cost per lead calculator and formula

Leadfeeder's Cost Per Lead Calculator: A More Accurate Way to Calculate Paid, Inbound, and Blended CPL

21 January 2021 by

Most cost-per-lead calculators suck. 

They're a pain to use, impossible to customize, and (worst of all) inaccurate. 

exasperated groan reaction

You think your Facebook ads are driving massive numbers of leads for cheap — but are they really? Are you considering all your costs? You might not be. 

If your cost-per-lead calculator is leaving out crucial data, your business could be wasting cash — and missing out on awesome opportunities.

So, how do you fix it? 

I am so glad you asked. Our data-loving Leadfeeder team built a FREE cost per lead (CPL) calculator that is: 

  • Easier to understand

  • More flexible (Yes, you can customize it!) 

  • More accurate 

  • Able to consider a wider range of situations 

We'll dig into the details in a minute, but let’s first talk about the cost per lead formula and the difference between cost per lead and cost per acquisition (or customer acquisition cost).

Download our Cost Per Lead Calculator

Note: Want a full view of companies visiting your website? Sign up for Leadfeeder’s free for 14 day trial to track and monitor information and behavior of your leads.

What is Cost per Lead (CPL) vs. Cost per Acquisition (CPA)?

Cost per lead (or CPL) is the total cost of generating one lead. This is in contrast to cost per acquisition (CPA), which is the total cost of generating one paying new customer or a closed deal.

So what “costs” does a business usually incur from generating leads? Generally, these include: 

  • Advertising costs

  • Inbound marketing costs

  • Other marketing costs

But most CPL calculators and formulas only think about advertising costs

This underestimates your true CPL. In reality, there are many additional costs required for most businesses to generate a quality lead (for example, building and optimizing landing pages to capture the lead).

Limiting CPL analysis to only one channel (advertising) prevents you from properly understanding your business and marketing efforts — and that can result in costly mistakes. 

oops regret expression

For example, is your SEO agency providing a good return? You’ll have no idea if you only calculate paid ad CPL.

That's where our free spreadsheet calculator comes in. The spreadsheet format is useful, as it lets you:

  • Easily add different costs to your CPL (advertising costs, inbound marketing costs, landing page costs.)

  • Create and save multiple versions and scenarios (So you can predict how changes might impact your business.)

You can download it, free, here.

The Cost Per Lead Calculator is hosted as a view-only Google Sheet. Once you open it, be sure to add it to your own Google Drive. Then you can make changes to it, make copies of it, or export it as an Excel file.

How Leadfeeder Decreases Your Cost Per Lead (CPL)

Why do we care so much about cost per lead? Because we built our app, Leadfeeder, to help us (and you) reduce it.

 There are two main ways to decrease CPL: 

  1. Increase the number of qualified leads you get

  2. Decrease your spending per lead

So, how does Leadfeeder help do this? By increasing the number of leads. It also helps improve lead quality, which decreases your overall cost per new customer.

1. Increase Number of Leads

Leadfeeder shows you which companies (and potential customers) are visiting your website, even if they never fill anything out — providing a low effort, new source of b2b lead generation.

leadfeeder company information

This increases the number of leads by letting your sales team reach out directly to companies that they know have already visited your site (often, multiple times) with a tailored pitch and have them turn INTO a lead.

Previously you could only reach out to companies that filled out a contact form. That’s a tiny fraction of your traffic (maybe 1% - 2% for most B2B companies). 

Now, you can reach out to a much larger portion of your traffic.  

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2. Decrease Average Cost per Lead

Second, once the sales team is working on a lead, Leadfeeder will let them know if and when that lead visits your site again. So if they send a follow-up email or click through via a marketing email, a salesperson can know that and follow up at exactly the right time.

This can help increase your close rate.

victory jump reaction

In fact, some companies see an increase of qualified sales leads by 34% after using Leadfeeder to funnel these leads right into their CRM.

You can learn more on our homepage or signup here for free and increase the amount of leads you get, using website analytics you already have.

