How to Lower Customer Acquisition Cost

Make your customers profitable to you.

Congratulations, you have managed to persuade a customer to purchase your product or service. In fact, you have managed to repeat this action over and over again. But, do you know the true cost of acquiring those customers and have you figured out how to improve that cost?

Your customer acquisition cost (CAC) is a KPI for growth that provides insight for your business operations and should be a focal point for key stakeholders. CAC is the amount of money you need to invest in getting one new customer. When coupled with the profit you expect to get from that customer, you can then decide whether or not it makes sense to keep investing to bring on more customers in that way.

I recently had a client ask how they might capture the cost of customer acquisition. Tracking it is certainly the first step, but of course, the real goal is to lower your customer acquisition cost (CAC). By lowering your CAC, it makes customers more profitable to you.

To answer the first part of the question, the CAC is found from taking your total sales and marketing expenses over a given amount of time, (normally a month) and dividing that total by the number of new customers in the same length of time.

CAC = Total Sales and Marketing Expenses (per month) / # of New Customers (per month)

From the most simplified version of the CAC formula, you and your accounting team can then determine how to best apply it to your business model. By slicing and dicing the data to look at CAC by marketing channel or CAC per customer segment, you can calculate the ancillary payback period and lifetime value metrics as well.

CAC in action.

Say your marketing and sales campaign cost you a total of $5,000. You acquired 75 new customers through the campaign. Using the CAC formula above, your CAC would be:

$5,000/75 = $66.67 CAC

Now, if you found a way to spend only $2,500 to acquire the same number of new customers, then your CAC would be cut in half.

$2,500/75 = $33.33 CAC

Now, multiply both CAC examples by 1,000 customers, and you would have spent $66,667 in the first scenario and only $33,333 in the second scenario to get that many new customers. If you figure out a way to achieve the second scenario, then you could reinvest even more in your marketing spend and could have brought on 2,000 customers at the same cost as the first scenario’s 1,000 customers.

As you can see, finding a way to reduce your CAC is a pretty big deal. But, what should your CAC be? That depends on your industry and the revenue you get from a single new customer. For example, real estate brokerage tends to have much larger CAC compared to an industry like online retail. When you think about what kind of sales cycle and effort it takes to help a client buy a new home, versus getting an excited first-time dad to buy a kiddie pool online, it is no surprise that the CAC would be quite different for those two industries.

How to Lower CAC

Three ways to lower customer acquisition cost.

Lower your CAC, increase your profit. Sounds simple right?

1. Improve your sales funnel proficiency to reduce CAC salaries.

This can mean anything from becoming more efficient at building leads, personalizing your messaging through the selling process or fine-tuning your pitch. Decreasing your sales cycle automatically lowers your CAC by letting a salesperson focus on more leads at once. This spreads that person’s salary out over more customers eventually acquired. Quick tips to shorten your sales cycle:

-Use automated CRM tools to cultivate leads and create tailored campaigns.

-Be transparent about pricing.

-Know your prospects’ goals and/or customers’ expectations.

2. Create an efficient marketing machine.


Design your customer acquisition strategy to be the most efficient marketing machine possible. Know your target market and build your strategy accordingly. If you’re diffusing your marketing budget and salaries out over a poorly defined target audience, you could be wasting valuable dollars on selling to someone who might not actually be a potential customer.

Social media marketing is a powerful tool you can use to cut marketing expenses and lower your CAC.  Not only can you focus customer engagement to learn more about their personas and create economical, targeted ads, but it can allow you to have your customers do the selling for you. A good word-of-mouth (WOM) strategy is one of the best (and cheap) acquisition tools you can implement. A couple of ways to strengthen your WOM strategy:

-Set up loyalty and referral programs.

-Incentivize brand ambassadors.

Related Read: Curate a culture for growth and incentivize employees with profit sharing, ESOPs and retirement plans that align personal success with business growth.

3. Optimize your website.

Don’t overlook the importance of your website in this modern world. Make sure your site is easy to navigate for the audience that you have now carefully targeted using the steps above. While cutting expenses is key to lowering your CAC, spend the money and invest in optimizing your site for conversions:

-Review form fields for concise, ease of use.

-Implement A/B tests on your landing pages to make sure your call-to-action is working.

-Ensure that your site is mobile friendly, so you do not lose transactions. Think about how many times you research a company on your smartphone before making a purchase.

Investing in conversion rate optimization can lower your CAC by ensuring that you are getting the most out of your paid advertising campaigns. Increasing optimization can increase your total customers, thereby lowering your CAC.

Remember, lowering your CAC does not happen overnight and it pays to continue to track it. Impress your investors as your customers become more profitable and less costly to your business.

Now that we’re part of one of Chicago’s most prestigious CPA firms, Ostrow Reisin Berk & Abrams, Ltd, you’ll also find us online at www.orba.com.  With our ORBA colleagues, we’re positioned to offer you an expanded array of state-of-the-art services. 

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