KPI ExamplesCost Per Lead (CPL)

Cost Per Lead (CPL)

Cost per Lead (CPL) is a digital marketing metric that quantifies a company's cost to acquire a new lead. It's calculated by dividing the total expenditure of a campaign by the number of leads generated. This metric offers immediate insight into the financial effectiveness of marketing efforts.

Budget Focus

CPL data guides efficient budget allocation across marketing channels.


Use CPL to refine audience targeting, focusing on cost-efficient groups.

Client Reports

CPL showcases campaign efficiency in client updates.

A/B Testing

CPL informs which campaign elements yield the most cost-effective leads.

Acquisition Metrics That Matter

Why Cost Per Lead Is Important

When every ad dollar counts, Cost per Lead is like the pulse of a marketing campaign's financial health. Tracking this metric offers an immediate window into how much bang a company gets for its marketing buck. 

If the CPL is high, the marketing campaign may burn money faster than it should. On the other hand, a low lead cost usually means the campaign is working as a well-oiled machine, efficiently bringing in potential customers.

What makes CPL particularly vital is its immediacy. CPL provides the marketing team with instant insights, unlike metrics that require a long chain of events to become meaningful. Even if it is not being used as the online advertising pricing model, measuring CPL is a quick thermometer check in a fast-paced environment, helping to make timely adjustments.

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Painting the Lead Pipeline Picture

How CPL Interacts with Other Key Metrics

Cost per Lead is the social butterfly of KPIs, always mingling with other important figures. While CPL focuses on the acquisition cost of each lead, metrics–like sales team Conversion Rates and Average Order Value (AOV)–give a more nuanced view. For example, a low CPL combined with a high Conversion Rate is the dream team of metrics; leads are being acquired cost-effectively, and desired actions are being taken at a high rate.

Also, consider Lifetime Value (LTV) in this mix. A seemingly expensive CPL might be manageable if those leads have a high lifetime value. It's all about balancing the immediate financial implication of what the advertiser pays per lead with the longer-term profitability measured by metrics like AOV and CLTV. 

By looking at CPL in conjunction with these other KPIs, a marketing agency or client gets a 360-degree view of ad campaign effectiveness.

Image Illustrating How KPIs Interact
Understanding the Customer Journey

Using Lead Stages to Drive Marketing Success

Differentiating lead stages is fundamental as it helps direct marketing efforts and budget. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), Product Qualified Lead (PQL), and Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) are key categories. An MQL shows initial interest, maybe through a downloaded resource. A PQL engages directly with a product, such as with a free trial, hinting at a higher purchase probability. An SQL is ready for sales engagement, having moved through earlier stages.

Recognizing the difference between qualified and unqualified leads optimizes total marketing spend, ensuring investments target leads more likely to convert. This understanding shapes marketing campaigns. By identifying the stage and the quality of inbound leads, resources are allocated effectively, focusing on turning leads into customers.

Other Impactor KPI Factors to Consider
Know your client’s numbers. It is not all about you. It is about the relationship with them and helping them grow. Find out what the client is doing in revenue, what their closing rate is, and the average ticket. Then work backward to figure out if your advertising will even work out for them and what the cost per lead would have to be.
Zeke Domowski, Creatively Innovative

How To Calculate Cost Per Lead

Calculating Cost per Lead is straightforward but essential for understanding campaign costs. All that's needed is the total expenditure on a specific campaign and the number of leads that campaign generated. Sum up all the money spent on that campaign—think ad spend, creative costs, and any software subscriptions that directly supported it.

Divide the total campaign cost by the number of leads generated, and voila, that’s the CPL. It’s like calculating the average score of a game, simple but telling.

Cost Per Lead Formula Example

Total Campaign Expenditure
Total Leads Generated

What Is a Good CPL?

Determining a reasonable Cost per Lead hinges on multiple factors: desired Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), Average Order Value (AOV), and lead conversion rate.

Start by working backward. Say the goal is to achieve a ROAS of 5x.

With an AOV of $100 and a lead conversion rate of 10%, each lead should ideally contribute an average of $10 to revenue.

To hit that 5x ROAS, aim for a CPL no higher than $2 (because $10 revenue per lead / 5 = $2).

The path to a profitable campaign becomes clearer by aligning CPL with these critical variables.

What Is a Bad CPL?

Just as there's a good side, there's a bad one too. What would be considered a bad CPL varies dramatically by industry.

For example, a $50 CPL might be great for a B2B software provider but terrible for an online clothing store.

However, it all circles back to the CPL, ROAS, AOV, and conversion rate relationship. If the CPL is consistently higher than these metrics suggest, then it's time for some adjustments.

And by adjustments, we mean trim the fat and get that campaign back into fighting shape.

