318 MINISODE Mari Connor: Improv Your Success

Women Innovating Networking Growing Scaling – that’s WINGS … I’m Melinda Wittstock, my mission is to help women take flight to start grow and scale businesses that align with their passion and support abundance in all areas of our lives. So today on our mentoring minisode of Wings of Inspired Business … we talk about improv … and how taking an improv acting course is one of the best things an entrepreneur can do … to step into confidence and release all fears – fears known and unknown. Plus how to be truly “in the moment” where our power is – because it’s not in the past or the future – it is right now.

Here with us today to provide her insights and inspiration is Mari Connor.

Mari built a fast-growing business around cracking the code of advertising on Facebook – at that curious intersection between the creative and emotional right brain and the analytical geeky left. CEO of Marigold Marketing Group, Mari thinks helps online influencers with their information products and product launches by cracking the ever-changing code of Facebook.

Melinda Wittstock:         Welcome to WINGS, Mari.

Mari Connor:                     Thank you, Melinda. I'm super excited to be here.

Melinda Wittstock:         I am super excited to have you too, and I want to start with what's inspiring you right now.

Mari Connor:                     What's inspiring? I started taking improv classes in January, and that is what is both bringing me a ton of joy and I'm inspiring myself in the sense of watching myself grow through that process.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh my goodness, it's scary. Right? What made you decide to do improv and is it as scary as it looks?

Mari Connor:                     It was a crazy mix of … I love theater. I try to go to Broadway at least once a year, if not, twice a year just to spend a week in New York, buying some discounted tickets from the TKTS booth and that's like literally one of my favorite things to do in life. However, I had never been a part of like … I was never in theater in high school. I was never in a theater club. I'd never done any sort of acting. There's always been a little bit of curiosity just from a fan standpoint of the theater, and then separately, since I started my business in 2012, I've attended different events and different trainings and different courses, and it seems like on the recommendation to either go to … What's that speech group where they teach how to get up and do speeches?

Mari Connor:                     They'll usually, for communication, they'll recommend that you go become a waitress, which I have then, so I've got that one down. They'll recommend that you go and join … It's a well-known group where you're taught how to speak and it's not coming to me right now, or to try improv because with improv, you're given one word and you have to come up with anywhere between 25 minutes and like 55 minutes or an hour of fictional material based on one word given to you by the audience.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. Do you find that when you get out of your own way on that and just trust your intuition, it's much easier?

Mari Connor:                     Huge spiritual journey. Huge, huge lessons in being present. If your mind wonders for a second, you're out of it. You're completely disconnected from your troop and from your partners. Yeah. Allowing your imagination to come to life again, like you're allowed to imagine the absurd. You can be a rabbit running a spaceship or running a space station above earth and that is the scene. You just have to get into it and go with it, and it's such a departure from what I do all day long in online marketing.

Melinda Wittstock:         It strikes me that it's a wonderful way to learn how to listen, to be present, in the now, all those things that are absolutely vital for any entrepreneur to succeed.

Mari Connor:                     Absolutely. You feel quite a bit about improv. Yeah. All of those items, and then also the fundamental lesson in improv is the first lesson you're taught is “Yes, and.” When someone says something to you, saying, “Yes, and,” and just agreeing and finding a way to become a part of the scene. I think that's just like … In today's day and age and literally like at this moment right now sort of industry, we all have our own opinions in our way of doing things, in our own contrary views and it's really nice. It's actually like really nice to say, “Yes, and …” And you're just agreeing with your partner. Yeah. A ton of spiritual lessons, a ton of I've grown personally, professionally, spiritually. It's been amazing.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, that is wonderful. I feel like I should have signed up for an improv class.

Mari Connor:                     Highly recommended.

Melinda Wittstock:         All right. The next question where we go … Sorry. You know what? I'm just going to pick up there because my son was walking down the stairs, and I don't know if you could hear it but it was like, “Bang, bang, bang.” Anyway …

Mari Connor:                     I didn't hear him.

Melinda Wittstock:         Okay. Okay. Well, that's good. I'm just going to pick up there and just say it really sounds like everybody should do improv and I should probably go find it an improv group myself.

