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Idaho State students learn real-world business lesson when selling book about Garrett Freightlines

April, 15, 2016

POCATELLO – To succeed in business, you’ve got to hit the curve balls thrown your way.

That adage rang true for Idaho State University marketing students who were tasked this semester with helping sell a history book about Pocatello’s iconic Garrett Freightlines, once the nation’s fifth largest freight carrier.

Students in Assistant Professor of marketing John Ney’s sales management class thought the assignment would be pretty straightforward—find your niche audience, hone the sales pitch and watch the book orders roll in. But then came the curve ball.

“Images of America: Garrett Freightlines”written last semester by students in an interdisciplinary honors class – was supposed to be out this spring. But publication delays pushed the book’s release to mid-July, leaving students without a hard copy to show customers.

“It was a challenge to not have a product in hand, but that’s what I loved about this class,” said student David Acevedo, one of 22 students enrolled in the class.

Without hard copies of the book, Acevedo and his classmates were forced to develop their own marketing materials. They created business cards to promote the book and printed pages from the manuscript to show customers. Students targeted trucking and transportation groups, community stakeholders, former Garrett’s employees, friends, relatives and history buffs. They spoke to civic groups and attended community events, including Pocatello’s First Friday Art Walk.

Graduate student Greg Grooms says he took a soft-sell approach, sharing the historical impact of Garrett Freightlines with the prospective customers.

“In the 1950s, Pocatello was bigger than Las Vegas—all because of Garretts,” said Grooms. He recalled the story of a couple who stopped by the table at Art Walk, recognized their current office in an old Garrett’s photo and ordered a book.

About the book

Alex Bolinger, an assistant professor of management in the College of Business, came up with the idea for the book last year while developing materials for an interdisciplinary honors class about the legacy of Garrett Freightlines. The book contains 128 pages of vintage photographs and text, gathered from personal and public archives, and interviews with former employees and their families. The company's story includes attempted hostile takeover bids, negotiations with Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, and the introduction of innovations to the trucking industry, including the use of diesel engines, long-haul refrigeration and triple trailers.

Ney heard about the project from his colleague Bolinger and thought the actual selling of the book would make a great marketing project for his class this semester.

“I think it’s really important they get real-world projects and this one seemed like a natural,” said Ney, who spent 18 years in the telecommunications industry. He joined ISU as an adjunct professor in 2008 and began teaching full time in 2012.

To date, students have sold around 100 books, and they’re making a push to sell more by the end of April when class ends. “Images of America: Garrett Freightlines” is available for $18.32 and profits will go toward student scholarships. The book’s publisher is Arcadia, the nation’s largest publisher of local and regional history.

Pre-order copies at https://commerce.cashnet.com/isugarrettfreights.

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