Running a high touch business in these no-touch times

As Coronavirus (COVID-19) works its way in every aspect of our lives and businesses, we're are all being faced with changes, some small and some complete pivots.

In this panel of the Elevate Series, I jumped on a Facebook Live with Elaine Lou Cartas (ELC), a business coach with an in-person business who moved her events online seemingly overnight, to find out how she was able to to do this and how we can stay nimble to survive the impact of the Corona pandemic.

You can watch a recording of the panel discussion here or read the summary which has been cleaned up for ease of reading below.


DM: Hey everyone. So welcome to today's first session with Elaine and I'm very excited to dig into how she took her in real-life business online, pretty much overnight.  We're online friends and I watched with great interest, so I'm excited to know all the details.

So Elaine, tell us a little about your event.  Oh, sorry. Just so everyone knows, Elaine is a business and career coach for women of all colors and has a really high touch high ticket set up for her business, which has gone completely virtual overnight.


ELC: Well, we all have to, this is not just my business, right? So background before I became a business coach, so you guys understand, I was a former grassroots organizer, so used to knock on doors and do phone calls as well as a former fundraiser.

So I learned how – I raised $1 million in six months with 200 people, small lists. I think a lot of people think it's always about big lists. You could also do it small. It just depends on what modality you want to do. So in my business, I'm here in the LA area. I do free monthly events. So that's how I grow my audience.

That's how people get to meet me. And what's interesting is it was a Sunday when it was a turn of events here in America with COVID-19 where things started getting shaky. People were talking about closing down. I had my in-person event in two days with about 70 people signed up. And I was thinking, “No, I'll keep it”, but somewhere in my gut, I need to probably turn it virtual.

More importantly, I was asking for feedback from my audience, should I keep it? Should I change it to virtual? Majority of them said to put it virtual cause they felt safer that way. And as a business owner, whether it's  COVID-19 or anything, whenever you want to change things, what's really important to ask for feedback from your audience.

I know Diane agrees. I see her shaking her head. So as soon as I went virtual though, I had people from around the world, join,  had someone all the way from Vietnam. And then I had someone from the East coast, from Oregon, Massachusetts, Virginia joined. It ended up being a great opportunity.

And now from doing monthly virtual events because I've listened to feedback from my audience and I asked them, “Hey, should I do this once a week, biweekly?” They told me to do it biweekly. I have 88 people signed up for my workshop. My next virtual event this Sunday, by the way, $0 paid ads.

Everything is completely organic. I have people signed up from Belgium, England and Spain and Puerto Rico. Yeah. Come to this virtual event.

DM: I think it's so interesting because as we've been online friends, I've always watched the event from afar and been, “Oh that'd be really cool if I was ever in LA to come and hang out.”

Cause it looks such a good vibe. So I'm actually signed up for the next one so I can go in and see firsthand all the magic. So the thing I see about you and your business is community and connection.  You're very into that in-person relationship, becoming friends, taking it from there.


DM: How did you translate that from an in-person event?  I love an event, so I get it. I get when you're in that vibe and you've gone through an experience of people to now suddenly you're on a zoom call that can maybe feel a little an office meeting. How have you moved that magic online?

ELC: Well, I'm excited you're coming on Sunday cause you're going to get to experience it. But, mind you, I wasn't always all in person in my first year in business. I have a similar background as you, Diane. Having the corporate experience where we get to meet people in person. My first year in business I thought I knew nothing.

So I was online. But how I make sure that people are all high vibe and have the community aspect is I had every single person who came to the virtual event, talk. “My name is Elaine. I'm this and career coach, and my goal for this event is to connect and communicate with people.” So my events are different from probably webinars you've signed up for that you see, you're on Facebook ads, you go to a funnel.

I really truly make it as an event where you could collaborate. Even people who meet,  we exchange phone numbers, emails and Instagram handles. I joke around that man if I was a guy and I got  50 girls’ phone numbers, woo, but I just make sure people are interacting. And I let them know and I set the tone in the beginning of all my events.

