3 min read

#INBOUND2021: Email Subject Lines Vs. Email Content

#INBOUND2021: Email Subject Lines Vs. Email Content

Live From #INBOUND2021

What matters most? Getting your email opened or getting the recipient to click through... A click is one step closer to a sale or registration and is a more important engagement than just an opened email - that is not debatable.

But how can you get a click-through without getting the email opened first? So, this leaves marketers at INBOUND 2021 with a debate of what’s the most important - the subject line or the creative.

To learn more from this intense discussion from Courtney Dagher, Jay Schwedelson, and Nancy Harhut, carry on reading and decide which side of the never-ending debate you choose…

On the one hand, we know that emails are designed to get a response that's what makes money, but on the other hand, they're not going to get any response unless they get opened.

So the question is “what's more important, is it the thing that gets the email opened or the thing that gets the email responded to?”…


Email Content

Nancy Harhut began the debate in the email content corner, here’s the rundown…

Subject lines get emails open, and they're helpful but other things are actually more valuable.

For example:

  • Campaign Monitor found that 68% of people will open an email based on the frontline.
  • SendGrid found that 53% of people will open an email based on the frontline, as opposed to 37% Based on the subject line.
  • SuperOffice found that 45% of people will open an email based on the frontline 33% based on the subject line.
  • Litmus found that 42% of people will open an email based on the front line, as compared to 34%, based on the subject line.

The numbers vary, but you can see the trend in all of these cases - more people tend to open an email based on the front line rather than the subject line.

And it makes sense, the first thing people see is the frontline and very often we see it in a very bold format, so it's not surprising it influences whether or not we're going to open the email.


If An Unknown Number Calls You, Do You Answer?

Think about your mobile phone. If it rings and you don't recognise the name or the number, what do you do? You let it go to voicemail.

But when you do recognise the name of the caller and you recognise the phone number, you're going to answer.


If we recognise the name of the company or the person and we like them, we’re going to open the email.


Recipient Engagement

The other very important thing is recipient engagement. And to have good engagement isn't just how many people open but it's about clicks and its unsubscribes for that matter. So, if you want to have great engagement, you need to really deliver in the body of your email with CTAs.

To put it simply, you can’t tell a story in a subject line. And there are things more important like email conversions.


Email Subject Lines

Jay Schwedelson was backing the email subject line corner, here are his findings…

You need subject lines to get the email opened and for the content to be enjoyed.

So the subject line is what dictates how many people are going to enjoy the wonderful content that's in your message.

We don't realise it but the entire world is based on subject lines and without them, our society would collapse.


Example 1:

When you say to your family ‘what are we going to do for dinner?’, you don't yell out and say, Let's order food.

You say ‘Hey, let's order dinner tonight, let's get stuff from that great Italian place’. Then you box out the menu… you are literally making a subject line by selling the fact that you want to order from this place.


Example 2:

When you’re on a dating app do you go and you look at the person's description, first. No, nobody does that.

Subject Lines run our entire lives, our economy would collapse, there would be no restaurants, there'll be no food shops.

We’re literally living off subject lines.


The two things that are the most important thing to do in a subject line, number 1, having a sense of urgency and number 2, having exclusivity.


Urgency In Emails

Having a sense of urgency is something that you could put in a subject line rather than the body copy. If you put some urgency in your email subject lines your open rates will go up over 30%.

What I mean by urgency is, for example, ‘24 hours left expires Friday, webinar registration ends today.


Exclusivity In Emails

Exclusivity is another thing that you could do in your subject line that you just can't do in the body copy the same way.

And this is by making your audience feel special like they’re involved in an exclusive offer or an event. This will tell a person that the email that they are receiving is not for everybody.

When you can bring exclusivity in your subject line - your average open rates go up by over 25% because you feel special.



The 30-minute debate flew by, but it was packed with information and great insights from both sides.

The consensus really is, both are important and they both go hand in hand.

You need subject lines to get opens, but you need great email content for conversions.

Another really insightful and jam-packed INBOUND session!


About Insynth

At Insynth we deliver a predictable flow of leads, customers, and specifications for building product brands through our inbound marketing approach, proven to reach a technically demanding audience.

We use the latest marketing techniques such as construction inbound marketing, to equip building product companies to grow sustainability in this era of digital transformation.

As the only HubSpot certified agency to major in construction marketing. We have a proven formula of bringing a variety of functionalities together including CRM ImplementationWeb DesignSales AutomationSEO, and Email Marketing to achieve your ultimate aim: Growing your business and gaining new specifiers and customers.

Book A Free Consultation Today