Mari Connor:                     You know what I'll tell you? This isn't being just self-deprecating. I'm just typically a very serious person. That's how I approach life, and I was brought up in a military family, which everything is very serious all the time. I am probably one of the stiffest people in my troop, but that doesn't stop me from going every single week and try to learn how to loosen up, be a part of the crowd, implement what we're taught, put myself out there, etc., etc. Literally, I'm not the best one there. There are some people that have some theatrical background that I'm actually playing with and stuff, but it's tough for me in a sense that it doesn't come naturally, but it's really great to push out of your comfort zone.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. Maybe this is a great way segue into the next question, which is what's challenging you right now? Any big things that are just … In business or in life or that you see other women in particular in business struggling with?

Mari Connor:                     Yeah. What came to mind when you first mentioned it is just being in the online marketing world, we not only have to cater to our clients and what their goals are and what their expectations are, but we have to do it within a box that's drawn out for us by the online marketing software, our online marketing platforms like Facebook, like Google and they have policies, so when the client is feeling a little controversial like, “Hey, let's have a lot of fun with this campaign,” we then have to go through the filter of, “Okay. Is this passable or allowable with Facebook?” Right now, Facebook is going through a little bit of an evolution with the whole Cambridge Analytica thing that happened, and they're tightening up their rules and were just seeing more ads, getting disapproved here or there that used to be totally fine, and we're well within the bounds. That's something that's challenging because I do focus mostly on Facebook advertising and when you're not given … Most of these platforms don't overtly say, “Here's what you were doing to mess up.” They'll say, “Go read the policies.”

Mari Connor:                     You're like, “Okay. We've gotten good at that.” Now, my team is like really well-versed and we're like, “All right. Let's just go ahead and redo them again. Okay.” We still think we're all right, and so we send an appeal in. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we don't know why, and that's where it's really, really important, I guess just like the improv is teaching me to be extremely flexible no matter what's thrown at you. I'm struggling right now with regulations and rules and things tightening up online, and being able to navigate those and keep the clients happy, keep the platforms happy, keep me and my team happy, all well that's going on.

Melinda Wittstock:         Gosh. That's a lot. It's frustrating even for a consumer trying to navigate all the new algorithms and changes. It's also frustrating for entrepreneurs who are dependent to some degree on the technology. I remember a couple of startups ago of mine, we're just about to launch this app, it was using the Twitter API, and literally a week before our launch, Twitter completely changed these terms of service.

Mari Connor:                     Oh, no.

Melinda Wittstock:         We had you back to the drawing board, right?

Mari Connor:                     Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         It sounds a bit like that because there are all these dependencies and interdependencies, and that tension between wanting to be creative and needing to fit into somebody else's rules.

Mari Connor:                     Right. Again, I do try to look at the world. I always try to find the silver lining, and this is teaching me ultimately how to be flexible and that I'll be more involved than those that are starting behind me even right now. That's a benefit is that I've had to lived through several iterations of this, so we kind of … Again, me and my team, we don't freak out too much anymore. We're like, “Okay. Just new policy, new rule.” “Oh, they just feel like they're tightening up across the board, so let's stay one foot within any policy that they throw at us, so that there's no chance of …” Yeah. In any given day, when you have your schedule to stick by and you have some results you want to deliver and some expectations that you're excited to tell the client about, that you've achieved or on your way to achieving, and then an algorithm changes, it's like, “Oh, all right. Let's just accept it. None of us control everything that's going on in the world.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Well, that is for sure.

Mari Connor:                     Show your hands up.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. That's the biggest mistake is thinking you can control really anything. The only thing you can really control is how you react to what's in your circumstance. That's kind of a freeing thing once you figure that out. Let's move on to what your top go to pieces of advice are for women in business, and these are women who are either thinking of taking the leap to start their own business, to be an entrepreneur or they're already there. They're either growing and scaling a business and wanting to take to the next level, or maybe they're stuck on what I call the startup sticky floor where they're in that chicken and egg. Right?

Mari Connor:                     Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         They need money to grow their business, but they need to grow their business to get money like that. A lot of advice can be quite universal, but if there's anything specific for anyone of those groups or just from your own experience, what were three things that you wish you've known maybe earlier on when you were starting out?

