Many brands prioritize email marketing as a major part of their marketing efforts. It's no wonder, as the Direct Marketing Association has found that the tactic delivers a 4300 percent return on investment. That certainly indicates that email marketing is an appropriate place to spend budget.

However, like all things, email marketing is changing. Simply blasting out an impersonal message to thousands of contacts with little or no context is no longer going to cut it the way it might have in the early 2000s. If you aren't personalizing your email campaigns, they're very likely going to fall flat, and you're going to miss all those potential sales that would be attainable if only you invested in the right tools.

If you aren't investing in an email marketing platform, you're going to have an incredibly difficult time offering the level of personalization that's required to really make the most of your campaigns. Not sure how to choose the right one? Here are five of the top picks for 2017:

MailChimp

Possibly the most popular option is MailChimp, almost definitely because they offer a free plan for small businesses, and integrate with a multitude of third-party providers. While it lacks some of the most robust features of some of the following platforms, it's very well suited to the needs of smaller teams, startups, and solo workers. This is a no-fuss option, and the paid option is very reasonable at $10/month.

Some drawbacks are that the free plan does not include auto-responses, and setting up a paid plan is not an instant process. You'll also need to reload your browser whenever you want to see an updated report, which may not matter unless you're eagerly waiting for results from your latest campaign.

 

VerticalResponse


If you want an easy-to-use solution that offers a little bit of everything, has a generous free option and live support, VerticalResponse is a good option. You get access to many features through their free plan -- including 4,000 emails per month - and can upgrade as your lists grows or you want more advanced capabilities.

Features you'll find most useful are Autoresponders and Advanced Reporting. VerticalResponse's Autoresponder feature automatically resends an email to customers who didn't open it the first time - which is said to improve open rates on average by 30 percent. Advanced Reporting tools like heat maps, geographic location and device indicators provide insights about your subscribers, letting you know how your emails are read, so you can improve on future campaigns. The drawback is that you'll need to bump up to a paid plan to access these features.

SendGrid

If you're an e-commerce merchant, SendGrid may be the perfect platform for you - they have their roots in transactional email delivery services, though over time they've transitioned to offer a full complement of email marketing tools.

This platform is ideal for the organization that has an engineer on staff that can make use of their robust and powerful API, though much of its usability is out of reach for organizations that do not have a tech lead available for this type of work. This tech-heavy solution also eliminates the headache of maintaining an SMTP email server.

Constant Contact

If you're looking for a smooth user experience geared towards first-time users, Constant Contact may be a good fit for you. It comes preloaded with built-in templates for email blasts, and easily imports contacts from major email providers like Gmail and Outlook. The platform also creates signup forms and integrates easily with Google Analytics. A mobile app is available for on-the-go work.

The editor is very easy to use, which makes it easy to start sending out customized campaigns within a day or two of loading the software. You can try out Constant Contact with their free 60-day trial. It runs about $15/month. One drawback according to some users is that at times it tends to be prone to glitches and delayed loading of the dashboard. It's also important to note that the default storage is limited to five files.

Emma

While I like this platform for its clever name, which is a combination of "email" and "marketing," I also like how great it is at its standout feature - auto-responses and customizations. If you're a seasoned pro at email marketing and are looking for a fully tricked-out platform, Emma may be your best bet.

If you aren't a seasoned pro, you probably will pass this platform over, however, as they require a minimum of 2,500 contacts to start. It's also the priciest of the bunch at $49 a month for the Pro Plan. If you're going to use all its extra features, the fee is well worth it in my opinion.

 

Editorial Disclosure: Inc. writes about products and services in this and other articles. These articles are editorially independent - that means editors and reporters research and write on these products free of any influence of any marketing or sales departments. In other words, no one is telling our reporters or editors what to write or to include any particular positive or negative information about these products or services in the article. The article's content is entirely at the discretion of the reporter and editor. You will notice, however, that sometimes we include links to these products and services in the articles. When readers click on these links, and buy these products or services, Inc may be compensated. This e-commerce based advertising model - like every other ad on our article pages - has no impact on our editorial coverage. Reporters and editors don't add those links, nor will they manage them. This advertising model, like others you see on Inc, supports the independent journalism you find on this site.