A child walks into a classroom and looks at her teacher. Class is about to begin.
This is a scene that happens every day in a million classrooms across the country. A million students walk in and sit down at a million desks. But they all ask the same question: What are we doing in class today?
The right learning experience has the power to ignite passion, inspire debate, and prompt reflection — even change the course of that child’s life or guide her toward a career.
Teachers all over the world feel the weight of this responsibility, and they stay up late each night preparing for that moment the next day when they stand there in front of the room and say, “All right class, today we will…”
For more than 30 years, Pennsylvania-based Applied Education Systems (AES) has been empowering teachers for those critical moments, providing lesson plans and other materials to improve the classroom experience for teachers and students alike.
President and founder Jim Schultz does not take this responsibility lightly. “Everything we do at AES,” he says, “is about believing in lifelong learners.”
Creating lifelong learners starts with giving teachers the tools they need to do their job well.
“We develop curriculum systems that save teachers time and allow them to build a relationship with students,” Jim says.
With teachers and school resources stretched thinner than ever, Jim and his team have used They Ask, You Answer to reach this market and build trust with his customers — all in the name of a better classroom experience for everyone.
Today, AES brings in close to 30,000 leads annually, driving more than $6 million in revenue.
But it wasn’t always so easy.
Several years ago, Jim knew AES needed to pivot to serve a changing marketplace. Although the company was thriving, he saw that a different business model was the future.
“We were about a $10 million firm with 40 employees, and we decided to dramatically change the strategic direction and go to a subscription-based software model,” he says.
Although the shift made sense in the long term, the short term was a different story. Leads vanished, taking revenue with them. For Jim, this was a challenging time personally and professionally. His employees were scared, and his family’s income was slashed.
“We had no way to generate leads,” he says, looking back. But he had grown AES once, and he knew he could do it again.
Fortunately, that’s when Jim found Marcus Sheridan and They Ask, You Answer. Marcus’s education-first model made perfect sense to the AES team. They could grow their brand by being helpful and transparent — and have their leads come to them organically.
It made so much sense that Jim and his team went all-in.
Fast forward a few years: AES has made Inc.’s list of the 5,000 Fastest Growing Companies four times in a row. Numbers are up, proving that the big shift was the right move.
Things really kicked into high gear when AES started working with IMPACT’s coaches and trainers to master They Ask, You Answer and really drive results.
First off, IMPACT got top-to-bottom alignment for the entire team. This meant establishing shared principles and a common language so they could all work together.
Christiaan Filoon, director of sales, knows how important that shared foundation is.
“They Ask, You Answer is not just sales and marketing,” he says. “It is a cultural transformation.” AES needed a well-established foundation to build its success.
With company-wide alignment in place, the IMPACT team was ready to get to work.
Even though the staff at AES was familiar with They Ask, You Answer, IMPACT provided outside expertise that was critical. Coaches and trainers helped the AES team see everything they did from a new perspective. It was the same principles as the book, but with greater precision and foresight.
Senior Content Specialist Bri Stauffer saw first-hand the value IMPACT’s team provided for her: “Your coach helps you become a better writer because they aren't afraid to give you feedback.”
That expert perspective helped her tweak her approach so she could start writing content that really resonated with her audience.
With full team alignment and a buyer-focused strategy, AES was poised for serious growth.
The heart and soul of AES are the lesson plans that they provide to teachers all across the country. Jim knew that his product was excellent. And he knew that teachers everywhere were in need of what AES was selling.
The key was getting found and building trust.
The most valuable part of They Ask, You Answer to Jim is that it’s a trust-based, customer-centered approach. After all, his business is helping teachers and students. A pushy sales process or an inferior product would not fit with what he was trying to do.
“To grow a company and to grow it sustainably,” he says, “you absolutely have to have the trust of customers in your marketplace.”
And that trust turned into business. Bri and her team could now use HubSpot to track each customer’s journey, starting with the first blog post they read and ending with a purchase. “We could see that line from the very first blog post that that person read all the way through to their conversations with sales and then to becoming a customer,” she says.
The right strategy meant more visitors, more leads, and more customers.
The results were astonishing.
In 2017, AES did about $2.3 million in annual revenue. By 2020, that number had doubled to $4.3 million. By 2021, annual revenue ballooned to $6.2 million.
Like so many They Ask, You Answer success stories, Jim is thankful that he found Marcus and his message at the right time: “We've had tremendous success, but if I hadn't seen Marcus talk and hadn't committed to [They Ask, You Answer] as a company, we wouldn't be where we are today,” he says.
He now thinks of that moment when he heard Marcus speak as a real touchstone for his company. All of the hard work between then and now has paid off. AES is successful and growing steadily, and its leads come streaming through the door, spurred by content that speaks directly to their needs.
For teachers who are struggling to serve their students the way they want to, AES provides those resources that help turn a good lesson into a great lesson, bringing laughter and engagement into the classroom, brightening futures, changing lives.
For Jim and his team, the effect is almost hard to believe: “For us, eight years ago — even five years ago — to think about 30,000 organic leads annually, I think we probably would've laughed at ourselves,” says Jim. “It just proves the power of implementing these [They Ask, You Answer] principles.”