I am not here just as a teacher. I'm here as a teacher and a student. I do not want to be talking to the whole time. So what are your thoughts on this? And I put multiple-choice, not just one,  how many of you feel this way? How many feel this way? Actually, Diane, can you tell me more about it?

So I'm constantly engaging, asking questions because this is not, I do not make it about the Elaine show, the Color Your Dreams show. Events I have, whether in person or virtual is about creating community and learning from one another. 

DM: I was thinking as you were explaining it, being online, “Oh, the introverts must be, “ Oh, this is amazing. I can go to an event, but not yet an event.” 

And then you said I might call on you. And the introverts just stepping back. So how would you say the experience is more an online event or more a, I don't want to say webinar because I get that it's different from a webinar, but I'm getting you have 80 something people signed up for Sunday so that's a really hectic zoom room screen.

ELC: Well, and I will be very transparent with people though. This is a free event right. So, just in terms of industry standards, 10% of people usually show up. I had a 35% show-up rate for my virtual event, of 70 people. So there was about 28 people that showed up at the last one, on Sunday.

So I'm probably expecting the same around the same numbers. That's just numbers. It's a numbers game. But in terms of describing how my events are, whether it's in person or virtually. Here's what I want to just  really emphasize. It could be door knocking. It could be phone calls, it could be Instagram, DM, Facebook DM.

When it comes to business, whether you're a product-based or a service space, a person buying it behind that is an individual. It's a person. So my business is built off of relationships. It doesn't matter what modality I can use email, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok,  whatever it is. It's about human connection.

And at a time,  especially at a time right now where everyone's feeling very anxious, including myself.  even though I'm here with Diane talking, I get anxious too. Oh my gosh, what if I don't have toilet paper tomorrow? thinking the same thing as you, but in a time where people are really anxious the one-to-one connection, connecting with people is really important. I will be transparent ever since COVID-19 has happened, I have been on so many voice memos, messengers with people. That's how I get people to my events. I actually did with Diane, Diane, Hey, thanks for,  she actually invited me to talk. And I was, how are you doing? I saw you're interested in my event. Yeah. And then I just signed her up. 

DM: I literally didn't sign up for anything. I just expressed interested, received a message saying, awesome. Can’t wait to hang out with you.

ELC: You were just so excited. You were saying, “Thank you so much for signing me up.”

And that's what I do. I make it so easy for people. I mean, what's great is social media could stalk people, especially an Instagram,  a little tip. If someone says they're interested, I could look through the profile. Their email shows up. And I just register them, “Oh yeah, I'm so excited. I just registered you cause I saw you hit the button.”

DM: Yeah. And I think what you said is interesting. So you thinking of it in terms of that relationship and that connection in times of  COVID19 where we’re all thinking, “Ooh, I'm a little bit anxious. I have a little bit of fear.”

 But I think there's another dimension that, that I've been raising on some of these calls because I think some people just haven't thought about it cause they don't have to, is there are people who work online  I do, who also live alone.

And we're in full lockdown in, in London, you have this nice gentle shelter in place. We have lockdown,  prison lockdown. And so you aren't actually seeing any humans. And then even if you're zooming with friends or family or whatever's happening, you're still disconnected from people that get what you as the entrepreneur are going through.

They're trying to homeschool their kids. They trying to do all the things. They almost don't have capacity for you to offload onto them about you being afraid that your clients are going to dry up in two months’ time or that you don't know how to get the tech to work for something.

I think everybody's in this super anxious state. We're absorbing a lot of that from our clients and our family, but also mainly from our clients. And for some of us, there's no way to process that too. So these in-person virtual events, not webinars, but ones where you can actually connect and talk to someone else I think is so important in our community.

ELC: Yes, and I mean, I was, I wouldn't say lucky, but it was just the opportune time because that first virtual event that I moved from in-person to virtual the first weekend stuff started going downhill, and people were craving that connection. And mind you, even if you see the style of how I do events or maybe other webinars, because if you notice everyone's doing an online event, what's really important, whether it's an online event, just in general in business, you have to be yourself. I just want to emphasize that, I got caught up in my first year in business thinking, okay, this person here is so successful, I should be this person.

