Email marketing is one of the oldest tools of Internet marketing and one of the most economically viable methods of increasing sales conversion. However, over the years, people have developed the notion that spam killed email marketing and if it didn't, then blogs, Twitter and all the other methods we use to communicate online have killed it. In other words, they believe that email marketing is so outmoded.

However, that's not true. Businesses are continuing to use email marketing because it not only works but also the ROI is very high. The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) has put email marketing's ROI for 2011 at $40.56 for every $1 invested. And, though the ROI is predicted to fall to $39.40, email marketing will still account for $67.8 billion in sales worldwide.

A Forrester report also reveals that 88% of B2C firms and 71% of B2B firms are using email marketing and 43% of marketers believe that email marketing will become more effective over the next three years.

Indeed, email marketing is an effective tool for not only letting your customers know about your business, services and products but also it can help you target your customers. Most importantly, a well-orchestrated email marketing campaign can help build relationships, loyalty and trust between the business and its suppliers/customers.

However, unimaginative email marketing will not work. One needs to understand one's needs well and plan well. While email promotions and offers work best for generating immediate action such as sales, downloads, inquiries, registrations, etc, informative email newsletters and other emails will help drive customers to offline stores and events, build awareness, contribute to brand development, and strengthen relationships.

Why hire an email marketing firm?

Prima facie, it may appear that writing content for email marketing and emailing the content do not require much skill, but, in reality, it is not so, because it takes professionals to create a proper email marketing campaign that will captivate customers and translate into results.

On the other hand, any poorly planned email campaign will result in a loss of professional credibility at best, or a slew of people unsubscribing from the email list at worst.

Hence, even the biggest businesses outsource major email marketing firms.

Indeed, only a professional email marketing firm will ensure that you are sending the best to your list of subscribers - content that will have your customers coming back for more.

An email marketing firm knows the trends and tricks of captivating the readers, ensuring that your email marketing capmpaign is defined by subtlety and finesse. More importantly, these firms are all armed with tools that can track readers' habit so that they can modify the email marketing campaign accordingly to fall in line with your sales goals.

An email marketing firm generally offers all or any of the following tools and services:

> Email marketing strategy
> Vendor selection
> Account set-up
> Template design
> Campaign creation & execution
> Database development
> Deliverability recommendations
> Analytics & reporting
> Integration with CRM and other technologies.

However, it's important to choose a reputed email marketing firm because only a reputed firm will observe the email marketing legal compliance laws, which includes providing opt-in and opt-out facilities to readers, will know when not to blanket bomb a client base, and most importantly, will not build your database using purchased lists, as this is against Can-Spam laws.

In this regard, IBTimes Tech & Trend has compiled a list of Top email marketing firms of 2012 after sieving through tons of names. These email marketing firms have one thing in common - they are all reputed; offer premium quality services, which their clients can vouch for; and delivers the results without charging you an arm and a leg.

They are:

1. VerticalResponse

2. iContact

3. GetResponse

4. TargetHero

5. Constant Contact

6. ExactTarget

Start the slideshow to know more about them.