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I played golf yesterday with my regular Friday group. All three are really good guys and all are involved in sales and marketing.

Early in the round we somehow got into the subject of direct mail. "That doesn’t work," Mitch said (not his real name). "I’ve done lots of direct mail and it never works. The last time I did a mailing, the only response I got was from a guy asking to be removed from my list. The only thing I expect is just before someone throws out my mailing is they see my name on the piece. Then, hopefully, they’ll remember when they need my type of service." One of the other guys agreed with Mitch’s assessment.

I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert on direct mail, but I didn’t agree. And no matter what I said, they weren’t going to listen. Too bad.

I don’t remember when I first heard it, but one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I’d suggest one more definition: "Using the same marketing tool over and over again and expecting NO results."

Are there people and companies out there using direct mail successfully? Absolutely. Are there experts, books, CDs, websites, and other resources available to teach us how to use direct mail more successfully? Of course there are.

Just because we’ve unsuccessfully tried marketing with direct mail, or the Internet, or Yellow Pages advertising, or ValPak, or any other tool doesn’t mean they don’t work. They do. The more realistic statement is we’ve simply been too lazy or stubborn to make the investment in time and money to learn how do them right.

That’s human nature. And we’ve got to fight that battle every day. The problem boils down to a simple statement: The wrong idea, once planted in your brain, is extremely difficult to remove even after you’ve learned the truth.