When I don't like that style. That doesn't resonate with me. I'm just going to be myself. 

So I've made my events very signature. And I also understand, I have a very innate ability to feel the crowd. So what I noticed, they're zoning off cause I'm talking too much. I'll pull them back in.

DM: And how do you do that virtually? Cause I'm the same I think. I think it's a corporate networking training. 

ELC: Yes. Yeah.

DM: So you've learned to read a room. You've learned to read whether things are going down well, whether your joke is landing, and I find that a lot, and that for me, I think would be really hard to be leading an event without that energetic feedback.

ELC: Well, what I do… two things when I'm asking for feedback cause I share slides, right. Cause I do give, I mean, as much as we're talking about community and it feels a party, I do share specific strategies for people that do come to my free events. But when I  take a step back to ask the community, I stop the slides and then everybody gets to see each other. So I see the facial expressions.  

In addition to that, I do also multiple-choice, “How many of you feel this way? Type one in the chatbox. Type two in the chatbox if you do this. Type three.” So I have them engaged by typing it and, “Does anyone want to share how they feel about it? Oh, Diane, you want to share? Go ahead and unmute yourself.”

So that's another thing too for me I don't do the webinar functionality on zoom, which means it's just me and then people just chat. I want to see people, more importantly, you need to be serving as a guide. This is not the Elaine show, this is not the Diane show.

You need to serve as a guide to your people. So if anything, I'm helping them lift them up and just providing that space in community. And that's what I've heard my people wanted,  they just want a place to connect. So I gave that to them.

DM: Have you heard, there's a zoom feature that I had no idea existed. I don't know whether COVID-19 has created it, but there's a feature where you can, so we were talking on Zoom now and you were presenting to me and you were sharing your screen. It actually shows you which participants have clicked away from your Zoom window. There's a few articles going around about how your boss can be checking that you're paying attention and I had no idea the Zoom feature even existed. 

I love that entrepreneurs are, “What? No, we didn't, we've never used that.” But as soon as corporate gets into the space, it's, “Yeah, I need to check that you're doing your work.” 

So I'm not saying that you should use it to police anyone in your live event, but I think it's an interesting tool. From an entrepreneur perspective just to gauge, okay, I'm losing people. Not to call someone out and be, “Diane you are not listening to me. Get back on your screen” or whatever. But okay, I've got 10 people who've clicked off onto something else. How do I bring this back energetically? 

ELC: I mean that's a different space though, cause that's corporate. I will say though, when I had my virtual event, I only had one person leave early. That was actually my client in Vietnam, but it was two in the morning her time. So completely understandable.

But for my virtual event, everybody stayed till the end, minus one person, which was incredible. And in fact, we stayed another 30 minutes after the event ended because even in my, in-person events, I let people know,  look, say till the end, so we could connect. People are featured in podcasts or collaborating. I already see virtual coffee dates happening and I'm just setting that space for it.


DM: So talking to somebody who maybe it's their first live event, so they don't really know what they're doing to start with. And now on top of it, now they're having to take it virtual. And what would be your key advice be?

So somebody who's, okay, I need to run, even if it's a small workshop, I'm going to workshop on Monday for the whole day that was supposed to be in person that’s now virtual.

ELC: Same thing. I have a full day in-person or it was supposedly in-person tomorrow, but we're doing virtual. So you're asking how the contingency plan putting into virtual,

DM: So if I DM'd you and say, “Hey, Elaine I think I'm going to run this online workshop help”, what would you tell me? Cause I would get a voice message from you off the back of that.

ELC:  Yes. And Diane knows me so well because I always message people. So it's really okay. I actually want to warn you that this is not rocket science. This is so easy. The reason why people do not do this is because people are scared of rejection and everything needs to be perfect.

So you treat creating an event.  A birthday party, right? That's the best. That's the best way of describing it.  Are you, are you going to invite everyone to your birthday party? No. So for example, I'm a business coach, right? So people who are going to come to my event are probably entrepreneurs.

