Interview with Keirsten Lindholm
Keirsten develops marketing strategies for naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other alternative healthcare practitioners. Dealing with chronic pain herself, she knows firsthand how effective these alternative healing methods can be. Her mission is to make sure more people know about these options. She also understands the financial challenges these practitioners face. So she’s structured her business to make it easy for people to get started with their marketing and generate some extra income so they can then bring her onboard to create a full marketing strategy for them. Her whole approach is one of “let’s help each other help ourselves.” This is her story...
I was attending the Art Institute of Portland, in their industrial design program. Then in November 2012, something really tragic happened. They raised the credit prices from $281 to $400 per credit. Since I was completely supporting myself—I waitressed, I did all these different things to pay my way —it put me in a range that was completely unsustainable. I couldn’t do it. And it broke my heart, because I just had one year left.
So I started studying the company and who owns it. And you know what? There’s a really slick mudslide behind that whole thing. The parent company, EDMC, is owned by Goldman Sachs, who bought the Art Institutes in 2006 and has operated it as a for-profit company ever since.
I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I was financially handicapped by this destructive for-profit school model. My credits couldn’t be transferred. I couldn’t go get another degree, even if I wanted to, because I had so much debt trying to keep my head above water. But it was the only Industrial Design program in Portland and I couldn’t bear living anywhere else.
At first it felt like a huge waste, but then I thought, “Nope. We’re going to redeem this. We’re going to make it worth it.” So, after my laptop broke, I started using the school computer lab to finish my education. My driving question was: which scalable technology platforms are evolving strongly enough to best support small businesses long term? Hence, I focused on mastering Adobe products, creating graphics, websites, filming and editing. I had three years of classroom training in these things and there’s enough content on YouTube to fill in the blanks. (Because product prototyping is all 3D design work, user experience and psychology research, it was an easy crossover.)
Then I started this marketing strategy business. I rode my bike to the computer lab every day for 18 months. It was crazy. I just had one or two clients to start with. I was still waitressing part-time. I would just show up as professionally as I could and never let anybody know I was doing it on a shoestring. And the clients loved me. They still do.
When I was deciding what to do, I looked at my skill sets, my previous experiences and which successes were really easy for me. In my mid-twenties, I worked for an ambitious chiropractor. Before I worked there, he was struggling to get 40 patient visits a day (which is considered moderately productive for a seasoned chiropractor of 20+ years). He was really supportive of us wearing as many hats in the office as we wanted to and getting ongoing training. I sparred with him on overhauling our marketing program and respectfully did what he told me to do. But at the same time, I gave him a lot of feedback on how we could get a higher return with a slightly different approach to our community. I explained the setup and why the new churn would create more word of mouth. It was hard being 25 years old and telling a socially and economically dominant man in his late 40’s, that his marketing practices were low performing. Finally he gave in and let me try a few things. Sure enough, within seven months, we were seeing 40% more monthly visits and reached maximum clinic capacity.
That was a very powerful experience of recognizing that just my independent thinking is enough and that I’m really good at creating maximum returns. I also know what it’s like to lose your health at a young age. And I really care about people knowing that alternative modalities are not secondary options, but really effective functional medicine that should be treated equally. So that’s how I got into this business.
When you look at the alternative medicine industry as a whole, there’s no stable preceptorship or residency opportunities for new graduates at large institutions like hospitals. Not all independent clinics are thriving enough to hire new graduates. You’re almost forced to set up a business—with only one semester of business and marketing. Then there’s the financial stress of a business loan on top of a six-figure student debt. It’s quite the motivator.
I show clients what’s worth their time, effort and money. I prioritize it and explain that only 25% of their effort can be hands-on community events (health screenings or panel discussions.) Beyond that, they don’t have the bandwidth for it: they’re too busy being a doctor, charting and overseeing a practice and raising a family. It’s not possible. The other 75% of their marketing priority then has to be high quality digital reach. Meaning we need a very specific digital structure to their website, film shorts and social media campaigns for increasing sales funnel function. They need to know how the funnel works best and how to align it with social causes their target market really cares about.
