How to Calculate Customer Life Time Value

How to Calculate Customer Life Time Value

In the competitive Software as a Service (SaaS) market, understanding and maximizing the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is one of the most important things you can do. CLV is a critical metric representing the total net revenue a company can expect from a single customer account. It incorporates customer revenue, gross margin, and the average period a customer continues to purchase from your business. 

CLV holds an even more important status in the context of SaaS businesses. With SaaS companies primarily relying on subscription-based models, the longevity of the customer relationship directly influences profitability. The longer customers stay subscribed, the more revenue they generate, making understanding and optimizing CLV essential. Also, due to high competition and acquisition costs in the SaaS industry, retaining existing customers and maximizing their value is often more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. 

In the following sections, we will expand into the concept of CLV, its importance in the SaaS environment, and provide a comprehensive guide on how to calculate it. This will enable SaaS businesses to make informed, data-driven decisions to bolster their customer relationships and, consequently, their bottom line. 

Understanding Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

At its core, Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), sometimes referred to as Customer Equity or Customer Profitability, is a predictive metric that quantifies the total revenue a business can expect from a single customer over the lifespan of their relationship. It considers the initial purchase and also the ongoing revenue generated through repeat purchases or subscriptions. 

In the Software as a Service (SaaS) world, the concept of CLV takes center stage due to the nature of the business model. SaaS companies operate on a recurring revenue basis, where the profits from each customer are realized over a period rather than the point of the initial sale. Given the ongoing subscription model common in SaaS, companies often invest heavily in customer acquisition upfront and aim to recoup this investment over the lifetime of the customer relationship. This places CLV up front as a critical indicator of long-term company profitability.

The average CLV of a SaaS customer varies significantly depending on the specifics of the company and its pricing structure. Nevertheless, successful SaaS businesses strive to maximize this value. Increasing CLV signifies that customers continue their subscriptions for longer periods and often translates into improved business sustainability and growth. 

CLV plays an integral role in understanding the economic value of customer relationships and informs several critical areas of business strategy:

  1. Customer Retention: The longer customers stay with your SaaS business, the higher their CLV. A strong focus on customer retention strategies can increase CLV by extending the duration of the customer relationship. It also emphasizes the importance of reducing churn – the rate at which customers stop their subscriptions.
  2. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): CLV is directly related to CAC. If the cost to acquire a new customer exceeds the CLV, the company will struggle to achieve profitability. By understanding CLV, businesses can better budget their marketing and sales efforts to ensure a positive return on customer acquisition.
  3. Average Revenue: CLV is closely tied to the average revenue per user (ARPU). By boosting each customer’s value from the product, companies can increase ARPU, positively influencing the CLV. 

Understanding and optimizing CLV is critical for SaaS businesses. It helps provide insights into customer behavior, guides decision-making, and ultimately drives profitability and growth. 

Calculation of Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is a projection of the revenue a business can expect from a customer over the lifespan of their relationship. It is a critical metric in the SaaS space, providing insights into a customer’s long-term value and influencing various strategic decisions. Here is a step-by-step guide to calculating CLV.

  1. Calculate the Average Purchase Value: This is the average revenue you earn from a customer transaction or subscription. To calculate it, divide your company’s total revenue in a specific time period (e.g., a year) by the total number of purchases or subscription renewals during the same period.
  2. Calculate the Average Purchase Frequency Rate: This is the average number of purchases or subscriptions made by a customer in a given time period. To calculate it, divide the total number of purchases or subscription renewals in a specific time period by the total number of unique customers during that same period.
  3. Calculate Customer Value: This is the average monetary value a customer contributes in a given time period. To calculate it, multiply the average purchase value by the average purchase frequency rate.
  4. Calculate the Average Customer Lifespan: This is the average number of years (or months) a customer continues to make purchases or renew their subscription. This is calculated by determining the period between a customer’s initial purchase and their final purchase and then calculating the average for all customers.
  5. Calculate CLV: Finally, to get the CLV, multiply the customer value by the average customer lifespan. This will give you the total projected revenue from a customer over the span of their relationship with your company.

In the context of a SaaS business, the relationship between CLV, monthly recurring revenue (MRR), and average customer revenue becomes apparent. MRR is a measure of your predictable revenue stream, while the average customer revenue is an aspect of the average purchase value used in CLV calculation. As MRR and average customer revenue increase, so does CLV, leading to more long-term profitability for your SaaS business. 

