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The Three KPIs That Matter

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This past week, my partner Lee Goldstein and I have been on a listening tour, immersing ourselves in the wisdom of some of the most accomplished marketers in the world.

Meeting with marketers is like ascending a mountain through clouds. In the middle, things can be foggy and confusing, but the view from the top is crystal clear.

 The clear message of top marketers?

 “There are three KPIs that matter:

The first is Cost-to-Acquire a Customer.

The second is Revenue-per-Customer.

And the third is Lifetime Value of the Customer.”

So said Jim Safka, former CMO of E*TRADE and CEO of Match.com.

Jim told us how he restructured his organization at Match from traditional “marketing and product” silos to a “one-leader-one-metric” system, with each of his key managers owning one of the three KPIs.

Ty Shay, CMO of LifeLock and former CMO of Squaretrade has had a very good month. A week ago, on November 28th, it was announced that SquareTrade will be acquired by Allstate for $1.4 billion dollars. Just a week earlier, Symantec announced it would acquire LifeLock in a deal worth $2.3 billion dollars.

We’d understand if Ty were focused on his stock and options at this time, but instead he too listed the three key measures – the very same KPIs that Safka cited.

“Cost-to-Acquire, Revenue-per-Customer and Lifetime Value – that’s the business,” said Shay.

Cost-to-Acquire is a pretty straightforward measure. How much do you have to spend on marketing to acquire a new customer? When we say that “we use inspiring action to drive brand value up and cost-per-acquisition down” – that’s what we’re talking about.

Revenue-per-Customer and Lifetime Value of a Customer are both measures of customer value, of course. The later (LTV) can be thought of as simply the gross profit-per-customer over the average customer tenure. Here’s an infographic on how to calculate LTV. 

In an ideal world, LTV would be the only measure driving the “allowable” – the maximum cost to acquire a customer profitably.

But, it’s not an ideal world, from a finance perspective. Most companies are working to shorter time horizons when calculating permissible marketing spends for acquisition, because most companies count on cash-flow to some extent to finance the ongoing operations of the company.

That’s where Revenue-Per-Customer comes in. Many companies pick monthly, quarterly or annual time periods. Within those periods, the total revenue divided by the total number of customers yields the Revenue-Per-Customer.

This is brand direct marketing.

But where does “brand” fit in? Brand lowers the cost to acquire a customer, while increasing lifetime value. Brand drives greater passion around every interaction, moving customers and influencers through sales funnel and lifecycle. Brand reduces friction in the funnel, speeding growth.

The Inspiring Action marketer, using modern brand direct marketing techniques, never sacrifices brand for revenue, or sales for brand. Instead, the standard is a synergy wherein the brand idea improves response and sales today, while building the brand for tomorrow.

Focusing on the three key KPIs helps an inspiring action marketers write their own tickets. Take it from Jim Safka and Ty Shay.