And so that's what I'm going to market. So I put the invitation. What I use is I use Eventbrite. I love using Eventbrite. In fact, well not now because we're online, but Eventbrite syncs up to Google. So I'm going to talk about the tech pieces and we'll talk about the high tech part of it. Eventbrite connects with Google.

I'm actually number one in the search engine for Google when you look up women in business and Pasadena events in California with, it's amazing. And so anyway, I use Eventbrite, I fumble it in, it zaps into my Active Campaign, which I use for email marketing. Right? 

So in terms of that high touch piece, which is the most important piece is I just start letting people, I would post it, but I want people to know that even though I do post, it's not like people and money come to me.

I see who likes it, so for example, Diane is a perfect example. She saw a poll. I want to come to Elaine's virtual events. 

DM: I would not be bypassing a poll on anything, on anyone's Instagram story, I have to click one of them.

ELC: So I saw Diane and click that she was interested. I was, “Hey, Diane, I saw you're interested, and I just signed you up.”

Or if I thought that. If I was just starting my first event, I would let Diane know,  “Diane, I'm putting a virtual event together for entrepreneurs. Are you free? I see you're in the UK. Are you free on Sunday at 5:00 PM your time?” Yeah. Right? And so you want to make it individualize that person and let them know according to their time zone and see if they're free.

I could register you or you can click on the slate. I tested this, by the way, and Diane experienced it for me. People would rather give me their email addresses as opposed to click on the link. Yeah. I just make it easier for them. And another thing I notice, especially during these times, in this current situation, everyone is so overwhelmed, right?

So just what Diane was just describing, you have a mom who used to work full time and their children would be at school, but now their children at home. So they just do not have time to do these clicks and type it in, make it so easy for people because they're at a state of anxiety.

I make it so easy for people to sign up.  Right now I have a double screen and my laptop following up with messages from people who I've sent.

DM: Yeah. I think also,  you said, something there that is very unusual and it's going to be something really tiny and something that probably surprises you is that you told me what time the event was in my own time zone, and this is something that in general, I think people are really bad at.

So having been in corporate in global settings. I know how to use my world clock. I really know off the top of my head the time zone differences from me to most of the American time zones. I get it. But it's unusual for me to have somebody in the US convert a time. Even setting this video up, you were, “Oh, we could do 3:00 PM and I was thinking that's  10 o'clock at night. And then I was, “Oh no. She actually means UK time.” Those kinds of tiny touches I think are very unusual and that if people can, for me, if I didn't know you already, that would already have warmed me to you so much more.

ELC: Yes. So that's an online high ticket, high touch moments that you can have with people even when you're not in person. You want to make it so easy for people. Or let's say you're connecting with someone over the DMS,  on the messenger, and you want to connect a time to do a sales call with them, right? So what I would do is, let's say it's Diane who I'm pitching to. She lives in the UK, so I know she's eight hours ahead, “Hey, I hope you're doing well. I want to connect back with you. I know you're interested in working with me. I'm free UK time next Monday. One, two, three, or next Tuesday, four to six. What date and time works best for you?” 

So a couple of things that I want to share in that script. One, I said UK time, right? According to her time.

Two, I gave her no option to say no to me. Did you notice that? I never said are you free? Because the moment you ask, are you free next week, they're going to think about everything they have to do.  Oh my gosh, I have this project I need, I'm homeschooling my kid. I'm doing this. I have no time. But when you go very specific, well, yeah, at one I have a call with my clients. I'm free at 130 Tuesday. No, I can't do, okay. Monday at one 30. Basically what you're doing when you give two time options for people is you're helping them with their decision-making process. This is a little psychology for all of you. By the way, for my fundraising days, I'd never given an option to say no to me.

I always give two different options. Now, if Oprah calls me at two in the morning, I will take that call.

DM: And it's, and it is actually very true because for me, as soon as I knew what the time period was, and I knew that you were talking in my time zone, I was okay, what do I have in my diary at that time?

And then we were setting this up, we couldn't do the original time. And you were saying, but I can do this and this. There was no you can get me next time, which is great because obviously this week for me pulling all of these speaker series together, I haven't had spare capacity to think about it.

