The Key to Profitability for your business
Understanding customer lifetime value and customer acquisition costs.
It comes as no surprise that a company must earn more revenue over the lifetime of any given customer (referred to as Customer Lifetime Value or CLTV) than it costs to acquire the customer (referred to as Customer Acquisition Cost or CAC).
While there are additional overhead and operating expenses that affect profitability, the first step in building a profitable business is to implement a scalable business model where your Customer Acquisition Cost is lower than your Customer Lifetime Value.
In theory, this seems rather obvious. However, putting this concept into practice can be difficult as your CLTV and CAC aren’t always extremely apparent. Additionally, it takes seasoned marketers and business leaders who understand how retention rates, sales & marketing channels, and business models affect
CLTV and CAC.
In this blog I’ll be discussing the factors that affect CLTV and CAC as well as strategies for increasing CLTV and reducing CAC. While much of what’s presented below is generally true across most industries, there are certainly caveats for every industry and business model.
Customer Lifetime Value
Before we discuss strategies for increasing CLTV, let’s wrap our heads around what CLTV is and how it is calculated. In its simplest form, CLTV is a prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer. CLTV is calculated by forecasting the average customer lifetime (the number of months the customer purchases your product), the average monthly spend of your customers, and the average monthly cost of distributing your products.
As a result, you can increase your CLTV by:
1) increasing the average monthly spend
2) increasing the average customer lifetime
3) decreasing the cost of distributing your product.
Increasing Average Monthly Spend Per Customer
The most immediate way to increase your average monthly spend is to increase your price. However, an increase in price will often lead to either a reduction in conversion rates (the number of total customers) or a reduction in retention rates (the number of repeat purchases from a given customer).
You don’t want to increase your average monthly spend only to decrease the total number of customers or the average customer lifetime.
You can also increase the average monthly spend through upselling and cross-selling techniques. Think of Amazon suggesting additional products and services bought by other customers looking at the same item. Additionally, you can implement increase average monthly spend by implementing loyalty programs, improving conversion rates through website optimization, and streamlining the sales process.
Increasing Average Customer Lifetime
CLTV can also be increased by improving retention rates, or the percentage of customers that remain customers over time. Companies with low retention rates are required to draw the majority of their profits from just one purchase per customer while companies with high retention rates benefit from spreading their CLTV over numerous purchases.
Retention rates can be increased by improving customer satisfaction through strategies such as customer service and support centers, sending periodic discounts and promotions, offering loyalty programs, and enhancing the overall customer experience.
Decreasing the Cost of Distribution and Fulfillment
Every business’ cost structure will vary but some of the more common ways to decrease the cost of distribution and fulfillment include: purchasing inventory in larger amounts, utilizing cheaper vendors and suppliers, substituting lower cost materials, decreasing base salaries and increasing commissions, utilizing independent reps over in-house reps, and reducing waste.
Customer Acquisition Cost
Developing a business model that results in a low CAC and that is scalable is difficult and where many startup businesses fail. In a world of data overload, it is challenging to attract and successfully sell products and services to people that have never heard of you. Every product and service is different, but for most companies the customer goes through several stages before making a purchase.
First, they have to become aware of your product or service through PR, advertisements, word of mouth, social media, reviews and blogs, etc. Next, they often need to be courted by sales reps and go through some sort of on boarding process.
This process from start to finish can be costly. Naturally, you have options as to how you allocate your marketing and customer acquisition dollars. Strategies such as SEO are typically low cost but usually don’t offer a strong degree of control, targeting, and results. Unlike strategies such as direct sales which are typically very costly but come with a strong degree of control, targeting, and results.
It is important for businesses to research standards in their industry and then benchmark themselves against those standards in order to pick the appropriate channel mix for their business. Additionally, companies can get creative with low cost channels that will help to reduce the average CAC across all channels.
For example, referral and word of mouth programs (such as business that offer one month free for every 10 friends referred) are a great way to acquire new customers at very low costs. While you cannot rely on these strategies exclusively, they will help reduce the average CAC across all strategies.
Optimizing the CAC and CLTV ratio is crucial to the success of any business. The earlier the business can figure out the right mix the sooner they can begin scaling in a profitable way.