The Cost Per Lead (CPL) Formula

It’s easiest to think of the cost per lead formula in layers of detail. In its simplest form, it’s just:

(Customer acquisition costs per month)/(Leads per month)

Note that “per month” can be any time period - year, week, day. Throughout this guide and the spreadsheet CPL calculator, we use per month since most businesses report on metrics on a monthly basis.

The detail (second layer of complexity) is in how you calculate costs and leads.

Calculating Costs

Most cost per lead calculators and formulas only focus on costs from one channel, usually, paid advertising. 

But this doesn’t accurately reflect how most businesses generate leads — through both paid sources and organically through their site.

If we call the latter category “Inbound” leads, then we can break out costs per month as:

(Costs per month) = (Advertising Costs) + (Inbound Costs)

Advertising Costs

When calculating advertising costs, most businesses (and articles) only consider advertising spend and completely ignore an important, and often huge, part of advertising cost: the cost of people required to manage the ad campaigns!

frustrated why reaction

The people who manage your ads aren't free, so why isn't this part of the cost? 

If we call this people cost “and management” then the formula for advertising costs is then:

(Advertising Costs) = (Ad Spend) + (Ad Management)

Ad management itself usually has two components: external agency costs and internal employee costs. Of course, this varies from company to company.

Inbound Costs

We’ll consider inbound costs for everything from organic traffic to the main marketing site and content marketing via the company blog and social media.

In practice, this can vary a lot from company to company. For example: 

  • Some companies spend a lot on SEO agencies and consultants.

  • Some companies spend a lot of their marketing team’s time on inbound.

  • Some companies spend a lot on blogging (content marketing).

But for calculation purposes, these are all people costs, which you can easily think of as internal resources and external resources:

(Inbound Costs) = (External resources) + (Internal resources)

As you’ll see in our discussion below, our Cost Per Lead Calculator lets you easily add or remove external and internal resources and adds up the total to calculate your inbound costs.

Cost Per Lead (CPL) Calculator

In this section, we’ll cover how our spreadsheet calculator works. So if you haven’t already downloaded our Cost Per Lead Calculator, you can do so here – it’s free, no opt-in required. 

The spreadsheet is divided into two parts as per our high-level cost per lead formula discussed above.

Calculating Costs

First, costs:

calculating costs

Then, a section on calculating leads:

calculating leads

Note the actual sections are longer and include more information than what is shown in the screenshots above.

All costs are per month and column C has some helpful notes about certain rows.

Ad Costs

Ad costs are divided into ad spend and ad management. Adding up ad spend is simple, just insert your average monthly spend by channel.

ad spend

One big advantage of a spreadsheet calculator (vs. a rigid on-page calculator) is you can easily customize the rows. 

So, in this case you can add and remove rows as needed depending on where your company spends ad budget.

In the base example, we’ve set a hypothetical $3,000/month spend on Facebook and $4,000/month on Google.

Ad Management

The ad management section gets more interesting. In addition to any monthly spend on a marketing agency that manages your ads, you’ll estimate what portion of internal team members' time is spent managing the agency or the ads themselves.

Estimating this cost will take some time — but it's worth it for more accurate data. 

ad management

You can copy and paste the Employee salary and Employee % of FTE rows if you need to add more employees.

Some companies want to understand cost per lead excluding internal marketing team salary costs. That’s okay. 

If that’s the case, simply set those values to zero or delete those rows.

But in our estimation, the true cost per lead should include that spend because the internal team is required to run the ad process and thus without them no ad-based leads would be generated. 

You can also run the calculator with and without internal team member costs and report on the difference.

Inbound Costs

The inbound costs section has rows for spend on software and assets (landing page software, email software, etc.), plus sections for people costs as discussed above:

inbound costs

The flexibility of the spreadsheet calculator becomes really useful for computing inbound marketing costs because of what we said above:

“Inbound marketing” encompasses a suite of different activities.

This means, from a cost perspective, it includes a variety of different costs you’ll need to add up.