So you've made it really easy for me to say yes to you, but also to find a way to make sure we got to have this conversation. Cause I think it's such an important one because so many people are thinking about, okay, now I have to do all this online. and so I really wanted them to make sure that they heard your story.

But definitely I will vouch for the fact that you are incredibly hard to say no to

ELC: And, I'll be honest too, I kinda got a fire lit under my ass or a fire in my belly because when COVID-19 happened, I actually had friends reach out to me , so what are you going to do? You're all about in person and events and. Can I cuss here by the way,  I'm just always so passionate.

DM: I mean, for me, yes, it's on my Facebook page. 

ELC: Okay. so when people ask them, I was f**k it. , let me prove them wrong. I can do this sh*t. And because it's not,  I said earlier, it's not about the majority,? Because who knows? Maybe Facebook and Instagram are going to be the next MySpace, if you remember what my space is, right at the end of the day.

People are not just going to click on things they want to feel heard, they want to be talked to, especially when you're stuck at home.”

It's all about relationship building for me, and I can build relationships and connect with people. I mean, I just had my first six-figure launch last fall with no paid ads. It was all relationship building. If you look at my numbers, 2000 followers on Instagram, my email is 1700. I just connected with people and now more than ever obviously I'm biased towards it, but just in terms of humans, sociological, psychological,  people are not just going to click on things they want to feel heard, they want to be talked to, especially when you're stuck at home. You're going to send it out by just checking in and if you want to know a strategy on how I just reach out to people to get people to go to my events.

I don't even ask about my event. The first conversation I had was, “Hey Diane,  how are you doing right now on a personal level? Are you and your loved ones healthy?” I don't even go straight to the ask.  I treat relationships like marriage, you do not ask for marriage on the first date.

DM: I have a slightly ruder version of that. Mine involves a bar and the toilets and it's, just a whole other level of inappropriate. 

And I think also listening to you talk about it, I think demystifying the event a little bit. I think there's a real opportunity now. Previously, if you wanted to have some event, you had to find the event space. You had to put money down, you had to try and guess how many people were coming.  you actually had all of these physical requirements, the pressure to get started. Whereas now people expect you to be having it virtually.

It's an opportunity to, I guess to test out your idea,  have a beta event online.

Yeah. How it's working. See how it's flowing. You can always take it in person when this ends because this will end.

ELC: Yeah. I mean, I will be transparent, I think in-person's still the best thing. I miss it. I love it. And well, at the same time as a business owner, and I just want to emphasize this, you have to accept that this is the new normal.

I think I get frustrated when people are counting the days, Oh, I can't wait until this is all over so we could go back to normal. The reality is it's not going to go back to normal if you haven't noticed. I mean, yes, we'll go be able to see each other in person, but there's going to be a different level of awareness and as an online entrepreneur.

The messaging that you've seen from other people,  I'm high-end luxury, get this beautiful Porsche that's not going to resonate with people anymore.

Which I'm excited about because I do not resonate with the messaging. The messaging is going to be more important in terms of impact being a collective and to show that you want to do the know, like, and trust factor.

You need to do that now. You need to be a hero now. I just did a talk with my client last night and she got 10 new clients last week and we basically talked about if you watched Avengers end game, and if you haven't yet, SPOILER ALERT, but have you watched it?

Okay, well, the whole point of it is just, okay, so Tony stark Iron Man passes away, he will be remembered or just be that superhero for people now when they need you. If you're going to try to be that superhero later on, Oh, you just show up now, done. No, I don't understand.

DM: I agree. I think behavior at this moment in time, whatever that is, is definitely going to be how we'll be judged at the end. And I've been saying to people be a good human, how do you want to be treated in this situation and then act accordingly. And I think, I guess for events and stuff, it's the same for you.

What do I want to feel when I'm at an event and what do I want to feel in the community? And then that's what you delivered to your people.

ELC: Yeah, and I, I straight up ask people what they want. It's not rocket science.  Tomorrow I have my one day retreat with nine clients. Right. I messaged them earlier to speak. I'm finishing up my presentation, what's your biggest challenge and their goals. They're telling me what they need supported because your goal as an entrepreneur is,  I said, this is not the Elaine or Diane show. This is the show of your clients.

