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Unit Economics

Unit economics is a critical concept in the world of business and finance. It involves analyzing the direct revenues and costs associated with a specific unit within a business. Understanding unit economics is essential for assessing the financial health of a business and making informed decisions to drive profitability and growth.

What is unit economics?

Unit economics refers to the direct revenues and costs associated with a specific business model, product, or customer on a per-unit basis. The basic goal of analyzing unit economics is to assess the financial viability and sustainability of a business by understanding the relationship between the costs incurred to acquire, serve, or produce a unit and the revenue generated from that unit.

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What are the practices to keep unit economics accurate?

The practices to keep unit economics accurate are:

  1. Regularly recalculate unit economics
  2. Recalculate customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  3. Account for changes in pricing
  4. Include all relevant costs
  5. Consider segmentation
  6. Account for seasonal variations
  7. Use advanced metrics
  1. Regularly recalculate unit economics: Unit economics can change over time due to shifts in customer behavior, market conditions, or changes in your business model. Make it a routine practice to recalculate your unit economics at regular intervals, such as quarterly or annually.
  2. Recalculate customer acquisition cost (CAC): CAC can fluctuate as you adjust your marketing and sales strategies or experience changes in advertising costs. Whenever you make significant changes to your customer acquisition efforts or budgets, recalculate CAC to reflect the current situation accurately.
  3. Account for changes in pricing: If you change your pricing structure or introduce new pricing tiers, be sure to update your unit economics calculations accordingly. Pricing changes can have a direct impact on the Lifetime Value (LTV) and other unit economics metrics.
  4. Include all relevant costs: Ensure that you capture all direct costs associated with serving or acquiring a unit. This may include not only marketing and sales expenses but also costs related to customer support, product development, and any other activities that directly impact the unit.
  5. Consider segmentation: If your business serves multiple customer segments or offers different products or services, calculate unit economics separately for each segment or offering. This allows for a more accurate assessment of the profitability of different parts of your business.
  6. Account for seasonal variations: If your business experiences seasonal fluctuations in revenue or customer behavior, consider how these variations affect unit economics. Seasonal adjustments can help you make more accurate predictions and financial planning.
  7. Use advanced metrics: Depending on the complexity of your business, you may benefit from using advanced metrics and models, such as predictive LTV or flexible LTV calculations. These methods take into account changing customer behavior and can provide more accurate insights.

Why SaaS companies track unit economics?

SaaS (Software as a Service) companies track unit economics for several important reasons:

  1. Financial health assessment
  2. Customer acquisition strategy
  3. Pricing strategy
  4. Growth planning
  1. Financial health assessment: Unit economics help SaaS companies assess their financial health on a granular level. By analyzing the direct revenues and costs associated with each customer or subscription, they can determine whether their business model is sustainable and profitable. This assessment is crucial for the long-term viability of the company.
  2. Customer acquisition strategy: Tracking unit economics allows SaaS companies to evaluate the effectiveness of their customer acquisition strategies. They can calculate the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) to understand how much it costs to acquire each new customer. This information helps in budgeting and optimizing marketing and sales efforts.
  3. Pricing strategy: SaaS companies often offer different pricing tiers and plans to customers. Unit economics help in evaluating the profitability of each pricing tier by comparing the Lifetime Value (LTV) of customers on different plans to the CAC associated with acquiring them. This data can inform pricing decisions and package offerings.
  4. Growth planning: Unit economics provide valuable data for growth planning. Companies can use this information to predict future revenue streams based on current customer acquisition rates, churn rates, and pricing strategies. It aids in setting realistic growth targets and resource allocation.

Why are unit economics important?

The unit economics are important because:

  1. Financial viability
  2. Profitability
  3. Strategic decision-making
  4. Customer acquisition
  5. Customer retention
  6. Pricing strategies
  1. Financial viability: Unit economics help assess whether a business model is financially viable. By analyzing the direct revenues and costs associated with individual units (customers, products, services), a company can determine whether it can sustainably generate more revenue from each unit than it costs to acquire and serve that unit.
  2. Profitability: Unit economics provide a granular view of a company's profitability at the most basic level. It allows businesses to understand the profitability of individual customers, products, or services, which is essential for long-term success.
  3. Strategic decision-making: Unit economics inform strategic decisions related to customer acquisition, pricing, resource allocation, and product/service development. Businesses can make informed choices about where to invest resources for maximum impact on profitability and growth.
  4. Customer acquisition: Understanding the cost of acquiring a customer (Customer Acquisition Cost or CAC) is crucial for allocating marketing and sales budgets efficiently. It helps identify the most cost-effective customer acquisition channels and strategies.
  5. Customer retention: Unit economics assist in evaluating the value of retaining existing customers. By comparing the Lifetime Value (LTV) of retained customers to the cost of acquiring new ones, businesses can make informed decisions about customer retention strategies.
  6. Pricing strategies: Unit economics enable businesses to evaluate the profitability of different pricing tiers and plans. Companies can adjust pricing strategies to maximize revenue while remaining competitive.

