Unit Economics

Unit economics refers to a company's revenues and costs related to an individual unit of production. A unit is simply one separate, quantifiable element that the company can create and sell and that adds value to both customers and the business.

It's crucial for determining the financial viability of a company by assessing whether the revenue earned from a customer exceeds the cost of acquiring and serving that customer. Positive unit economics indicate a sustainable business, while negative values signal potential financial instability.

Why is Unit Economics Important Today?

We’ve covered what unit economics means, so now let’s get into why it’s a must-know concept in today’s business world.

In a landscape where businesses are fiercely competing for the top spot, having a grasp on unit economics is kinda like having a superpower. In an era where funding for startups is abundant, it's easy to lose sight of the essential practice of spending less than what you earn. Remember, being profitable is key.

Unit economics offers a clear insight into whether a business is set up to thrive or not. It gives a no-nonsense view of a company’s financial standing. If a business is spending money recklessly, it becomes evident. And if there’s a strategy that’s working wonders, unit economics will highlight that, making it easier to make informed decisions without overstepping bounds.

History of Unit Economics

Let's take a step back and look at where unit economics comes from. It’s not a brand-new concept, but it has gained a lot of attention in recent years.

Unit economics has been an important concept since making a profit became central to doing business. (Meaning, the beginning of time!) However, it became a hot topic with the emergence of startups. In the past, companies primarily focused on general financial indicators like overall profit, total revenue, and expenses. 

Something shifted during the tech boom. Suddenly, startups with huge valuations, but little to no profits, were everywhere. The priority was rapid growth, often at the expense of immediate profitability.

This is where unit economics steps into the spotlight. It’s a critical tool for assessing whether a business, especially a startup, has the financial foundation to thrive in the long term and attract investment.

How to Use Unit Economics in Sales 

Applying unit economics in sales is more than a clever strategy—it’s a necessity for growing your business in a way that’s not just fast, but also secure and stable.

Kick things off by figuring out two things: Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). CLV is all the money you’re expected to make from a customer for as long as they stick around. CAC, on the other hand, is all the money you spend to get a new customer, including marketing and sales costs.

Here’s the deal—you want your CLV to be higher than your CAC. If it's the opposite, you’ve got a problem. But if CLV is higher, that’s your cue to grow your business, making sure you’re spending money smartly and bringing in customers without breaking the bank.

Here’s a pro tip: make your sales approach personal. Get to know your customer's likes, dislikes, and needs. The more you know about them, the better you can meet their needs, and the more likely they are to choose your business. Using data to understand customer behavior can lead to higher sales and happier customers, which in turn, boosts your unit economics.

Frequently Asked Questions About Unit Economics (FAQs)

How Do You Calculate Unit Economics?

Unit economics is calculated by evaluating two primary metrics: Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). CLV is calculated by dividing the total revenue earned from a customer segment by the total number of customers in that segment. CAC is determined by dividing the total expenses incurred to acquire new customers by the number of customers acquired. The comparison of CLV and CAC helps in understanding the profitability of serving customers.

Why is Unit Economics Important?

Unit economics provide insights into a company’s financial health and viability. By comparing the revenue generated from each customer to the cost of acquiring and serving them, businesses can determine whether they are on a path to profitability or incurring losses. Positive unit economics are indicative of a sustainable business model with the potential to scale, while negative unit economics highlight financial challenges that need addressing.

How Do You Improve Unit Economics?

Improving unit economics involves optimizing Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). Reduce CAC by enhancing marketing efficiency and targeting efforts to reach potential customers at a lower cost. Increase CLV by improving the customer experience, boosting customer retention, and enhancing the value offered to customers. A business achieves better unit economics when it can minimize CAC while maximizing CLV, leading to increased profitability and sustainability.