In the inbound costs section of our CPL calculator (screenshot above), there are line items for:

  • Agency costs: Add as many of these as you like if you have different agencies for SEO, content marketing, etc.

  • In house employee time: Again, just copy and paste these rows to include percentages of salary spent on employees working on inbound marketing

  • Tech and asset costs: Add as many of these as you need for landing page software, blogging platforms, marketing automation software, graphics, and other assets, etc.

Total Costs

total costs

As you customize the cost per lead costs section, adding and removing sections as it applies to your company, double-check that the formula in the Total Costs row, highlighted in light red still properly adds up all of your costs – adjust the formula until it does.

Calculating Leads

Just like costs, the leads calculation is divided into paid ad leads and inbound leads. This will let us compute both the paid ad CPL and inbound CPL (and of course, a blended CPL).

To keep the units consistent, make sure your values for leads are per month just like your costs (or whatever time period, as long as it’s consistent).

Paid Ad Leads

This is simply separated by paid ad channel. We put placeholders in for Facebook, Google, and Linkedin – feel free to add and remove channels as needed.

paid ad leads

Following our theme of making this calculator customizable (so it’s more useful to you), we designed this section so you can compute your monthly leads by paid ad channel in a few different ways – just choose which method is most useful:

(1) Input your average monthly leads directly: This is easiest if you know roughly how many leads you get per month from Facebook, Google, etc., and just want to enter it directly.

paid facebook leads per month

If you do this, the clicks per month, costs per click (CPC), and landing page conversion rate cells are not used – you can ignore them.

If you prefer to use this method, use the tab titled “Simpler Leads”, it does this already.

simpler leads

(2) Input your clicks per month and conversion rate: This gives you a little more granularity. 

You can input the clicks per month and the average landing page conversion rate and the calculator will compute the leads per month (clicks * conversion rate). 

It will also calculate the CPC just for your reference.

facebook clicks per month

(Note: Alternatively, you can change the formulas yourself to input a cost per click and have the calculator tell you the clicks per month you’ll get with the monthly ad spend you set in the costs section above.)

Inbound Leads

Inbound leads are hard to generalize. 

They come from a variety of sources and forms on your site: Organic traffic to your marketing site, to blog articles (organic, referral), through social channels, form submissions on your homepage, form submissions on your “work with us” or “request a demo”, or any other lead generation page – the list goes on.

Thus we decided it was most useful to keep this section simple:

inbound leads

You can compute your inbound leads in two ways:

(1) Enter the total inbound leads you get per month: If you aren’t tracking conversion rates on your marketing site or your blog, then this is best.

(2) Enter your average monthly traffic and conversion rate: This gives you one added level of granularity.

We’ve found that the second route (how the calculator is built by default) is best for teams looking to see how improving traffic or conversion rates would help CPL.

For example, if you invested in SEO and grew traffic another 10,000 visitors, but kept the conversion rate the same, how would that affect your CPL?

Results: Computing Costs Per Lead by Channel

Once you’ve customized the costs and leads sections, scroll to the top to see your costs per lead.

leadfeeder cost per lead calculator

The calculator shows three costs per lead: paid, inbound, and blended.

Showing costs per lead by channel is extremely useful to let you and your team see which channel is performing better.

Also, having the Cost Per Lead Calculator in spreadsheet form lets you go back and play with values to see how this would affect the relative CPLs between the two channels. 

Finally, you can easily save different scenarios by either copying COLUMN B or copying the entire sheet into a new tab with a unique name. 

Download our Cost Per Lead Calculator

Note: Want a full view of companies visiting your website? Sign up for Leadfeeder’s free for 14 day trial to track and monitor information and behavior of your leads.


Anna Crowe
By Anna Crowe

Anna is the Assistant Editor for Search Engine Journal and Content Strategy Lead at Leadfeeder. Over the last 9 years, Anna has successfully developed and implemented online marketing strategies, SEO, and conversion campaigns for 100+ businesses of all sizes; from the Fortune 500, to startups, and nonprofits. She enjoys burritos and puppies (in that order).


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