Several factors can affect CLV, including customer retention rate, acquisition cost, margin, and the rate of discount (the reduction in the value of future income due to the time value of money). To improve CLV, SaaS businesses can improve their product or service quality, enhance customer service, and implement successful up-selling and cross-selling strategies. Remember, an increase in CLV indicates a higher ROI for your customer acquisition strategies, highlighting the profitability of your business in the long run.

CLV and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Understanding the relationship between Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is crucial to a company’s long-term success. Both are key metrics that determine a business’s profitability. While CLV quantifies the total revenue that a company can make from a customer during their lifetime, CAC represents the total cost spent on acquiring a new customer. 

The balance between these two values has significant implications for a company’s financial health. A sustainable SaaS business model typically aims for a CLV that is at least three times higher than its CAC. When CLV is significantly higher than CAC, the company enjoys a higher return on its investment in customer acquisition. On the other hand, if CAC is high relative to CLV, it means that the company is spending more to acquire customers than it is getting in return, which can lead to cash flow issues and even threaten the company’s survival. 

To maximize CLV while minimizing CAC, businesses must focus on increasing the average customer lifespan, reducing the churn rate, and improving the average revenue per user (ARPU). Effective strategies may include:

  • Improving Customer Service: Superior customer service can lead to h higher customer satisfaction, increase customer retention rates, and extend customer lifespans.
  • Upselling and Cross-Selling: By offering complementary services or higher-tier packages, businesses can increase ARPU and thus improve CLV.
  • Optimizing Acquisition Strategies: Businesses can decrease CAC by optimizing their marketing strategies to target more qualified leads. This could involve refining ad campaigns, improving SEO, or leveraging more cost-effective channels like organic social media or email marketing.  

Improving the average customer lifetime is not just about retaining existing customers but also about attracting the right customers from the start. A business should ideally attract customers who find genuine, lasting value in the products or services being offered, as these customers are more likely to stay loyal in the long run, thus enhancing CLV.

Using CLV to Enhance Business Performance

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is not just a metric to monitor it is a crucial guidepost for strategy and decision-making in every area of a business, particularly in the marketing and customer service initiatives. Effectively leveraging CLV can significantly enhance business performance. 

A primary method to increase CLV is by extending the lifetime of a customer, i.e., improving customer retention. Businesses can achieve this through consistently excellent customer service, regular engagement with the customer base, and product or service improvements based on customer feedback.

Moreover, introducing loyalty programs, offering special deals to loyal customers, and providing value-added services are also strong strategies. For example, educational resources related to the product or service can add value and encourage users to continue using your product or service. These efforts can lead to higher customer satisfaction, which, in turn, boosts retention and CLV. 

CLV’s role in evaluating marketing initiatives’ performance is particularly significant. The effectiveness of various marketing campaigns can be measured by how much they increase CLV. A campaign that attracts customers with a high CLV can be considered more successful than one attracting customers with a lower CLV, even if the latter campaign attracts more customers overall. 

Similarly, customer service initiatives can be evaluated based on their impact on CLV. For instance, an investment in customer support that results in increased customer satisfaction and longer customer lifetimes would be viewed as a positive contributor to CLV.

By focusing on CLV, businesses can shift from a short-term, transactional perspective to a long-term, relationship-focused approach. This shift can lead to more significant customer loyalty, longer customer lifetimes, and ultimately, enhanced business performance.


Understanding and calculating Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) accurately is important for any business, but becomes more critical for SaaS companies where the longevity of customer relationships significantly impacts revenues. CLV provides essential insights into customer behavior, offering vital clues to maximize profits and fuel business growth. By focusing on strategies to improve CLV, including enhancing customer retention and balancing customer acquisition costs, businesses can forge longer, more profitable relationships with their customers. Remember, investing in increasing CLV today can pave the way for a prosperous and sustainable business future. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


How do you calculate the lifetime value of a customer?

The lifetime value of a customer, or CLV, can be calculated by multiplying the customer’s average purchase value, their average purchase frequency rate, and their average customer lifespan.

What are the five steps to calculate customer lifetime value?

The five steps to calculate customer lifetime value are: Identify the average purchase value, calculate the average purchase frequency rate, determine the customer’s value, calculate the average customer lifespan, and finally, multiply the customer value by the average customer lifespan.

Why do we calculate customer lifetime value?

We calculate customer lifetime value to understand how valuable a customer is to the business over an extended period, not just on a transactional basis. This information helps businesses strategize their marketing efforts, sales approach, and customer service to maximize long-term revenue.

If you found this blog post useful here are three more to check out:

How to Calculate Customer Acquisition Costs
The CLTV/CAC Ratio
Calculating Annual Contract Value

You can also contact us to find out more about outsourced accounting and other SaaS financial services.