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cookies3_istock_000012992760xsmallRecently, I was talking with a friend of mine from London about what we were planning for the upcoming weekend. I mentioned we were hoping to have a big family breakfast with scrambled eggs and homemade biscuits.

That’s when she looked at me with a strange expression on her face.  “Biscuits?” she asked. “For breakfast?” 

You see, in the UK and most of Europe, the English word biscuit refers to what Americans would call a cookie or cracker, which is usually sweet, hard or crispy, and often has a cream filling, icing/frosting, chocolate chips, etc. 

biscuits1_istock_000013341813xsmallIn the USA, biscuits are small, round leavened breads – slightly crispy and golden brown on the outside, fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth soft on the inside.  They’re not sweetened and are typically a breakfast food, often eaten with scrambled or fried eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, cheese, or butter and jam/jelly.  In the south, buttermilk biscuits and white “country” gravy are popular. Is it the healthiest breakfast? Not at all. But oh, so yummy.

Why am I writing about biscuits? Simply to remind you that regional differences in word-choice and phrasing can have a dramatic impact on your business success internationally.

My friend was disgusted when I mentioned having biscuits and eggs for breakfast. We were both speaking English, but our minds had conjured very different images and emotions from just that one word. It was startling, confusing, disconnecting, and it threw off the whole conversation.

We laughed about it, of course. And it was educational. But when you’re writing to customers or business partners online, in brochures, or via email, you don’t get to know immediately if they’ve misunderstood something. You won’t know if they’re thinking or feeling something completely different from what you’d hoped.

In your international marketing and communication, you want to connect clearly, easily, and naturally.

Before you mail your next sales letter, print a new brochure, or click send on your latest email blast, give it a “biscuit test.”  If anything is unclear (based on feedback from native regional English experts), consider creating separate communications for each target region.  It may take some extra effort, but the returns will be worth it.

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As a business-to-business (B2B) professional in Europe, does the pervasive use of Twitter in North America mystify you? Do you think of it solely as the domain of bored American teenagers and Hollywood stars? I understand. I did, too, until I tried it — and now it's a vital component of my marketing strategy and business development.

After reading the smart discussion on Twitter's #B2Bchat last week about best practices for professional and corporate Twitter (transcript), I was inspired to share what I've learned from great minds like theirs as well as my own experiences.

I hope this will convince some of you who are wavering about Twitter to give it a try — and to do it with the right mindset.*

* It's difficult to write something about Twitter without using jargon. If you need definitions and instructions, read Mashable's excellent guide to Twitter.

1. Twitter is a Good Investment of Your Time. Really.
I know what many of you are thinking, because I thought it, too: "Isn't Twitter just a glorified Facebook status — a place to drone on uselessly about what music you're listening to and where you're meeting your friends for dinner? It's not useful for business, right?" Wrong. Surprisingly, it's been one of the best time investments I've made this year — yielding new contacts, an endless supply of industry news, and the opportunity to interact directly with leaders, influencers, and prospects. Of course, it all depends on the people you follow... and who's following you.

2. Don't Worry if You Don't Find Your Clients on Twitter. Focus on Industry Influencers & Thought-Leaders.
Since there aren't as many Twitter users in Europe as there are in the USA, it seems logical to say you won't try Twitter because you won't find your clients on Twitter. But there are other ways to reach your clients. Don't underestimate the power of influencing the influencers. Follow industry leaders, critics, journalists, researchers, and others who influence your clients, competitors, and the media. You can gain an incredible amount of knowledge from these people as well as position yourself as an industry leader by sharing your own knowledge. And being among the first in your region to adopt social media is a real advantage. You'll have an established presence and influence while others are playing catch-up.

3. Realize It's Social: Follow and Interact.
Twitter is social media. If it were only about broadcasting information, we would call it news media or advertising. Twitter offers people something different — something immensely valuable — a chance to instantly and personally interact with and influence people, brands, policy-makers, and more. Don't be afraid of negative comments. Everyone makes mistakes. How you respond can boost your reputation better than you'd imagine. Seek to be inclusive, not exclusive. Follow those who follow you (within reason). It's ok to ignore the spammers, get-rich-quick schemers, and those who only care about numbers. But for those who sincerely want to follow you, it's important to reciprocate.

4. Twitter Success is About Consistency of Value and Interaction.
Twitter is a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" kind of place. In the Twitterverse, information is here and gone almost instantly. You can't hang your laurels on one incredibly smart, poignant, and timely tweet. On Twitter, your reputation, influence, and reach are based on your averages. It's not who you are on your best day, but who you are everyday. It's your consistency of value and interaction that counts. Be prepared to offer a steady stream of useful, helpful, interesting information.

5. Don't Feel Pressured to Perform or Conform. Find Your Voice. Be Yourself.
The pressure of producing consistent value and interaction holds a lot of people back from trying Twitter — especially if it's just you running the business or the social media efforts. I understand. I felt the same way. However, I get great ideas from reading others' posts, and many threads evolve simply from interacting with people. For inspiration, follow other professionals in your industry to learn from what they're doing successfully and not so successfully. Then, try to create something that is uniquely you.

6. Have a Plan or You'll Get Sucked into a Twitter Time Warp.
We all know social media can be addictive. (How many hours I wasted when I first discovered Facebook flair, I'll never tell.) However, with a good plan in place, you can avoid a lot of the time drain, keep your focus, and get better results faster. Kent Huffman (CMO of BearCom Wireless) wrote a fantastic blog piece to help you plan an effective and efficient strategy for creating a B2B community on Twitter.

7. If You Want Global Reach, You Will Need to Use English — at Least Part of the Time.
Unless you have absolutely no business dealings outside your own country, you will need to use English for Twitter — at least part of the time. And even if you do only operate domestically, I'd still recommend using English. It will enable you to interact with others in your industry around the world. That's one of the advantages of Twitter: instant global interaction. Consider writing your Twitter bio in English and translating important tweets.

8. To Interact with an International Audience, Use Scheduled Tweets.
Obviously, you can't be on Twitter 24/7. That means the majority of your U.S. audience won't notice the tweet you sent at 9:00 am central Europe time. So, if you have an important message for people in a different time zone, use a Twitter scheduler to automatically send the tweet at a specific time. (Try free services like TweetDeck or HootSuite.) Just be careful not to spam. Sending the same or similar tweets repeatedly throughout the day is annoying and a good way to get dropped by your followers.

9. Give it at Least 3 Months of Concerted Effort before Forming an Opinion.
Twitter is not an overnight project. It takes time to gain a quality following, test the features, show up on influencers' radars, and build relationships. I've been at it 3 months and I've only scratched the surface. Give yourself at least one full quarter before doing an evaluation — and make sure you go "all in" during that time.

► If you're an experienced Twitterer, what other advice would you give someone who isn't convinced Twitter is good for business?

► If you're in B2B, what questions do you have about Twitter's usefulness for your business?

► If you're ready to create a Twitter profile, be sure to follow me @useglobalreach. I'd love to hear from you.

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