How do you calculate unit economics?

To calculate unit economics:

1. Define unit

Determine what a "unit" represents in your context. Is it a customer, a product sold, a service rendered, or something else? Define this clearly.

2. Calculate customer lifetime value (LTV)

Calculate the average revenue generated by a single unit (customer) over the entire duration of their relationship with your business. The formula for LTV can vary, but a basic formula is:

LTV = (Average Revenue Per Unit) x (Average Lifespan of a Customer)

Calculate all direct costs associated with serving or acquiring this customer over their lifetime. This may include costs related to sales, marketing, customer support, and any other expenses directly tied to serving the customer.

3. Calculate customer acquisition cost (CAC)

Calculate the total cost incurred to acquire a new unit (customer). This includes expenses related to marketing, advertising, sales efforts, and any other activities aimed at bringing in new customers.

4. Analyze the LTV:CAC ratio

Compare the Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) to the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). The LTV:CAC ratio is a critical metric in unit economics.

A ratio greater than 1 indicates that the business is generating more revenue from a customer over their lifetime than it costs to acquire that customer, which is a positive sign.

A ratio less than 1 suggests that the cost of customer acquisition is higher than the expected revenue from that customer, which may indicate profitability challenges.

How unit economics helps to grow and improve?

Unit economics helps to grow and improve your business in various ways:

  1. Optimizing customer acquisition
  2. Pricing strategy improvement
  3. Resource allocation
  4. Customer retention strategies
  5. Scaling responsibly
  1. Optimizing customer acquisition: Unit economics provide insights into the cost-effectiveness of acquiring customers. By understanding the customer acquisition cost (CAC) and lifetime value (LTV) relationship, businesses can allocate their marketing and sales budgets more efficiently, focusing on strategies that generate higher-value customers.
  2. Pricing strategy improvement: Businesses can use unit economics to evaluate the profitability of different pricing tiers and plans. By comparing the LTV of customers on various plans to the CAC associated with acquiring them, companies can adjust their pricing strategies to maximize profitability while remaining competitive.
  3. Resource allocation: Unit economics help in resource allocation. Companies can allocate resources to customer acquisition channels, product development efforts, and customer support initiatives based on the most cost-effective strategies. This ensures that resources are directed where they can have the greatest impact on growth.
  4. Customer retention strategies: Understanding the LTV of customers allows businesses to assess the value of retaining existing customers. By comparing the LTV of retained customers to the CAC for acquiring new ones, companies can make informed decisions about investing in customer retention strategies, improving customer satisfaction, and reducing churn.
  5. Scaling responsibly: Unit economics provide guidance on sustainable growth. Companies can use this data to ensure that the cost of acquiring new customers does not outstrip the expected revenue from those customers. This prevents reckless scaling that could lead to financial instability.

Employee pulse surveys:

These are short surveys that can be sent frequently to check what your employees think about an issue quickly. The survey comprises fewer questions (not more than 10) to get the information quickly. These can be administered at regular intervals (monthly/weekly/quarterly).

One-on-one meetings:

Having periodic, hour-long meetings for an informal chat with every team member is an excellent way to get a true sense of what’s happening with them. Since it is a safe and private conversation, it helps you get better details about an issue.


eNPS (employee Net Promoter score) is one of the simplest yet effective ways to assess your employee's opinion of your company. It includes one intriguing question that gauges loyalty. An example of eNPS questions include: How likely are you to recommend our company to others? Employees respond to the eNPS survey on a scale of 1-10, where 10 denotes they are ‘highly likely’ to recommend the company and 1 signifies they are ‘highly unlikely’ to recommend it.

Based on the responses, employees can be placed in three different categories:

  • Promoters
    Employees who have responded positively or agreed.
  • Detractors
    Employees who have reacted negatively or disagreed.
  • Passives
    Employees who have stayed neutral with their responses.

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