I teach them how to structure all this because healers are not sales people. They have a healer’s heart. I coach them on how to communicate in a way that’s true to them and allows them to feel comfortable making an offer that’s really valuable, without making it feel sales-y.
When it comes to marketing, people who are growing their businesses are really terrified that something won’t work (because they’ve been burned a lot by low return efforts). And so you give them one or two ideas and just quantify how, if you invest in doing this, you’re going to get a 600% return at the very least. I’ve been observing the averages for about five years and quantifying a conservative estimate of return is getting easier all the time.
I also tell people that if they feel really pinched for money, there are other creative ways I’ll support them to make that happen. For instance, if someone needs a training on doing health care screenings and they have a colleague who also needs the same skill, they can do the training together and split the cost.
I’ve studied my target market through being close friends with a lot of people who work in the industry. I know they’re really spread thin. The stress of paying back a six-figure debt after eight years of school and starting a business all at the same time is a nightmare in its own right. So I give them a breath of fresh air and I teach them how to triple the return of their marketing money. It particularly warms my heart when I can see a practitioner reduce their anxiety, because I know this helps them be a better doctor: they’ll miss fewer cues and patients will understand the real problem faster and not have to suffer like I did.
What is Prosperity?
Prosperity is forwarding the action of love in as many sustainable ways as you can in a business model, and in life. If anyone asks me, “How can I feel successful?” or “How can I feel wealthy?” I would tell them the same thing: master your capacity for love and connection because this is a foundational principle. It applies everywhere.
In the past we’ve created business models that make money at the expense of people, animals and the planet. It’s time for the exact opposite. Without playing by the new rules of foundational principles, no one will be able to support you.
We’re at a critical moment in time. We were on the precipice of a nuclear war in the 80’s and 90’s—no big deal. Our ecological system is strained, and we’re seeing a record high of species going extinct universally. We have come to understand that humans are not exempt from this.
Portland has this subculture core of people who really feel this way. The first question out of our mouths is not “What do you do for work?” Our metric for how we value a person isn’t the job that they’re working right now. Because you might be temporarily working a bill covering job that isn’t fully aligned with your purpose. (And the abstraction of its importance to the next step is nebulous.) There’s a core of people who know that it’s really about your values. What types of things do you care about? And that’s why people are flocking here. Our shared values generate a unique frequency compared to most unintentional places you can live. You can feel a unity over principles that will be cultural norms someday. Recycling is an act of love. It’s about forwarding the action of our capacity for loving ourselves in ways that are loving for the planet and all other species we share it with.
Most Valuable Lesson
The most important thing I’ve learned is to keep my best energy for myself first. It took a long time to learn that. I’ve always been a huge giver and have made myself secondary to any need that came down the pike. Gave the shirt off my back without sustainable reserves. I’ve learned that when I’m in a strong place personally, my amplified help will go further for others struggling in my community.
It’s extremely energizing and easy to look ahead at what’s possible for social cause businesses that are doing things right. And vice versa. It took a while to learn why I couldn’t help people who are doing things for the wrong reasons: it was depleting me. Those signals are important for everyone whether you decipher the full why or not.
For the socially conscious who do business the right way, these are the people who really understand my talent and can really hear the strategies I give them. These are the people you want to align yourself with and create businesses with, because we’re rewriting the corporate etiquette of tomorrow. The universe only affords effortless harmony to those forwarding the right things with the right humility, and that’s really what I’m after.
I want our capacity for connection to triple permanently. Because if that were normal, people would live from a pro-active place. Fantasizing potential fears would be seen as a waste of energy. Using anger as a means of superficial accomplishment, would be seen as a setback. It would be really juvenile and archaic to ever have a war again. Using any threatening action would be seen as insane, because the sense of harming someone’s child, friend or lover would be unimaginable. Stealing from anyone’s capacity for love would be the utmost crime. Hurting one person singularly isn’t possible—you hurt a community. And the opposite is also beautifully true: healing and loving one person also holds profound transformation potential for a community.