Making sure they raise up right so best serve them, make sure that their goals are met, that you're able to help them understand solutions to their challenges because the best. Your best marketing tools are your clients  I am constantly sharing my client's results constantly, connecting with them, doing live interviews with them.

If you best serve them, it's just going to be easier to get. That's, I don't have to rely on Facebook ads. I don't need to look for leads all the time. Yeah, they come to me because I have a reputation with client results.

DM: Yeah, I love that. I might just, I might just cut on that mic drop moments of, “Hey. Go forth, serve people and people will still come back to you.” I think people are very anxious in this time, but I think honestly business can just be as simple as that. 

ELC: Or have you guys watched the news. I don't, it doesn't matter what part of the world do you are, but people want a break from it and so if you just show up, and by the way, we didn't really plan what we're going to talk about this. It's just going to be a conversation. And it doesn't always have to be about business.  for example, I have my little stuffed bear. Chief Bear Officer CBO. it doesn't always have to be business if you just show entertainment as well, or show sides of your personality.


DM: I think that's it. I think one thing COVID19 has done for us is remind us all that whatever situation we're in, we're all human. And I think we are going to see a lot more trend towards higher-touch even if it's online touch, higher connection, higher attention from our clients.

I feel that's where we're going to go with what they're going to want. They're not going to want to be a faceless number in your mass. They're going to want value from you, access to you. So I think this has been an amazing  set up for how people can deliver

ELC: And it's just, it's just entertaining for me.

Cause when I first started was back in 2017 people are, Elaine, how do you have time to just connect with everyone? Okay. I didn't even share this in the beginning, but as a fundraiser, my former donors were  Elon Musk or the owners of trader Joe's. I would sit at dinner with were donors who had a lot of money for two hours and they would give me a $100,000 check.

Yeah. And, and then I come into this coaching entrepreneurial world where they spend so much time creating this perfect funnel. I'm, why don't you just go talk to people? It didn't make sense to me. And what's interesting is now I have a lot of people you who come to me asking to be a guest expert teaching these modalities.

These are things that are the basis of what even corporations do or companies do is build these relationships. They're sales teams, right? Which salesperson has a portfolio of whether 10 or 20 clients or even maybe 50 to sell to? It's building those relationships. Think about it. You could make $100,000 easily if you sell $10,000 contracts. 

DM: It's interesting because it's almost as grassroots as it gets because what's the first thing you learn to do as a kid, as soon as you leave home, is making friends. You've been training for this your whole life, but just business got in the way, and we've all forgotten that we can have relationships with people.

ELC: Yeah. I was having a conversation with someone in this space. She was, Elaine, there's people that have come up to me, so how do you have a conversation with people online? I was, are you serious? People do not know how to have a conversation. and let me just mention this. 

Do not talk to people. Do not keep talking at people. Listen to people what they need, right? Hear what they have to say. Give them, give it back to them. So easy. Huh?


DM: Well, I'm very excited to attain your virtual event and learn even more of your little secrets. I will make sure to share the link for the next one with everybody in the description of this video.

Any last thoughts for people?

ELC: See how you could best serve your audience. Now, not later, done is better than perfect. Yeah, I think that's true. And people need a hero. You do not have to be Beyonce where everybody gets to know you. You could be that cute little indi singer.

DM: With the rampant fans who follow you from gig to gig and tiny little dark hole bars?

ELC: And just watch, see, it'll be interesting. It's exciting too because you see how people are, you actually get to know more about business owners and their business during difficult times. So you will see people's true essence now as opposed to when everything was so glam and amazing.

DM: For sure.

ELC: That's when you'll know exactly who you want to work with. It's fascinating. Yeah.

DM: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate you opening up your calendar, jumping on again and sharing so openly with everyone about your very fast pivots probably the quickest I’ve seen.

ELC: Thank you. Well, this is all about adapting and adjusting. I hope you guys all stay healthy and wishing you an abundance of toilet paper everybody.

Watch the other panel discussions and grab all the COVID19 resources HERE.


The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Diane Mayor disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.