Cost per Lead (CPL)

Cost per Lead (CPL) is a marketing metric used to measure the cost of acquiring a new lead.

In a cost-per-lead pricing model, advertisers pay just for each qualified sign-up they get, no matter how many times their ad was shown or clicked.

This way, cost-per-lead advertising lets advertisers be sure they’re getting real value from their money on online ads.1


cpl formula

How to Calculate Cost per Lead?

Cost per lead (CPL) is calculated using a simple formula:

CPL = Total Marketing Spend / Number of Leads Generated

Here’s a breakdown of the formula:

  1. Total Marketing Spend: This is all the money you’ve spent on marketing in a set period.
  2. Number of Leads Generated: This is the number of new potential customers you’ve gotten during the time you’re considering spending.


Suppose you spent $5000 on social media ads for a one-month campaign and acquired 100 new leads. In this case, your CPL would be:

CPL = $5000 / 100 leads = $50 per lead

This means that, on average, it costs you $50 to acquire each lead through your social media ad campaign.2


The primary purpose of cost-per-lead is to assess the cost-effectiveness of your marketing efforts in generating new leads.

Knowing the cost-per-lead allows you to use your marketing budget more effectively, putting more into campaigns and channels that offer the lowest CPL and the highest ROI.

The ultimate aim of tracking CPL is to make marketing spending more effective, get better quality leads, and boost how well marketing strategies find potential customers.3

How It Works

Cost-per-lead measures how much money you spend to get a new lead.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  1. First, you spend money on marketing efforts, like ads on social media, search engine marketing, or writing blog posts.
  2. The goal is to attract people interested in what you offer. When these people take action, like filling out a form, signing up for your newsletter, or downloading a guide and giving you their contact info, they become your leads.
  3. CPL is used to determine the average cost of acquiring one of these leads. You use a straightforward formula: divide your total marketing expenses by the number of leads you receive.4


Cost-per-lead is primarily used in marketing and advertising, specifically for campaigns that generate leads rather than direct sales.5

Here’s where it’s commonly applied:

  • Digital Advertising: CPL measures the cost-effectiveness of online ad campaigns.
  • Email Marketing: Used to evaluate lead generation from email campaigns.
  • Content Marketing: Helps gauge lead acquisition cost from content like ebooks or webinars.
  • Affiliate Marketing: Determines affiliate payments based on generated leads.
  • Event Marketing: Calculates the cost per lead for events and conferences.4

Interpreting CPL

Understanding CPL means recognizing that a lower CPL shows a more cost-efficient campaign because it costs you less to acquire each lead.

Yet, it’s crucial to consider both the CPL and the quality of the leads it brings.

Ideally, you want a low CPL combined with high-quality leads.

This scenario means your marketing campaign is not only saving money but also effectively reaching the right people.6

Related Terms


1. Wikimedia Foundation. (2023a, October 21). Cost per lead. Wikipedia.

2. Scott, D. T. (2013). The New Rules of Lead Generation: Proven Strategies to Maximize Marketing ROI. United Kingdom: AMACOM.

3. Popova, I., & Tanglertpanya, T. (2011). Measuring effectiveness of internet advertisement. Perspectives of Innovations, Economics, and Business7(1231-2016-100743), 51-54.

4. What is CPL? cost per lead explained. Publift. (n.d.).

5. Caveney, L. (2022, April 21). Cost per lead: Is your marketing effective?. Ruler Analytics.

6. Tozer, J. (2023, November 23). Seeing a CPL increase? here’s how to fix it. Powered by Search.

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