CAC stands for customer acquisition cost. A company's CAC is the total sales and marketing cost required to earn a new customer over a specific time period.
The total sales and marketing cost includes all program and marketing spend, salaries, commissions, bonuses, and overhead associated with attracting new leads and converting them into customers.
Successful companies are aiming to constantly reduce the cost of customer acquisition -- not just to recoup revenue, but because it's a sign of the health of your sales, marketing, and customer service programs.
Think about it: If your inbound marketing program is operating successfully, you don't have to dedicate extra resources to ad spend to generate poor-fit leads when your blog content is bringing in high-quality organic leads 24 hours a day. If your sales team is constantly prospecting and nurturing a healthy pipeline, you don't need to rush to hire additional reps to hit your quota each quarter.
And if your customer success team is able to retain and cultivate relationships with happy customers, they will help generate new customers by writing testimonials and reviews, serving as case studies, and telling their friends and family about you. If the leads from these sources become customers, you will have earned them free of charge, which will lower your cost of customer acquisition even further.
CAC Formula: How to Calculate Cost of Customer Acquisition
Determine the time period you're evaluating (month, quarter, year)
Divide the total marketing and sales spend by the number of new customers acquired during that time period
For example, if a company spent $500K on sales and marketing and generated 500 new customers in one quarter, the cost of customer acquisition would be $1K.
LTV to CAC Ratio
Another metric to calculate and analyze in relation to customer acquisition cost is a customer's lifetime value (LTV).
LTV is the predicted revenue one customer will generate over the course of their relationship with a company.
To calculate LTV, you'll need a few variables to plug into the formula:
Average purchase value: Calculate this number by dividing your company's total revenue in a time period (usually one year) by the number of purchases over the course of that same time period.
Average purchase frequency: Calculate this number by dividing the number of purchases over the course of the time period by the number of unique customers who made purchases during that time period.
Customer value: Calculate this number by multiplying the average purchase value by the average purchase frequency.
Average customer lifespan: Calculate this number by averaging out the number of years a customer continues purchasing from your company.
Then, calculate LTV by multiplying customer value by the average customer lifespan. This will give you an estimate of how much revenue you can reasonably expect an average customer to generate for your company over the course of their relationship with you.
Thus, your company's LTV to CAC ratio, or LTV:CAC, is a quick indicator of a customer's value relative to how much it costs to earn them. Ideally, it should take roughly one year to recoup the cost of customer acquisition, and your LTV:CAC should be 3:1 -- in other words, the value of your customers should be three times the cost of acquiring them.
Customer Costs by Industry
Customer acquisition cost varies across industries due to a number of different factors -- including, but not limited, to:
Length of sales cycle
So to put CAC into context, here's a rundown of average customer acquisition cost by industry (as estimated by a few differentpublications:
Consumer Goods: $22
Marketing Agency: $141
Technology (Hardware): $182
Real Estate: $213
Technology (Software): $395
How to Improve Customer Acquisition Cost
There are a few different ways to improve your cost of customer acquisition to bring that LTV:CAC ratio closer to 3:1. Here are a few strategies to work towards:
Invest in conversion rate optimization (CRO): Make sure it's simple and straightforward for visitors to convert into leads, or for leads to convert into customers and make purchases on your site. Optimize your site for mobile form submissions and shopping, test website copy to make sure it's as clear as possible, and try to create a touchless sales process so your visitors can buy from you 24/7.
Add value: Increase customer value by giving customers what 's valuable to them. Collect customer feedback, and whether it's a product fix, a new feature, or a complementary product offering, do your best to give customers what they're asking for to make them stick around longer.
Implement a customer referral program: If your customer refers you to a warm lead from their network who is already interested in learning about your product or service, their particular CAC will be $0 if they convert. These "free" customers will lower your CAC over time, so build a customer referral program your customers want to participate in.
Streamline your sales cycle: Decrease the length of a typical sales cycle to increase the number of sales you can influence over the course of a year. Use a CRM and prospecting tools to connect with more qualified leads more effectively.