Mari Connor:                     This is one. The first one is one that I've literally just been sitting with for about the last year, and I don't remember who brought it to my attention, but it's been at the forefront of my mind and it's helped me deal with a lot of hurdles that have come along and that is that if you and I were to think, like if we were to just take a moment and take note of where we're at right at this moment, like personally I'm in my condo in Phoenix, which has a beautiful view outside. I'm talking to you who's a very delightful person. You're someone that I want to hang out with and that I want to be around, I'm not hungry, I'm dry, I'm the perfect temperature like I'm okay at this moment. When I think about that and I think about all the decisions I've ever made in my life starting from when I was born up until this moment, even the bad decisions that I made brought me to this moment where everything is in fact okay. Right at this moment, I am okay.

Mari Connor:                     Anything that I … Out of the history that I've been given and the history that I studied based on my life, everything turns out okay. It ultimately does. Now, whether it's where we want to be, that's another story, but am I hungry? No. Am I clothed and warm? Yes. Do I have friends and family that I love, that I can see, that I can visit? Yes. Do I have a thriving business? Do I have great team members? Everything is okay right at this moment, and that was achieved even with the horrible decisions that I made in my teens, in my 20s, in my 30s. It's a result of all of the good and the bad, and so that gives me a lot of comfort on a day when I might be freaking out about money, about the team not coming together, about a campaign not working the way that I wanted it to, etc., etc., etc.

Mari Connor:                     When I really center myself and realize I'm okay at this moment and that's a result of every good and bad decision that I ever made in my life, the chances of me living through whatever it is that I'm worried about right now is basically 100% short of death at some point like I'm going to live through it, and it actually is going to be okay. That's the first thing is not just throwing around the, “It's going to be okay,” but really think about it, and realize that it actually is. It took me a long time to come to that, so that's a little bit of a jump. The second thing that I would say is that it is completely normal to feel uncomfortable when you're just starting a business, when you're hitting a plateau and don't know what to do, every couple of years, I'll just hit a little bit of like subtle anxiety or just not feeling exactly like myself and that all of that is very normal and that when you talk to people in business and specifically women in business, they've been through that. It is completely normal.

Mari Connor:                     What I would say is that my best decisions are rarely made when I'm really freaking out, which is also why we go back to rule number one about everything is going to be okay because that also relaxes me enough to make the decisions, so that I continue to grow my business. Then, the third thing I would say is knowing your value and having been brought up in a military family, you didn't ask for anything you wanted ever. There was no want. There was just what you were given and make the best of it. When I started my business, I was catering everything to the clients just to get them to sign on. You know what I mean?

Mari Connor:                     I had to lower prices if I had to add services, if I had to travel somewhere. I was completely catering to the client because there was a lot of mindset stuff that was implanted when I was a child and getting to the point where you realize that if you're actually spending the time to think about and to help solve another person's problem, that is extraordinarily valuable. It's way more valuable than what you think, if you're not in a place where you realize what value is. I do care about my clients. I do spend time thinking about them trying to solve their problems and that's valuable because a lot of my competitors just taken order and send it down to a factory line and they make whatever, and maybe it will turn out okay and maybe it won't. I care and that in itself is an extraordinarily valuable trait. Discover your value.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh my god, I love everything you said.

Mari Connor:                     Yay!

Melinda Wittstock:         No, I really do. Knowing your value is something that a lot of people struggle with, but women in particular. There's such a trend towards underpricing ourselves or over delivering or people pleasing, and that the root of that really is fear. Am I enough?

Mari Connor:                     Right. I found that it's been a little bit of a training process with the male entrepreneurial world, the world in general. It's been a little bit of a training process to say, “No. I know what my value is and I know what my competitors offer. Here's what's different. You get Mari. You can't find Mari anywhere else but here.”

Melinda Wittstock:         How can you find Mari to work with her?

Mari Connor:                     My website is Marigold Marketing Group, and we're a full service Facebook ads agency, and there's information there if you want to get on a call and talk about … If you're running ads right now and need some help, you can sign up for a free 15-minute audit, and you can just learn a little bit more about our services there. We are at the point where we're only offering full service, so we don't have like groups or courses or that kind of thing because we take the work that we do extremely seriously and that takes up the bulk of our time and I'm very strict on how much I work and I'm very strict about not working more hour … I'm not interested in working until I die. I'm interested in working and living life and going to improv class. Yeah. Marigold Marketing Group is where you can find out more about my company.

Melinda Wittstock:         That's wonderful. Mari, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying.

Mari Connor:                     Thanks for reaching out, Melinda. I really appreciate it.

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