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Breaking Down Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – What It Is, How to Calculate, and Strategies

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

Growth is good, but at what cost?

A woman walking around holding her handbag and some shopping bags

Alright, so we all know the main goal for any business is to obtain customers, right? You can put in serious work – create content, dive deep into marketing, and even network your heart out. But truth be told, if it's not turning people into actual customers, it can feel like a bit of a letdown.

We get it; landing even one customer is a challenge. And let's not kid ourselves – aiming for 10 is a whole other ball game. Plus, it's not just about getting them in; you've got to figure out if it's actually making your company some profit. That's where understanding your customer acquisition cost comes into play. The goal is to keep that cost low, low, low and we’re here to show you how.

So, let's dive into some strategies to make that happen! 

First Things First, What Exactly Is Customer Acquisition Cost?

Customer acquisition cost (CAC) is basically the amount of money a business spends to reel in a new customer. This number helps companies figure out if their efforts to acquire customers are actually making them money. It's like asking, "Is this investment paying off, or is it like throwing money down the drain?

So you're running ads, maybe hiring a sales team, splurging on marketing – all to bring in those customers. Now, add up all those expenses. That total is your CAC. It's the cash you're shelling out to turn a curious eye into a paying customer.

Here's the catch – you want that CAC to be as low as possible. If it costs you more to get a customer than they're bringing in, it's like spending a dollar to earn fifty cents. Not a great business move, right?

How To Calculate Customer Acquisition Cost?

Calculating your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is pretty straightforward:

CAC calculation formula (marketing costs + sales costs divided by number of new customers acquired)

​Now, let’s dive into the components:

Marketing costs: This covers everything you spend on getting the word out – from ads and content creation to social media promos, SEO efforts, and pay-per-click campaigns.

Sales costs: This includes salaries for your sales team, any commissions, bonuses, and other overhead expenses related to sales efforts.

Number of new customers acquired: This is the total count of fresh faces in your customer base during a specific time frame.

Now, let’s break it down with an example. Imagine you dropped $10,000 on marketing and sales efforts in a month, and during that time, you got 50 new customers. Plug in the numbers: $10,000 / 50, and your CAC for that month is $200.

So, this means you’ve invested $200 to bring in each of those new customers.

Figuring out your CAC is kinda like doing a customer acquisition audit. When you have a number, you can work your strategies, allocate resources better, and improve your ROI. Basically, it's a way to keep your marketing efforts on point.

What Is a Good Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)?

A man paying for an item using his credit card

It's all about perspective. A "good" CAC varies depending on your business. You need to know how much revenue your existing customers are bringing in to figure out if your CAC is too high or too low.

This is where CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) comes in. Calculate it by multiplying your annual revenue by the average customer lifespan, which gives you the revenue earned from one customer. Then, compare that to the cost of acquiring that customer (CAC).

The ideal ratio is at least 3:1, meaning you spend around 33% of the average CLV on acquiring new customers. That's a solid ratio that keeps your acquisition costs in check and keeps your profits healthy.

For example, say you run a coffee shop with an annual revenue of $500,000 and the average customer lifespan is 2 years. Your CLV would be $500,000 x 2 = $1,000,000.

Now, let's say you spend $100,000 on marketing each year to acquire new customers. Divide $100,000 by $1,000,000 (CLV) and you get a CLV:CAC ratio of 10:1. That's fantastic! It means you're spending a small portion of your CLV on acquiring new customers and still turning a good profit.

Strategies to Improve Your CAC

A waitress taking an order from a customer

Enhancing your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) involves a dual approach: lowering expenses and attracting higher-value customers. Let's dive into some effective strategies and best practices to improve your CAC:

Prioritize Quality Leads

Recognize that not all leads are equal. Focus on attracting high-quality leads that are more likely to engage, convert into paying customers, and stick around for the long haul. Quality leads not only reduce CAC but also contribute to a higher Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

Optimize Marketing Channels

Identify the marketing channels that deliver the best return on investment for your business. When you find a channel that's working well, allocate more of your budget and efforts there.

Enhance Conversion Rates

Fine-tune your website for better conversions. Test various elements such as headlines, calls to action, site speed, and navigation to create a seamless and user-friendly experience. Reducing friction in the user journey can significantly lower your CAC.

Prioritize Customer Retention

Retaining existing customers is often more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. Focus on strategies to increase customer loyalty through exceptional service, personalized experiences, and added value. Happy, loyal customers can be a long-term asset.

Implement Referral Programs

Turn satisfied customers into advocates by implementing referral programs. Not only do these programs attract new customers at a lower cost, but they also foster increased engagement and loyalty among your existing customer base.

Invest in Superior Customer Support

Customer support is a key player in retaining current customers and winning over new ones. Providing excellent customer service creates positive experiences, enhances satisfaction, and contributes to a positive reputation, all of which can impact your CAC positively.

Deliver More 

Make your customers happy by providing what they find valuable. Listen to what they're saying through feedback – whether it's a tweak to a product, a cool new feature, or an extra something they'd love. The goal? Keep them with you for the long haul by giving them what they're asking for.

Final Words

Bottom line is, knowing how much it takes to get new customers is important for making wise business decisions and forecasting long-term profitability. 

Whenever possible, take some time off your day to understand your company's customer acquisition costs. It will help you optimize your resources for better outcomes down the line.


Well, aren’t we glad you asked! We at DigiCom are obsessive data-driven marketers pulling from multi-disciplinary strategies to unlock scale. We buy media across all platforms and placements and provide creative solutions alongside content creation, and conversion rate optimizations. We pride ourselves on your successes and will stop at nothing to help you grow.


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