How To Establish Custom CPL Benchmarks and Goals

When industry averages don't cut it or simply don't exist, agencies often create their own yardsticks for Cost per Lead. One common approach is historical performance analysis.

Agencies typically generate a custom CPL benchmark by examining past campaigns with similar goals, audiences, or products. Another angle is to focus on business objectives. For instance, if an agency knows a client aims for a 20% growth in revenue, they might set a CPL that aligns with the lifetime value of a customer, factoring in expected growth.

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The Dollar Dance

Why Cost Per Lead Matters to Clients

For clients, Cost per Lead is like the heartbeat of their campaign investment. Every beat (or, in this case, every lead) needs to improve the campaign's financial health, not worsen it. 

First, the CPL tells clients how much they spend to get new leads and potential customers into the sales funnel. Lowering this number directly increases the ROI, making the C-suite sit up and pay attention. 

Secondly, when clients observe the CPL in the context of customer lifetime value or average order value, it helps them make informed decisions on scaling their lead generation and overall marketing spend.

Why KPIs Matter to Marketing Agency Clients
The Pulse of Profit

Why Cost Per Lead Matters to Agencies

From an agency's lens, CPL serves a different but equally crucial role in generating leads campaigns. Agencies want to provide value to clients, but they also want to show it.

A steadily reducing CPL clearly signals campaign effectiveness and optimization prowess. It's a fantastic way to earn bragging rights in a competitive market.

Another angle is resource and marketing budget allocation. By understanding the CPL, agencies quickly gauge which CPL campaigns are gobbling up the budget without delivering results. This insight allows for real-time shifts in strategy, taking money from underperforming campaigns and routing it to those showing promise.

Why Marketing KPIs Matter to Digital Agencies

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How To Analyze & Optimize Using Cost Per Lead

Gaining a nuanced understanding of Cost per Lead paves the way for smarter advertising choices. By dissecting CPL through different lenses, better campaign performance is not just a hope but an expectation.


Cost Per Lead Over Time

It's essential to track CPL on a timeline to identify patterns. Seasonal trends or sudden spikes offer invaluable insights. A consistent drop in CPL might signify a winning strategy, while an increase could mean it's time for a revamp.


Cost Per Lead Across Channels

Different platforms have different costs and potentials. Comparing CPL across channels like Facebook, Google Ads, and LinkedIn helps allocate budget more efficiently. A low CPL on one channel might justify increasing its budget share.


Show How Cost Per Lead Contributes to Client Goals

Every client has unique objectives: brand awareness, revenue growth, or customer retention. Tying CPL back to these goals to show the metric's true value is essential.


Put Cost Per Lead in the Context of Other Metrics

Clients need to know how CPL interacts with key performance indicators like conversion rate, average order value, and customer lifetime value. Understanding the interplay helps marketers make better decisions and elevates the campaign's overall health.


Trends and Anomalies in Cost Per Lead

A sudden spike could indicate ad fatigue, while a sharp drop might reveal a high-performing ad. It’s also important to balance any spikes or drops in lead quantity against the lead quality. A sudden influx of low-quality and low-converting leads is something to be addressed, not celebrated.


Visualize Cost Per Lead Performance

Charts and graphs help digest complex data quickly. When clients see an easy-to-understand visual representation of how CPL changes over time or across channels, it becomes easier for them to grasp the narrative. This visual story allows for better decision-making and highlights areas that need immediate attention.

We’ll help set up the flow of leads into the CRM and mark the leads with the channel and even the campaign source. Once those leads are closed, we can roll up to a cost-per-acquisition figure. Now, we can see what levers to pull across the entire MQL-SQL journey, whether it be better landing pages and conversion rates, or better close ratios on SQLs.
Ryan Kelly, Pear Analytics

LinkedIn Ads Dashboard Example

AgencyAnalytics features the Cost per Lead metrics prominently in LinkedIn Ads dashboards and reports. The platform also offers real-time tracking of CPL, complemented by visual elements like graphs and charts. Customization options help agencies align reports with specific client objectives, whether focused on lead quality or sales conversions.
LinkedIn Ads KPI Dashboard Example

Related Integrations


How To Improve Cost Per Lead

Looking to lower CPL while maintaining or improving lead quality? These three tips offer actionable paths for campaign enhancement.


Refine Targeting

Tailor the audience for ads to increase lead relevance. Specificity in demographic and interest-based targeting decreases wasted ad spend.


Optimize Landing Pages

Landing page experience directly impacts CPL. Streamlining the layout and emphasizing call-to-action prompts lead to lower costs and higher conversions.


Adjust Bidding Strategies

Bid adjustments often have an immediate impact on CPL. Opt for strategies that focus on quality leads at a lower cost, such as dayparting, ad positions, and geographic bid adjustments.

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Brendan Chard / Owner

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