Email marketing, Marketing Metrics - Written by Michael Leander Nielsen on Sunday, June 14, 2009 7:48 - 0 Comments

Hot marketing acronyms: What is CLV - Customer Lifetime Value?

CLV is the acronym for Customer Lifetime Value - probably one of the mots important marketing metrics, yet the concept is used only by the most professional marketers.

In marketing, customer lifetime value (CLV), lifetime customer value (LCV), or lifetime value (LTV) and a new concept of “customer life cycle management” is the present value of the future cash flows attributed to the customer relationship. Use of customer lifetime value as a marketing metric tends to place greater emphasis on customer service and long-term customer satisfaction, rather than on maximizing short-term sales.
Lifetime Value is typically used to judge the appropriateness of the costs of acquisition of a customer. For example, if a new customer costs $50 to acquire (CPNC, or Cost Per New Customer), and their lifetime value is $60, then the customer is judged to be profitable, and acquisition of additional similar customers is acceptable. For this reason, the costs involved in the first purchase are typically not included in LTV, but rather, in the Cost Per New Customer calculation.

Customer lifetime value has intuitive appeal as a marketing concept, because in theory it represents exactly how much each customer is worth in monetary terms, and therefore exactly how much a marketing department should be willing to spend to acquire each customer. In reality, it is difficult to make accurate calculations of customer lifetime value due to the complexity of and uncertainty surrounding customer relationships.

The specific calculation depends on the nature of the customer relationship. Customer relationships are often divided into two categories. In contractual or retention situations, customers who do not renew are considered “lost for good”. Magazine subscriptions and car insurance are examples of customer retention situations. The other category is referred to as customer migrations situations. In customer migration situations, a customer who does not buy (in a given period or from a given catalog) is still considered a customer of the firm because she may very well buy at some point in the future. In customer retention situations, the firm knows when the relationship is over. One of the challenges for firms in customer migration situations is that the firm may not know when the relationship is over (as far as the customer is concerned).

Most models to calculate CLV apply to the contractual or customer retention situation. These models make several simplifying assumptions and often involve the following inputs:

- Churn rate The percentage of customers who end their relationship with a company in a given period. One minus the churn rate is the retention rate. Most models can be written using either churn rate or retention rate. If the model uses only one churn rate, the assumption is that the churn rate is constant across the life of the customer relationship.
-Discount rate The cost of capital used to discount future revenue from a customer. Discounting is an advanced topic that is frequently ignored in customer lifetime value calculations. The current interest rate is sometimes used as a simple (but incorrect) proxy for discount rate.
- Retention cost The amount of money a company has to spend in a given period to retain an existing customer. Retention costs include customer support, billing, promotional incentives, etc.
- Period The unit of time into which a customer relationship is divided for analysis. A year is the most commonly used period. Customer lifetime value is a multi-period calculation, usually stretching 3-7 years into the future. In practice, analysis beyond this point is viewed as too speculative to be reliable. The number of periods used in the calculation is sometimes referred to as the model horizon.
- Periodic Revenue The amount of revenue collected from a customer in the period.
- Profit Margin Profit as a percentage of revenue. Depending on circumstances this may be reflected as a percentage of gross or net profit. For incremental marketing that does not incur any incremental overhead that would be allocated against profit, gross profit margins are acceptable.

- Download an excel template to calculate CLV (Free)
- How to calculate customer lifetime value, article by Melanie Smith
- How to compute your customer lifetime value by Arthur Middleton Hughes
- Try Harvard Business School Publishings Customer lifetime value calculator (really good)

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