Calculating the Lifetime Value of a Customer

Last week, Marka and the FEI tribe discussed how tracking the results of their marketing activities could help them make more intelligent decisions in the future. This week, the tribe reconvenes to discuss how determining the lifetime value of a customer can help their business arrive at its ROI. Remember, fire = print.

The tribe convened in the conference room one morning to find Numo and Marka already huddled over a big sheet of paper.

“Uh oh,” Zoot remarked. “This looks like math.”

“Tracking the cost of each sales conversion will allow us to determine the ROI of our promotional activities and consequently make more financially intelligent marketing decisions,” Marka said.

“We start by figuring out the lifetime value of a customer using that data,” Numo explained, then scribbled on the paper:

Avg. annual revenue per customer ($)
x Avg. length of time as a customer (years)
x Discount factor for future value of money
= Lifetime value of customer

“There we are!” Numo exclaimed. Few things thrilled him more than a good equation. “Once we’ve figured out the lifetime value of a customer, we can use this number to determine the lifetime value of a lead.” [He then added more scribbling:]

Lifetime value of customer
x Lead % closed
= Lifetime value of a lead

Numo was barely able to contain himself. “Once we know these numbers, and assuming we’ve been tracking the source of each lead and referral, then we can determine the ROI of each marketing promotion like this.”

Number of leads generated
x Lifetime value of a lead
÷ Cost (out of pocket costs x costs of employee time)

“If little or no time elapses between lead and sale—with retail coupons, for example—then the ROI calculation is even simpler,” Numo continued.

T.J. Tedesco is a sales growth, business strategy, marketing and PR consultant operating at the intersection of clear vision, compelling content and effective outreach practices. For nearly two decades, T.J. has been an independent consultant and sales growth team leader. Previously, he sold commercial printing, graphic arts machinery and supplies, and finishing and bindery services. T.J. helps North American companies with content development, Web and print design leadership, nurture marketing programs, sales coaching, sales team alignment and business strategy. Since 1996, T.J. has worked with more than 100 clients on retainer, 80 percent in the graphic arts industry. T.J. is author of "Win Top-of-Mind Positioning," "Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry," "Fire! How Marketing Got Hot," "Direct Mail Pal" and four more books published by PIA. He can be reached at (301) 404-2244 or
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