Of course you want to maximize your business’s profit. Do just that when you balance margin and sales volume. Here’s how it works. Typically, if your business charges higher prices, your profit per sale is higher, but your overall sales volume decreases, potentially decreasing profits. If your business charges lower prices, your sales volume tends to be higher, but you make less profit on each sale. Finding the best balance for your business is crucial to maximizing profit.
What Are Margin and Volume?
Margin refers to the difference between your business’s revenue and the costs you incur to generate that revenue. Let’s say your business generates revenue of $1 million. If it incurs $800,000 in costs, your margin is $200,000. Margin is often stated as a percentage, so in this example, the margin is 20 percent, because $200,000 is 20 percent of $1 million.
Volume refers to the quantity of products or services sold — think of it as your revenue. In the above example, your business volume is $1 million.
So what’s a good level of margin? It depends on the industry. In some industries, 5 percent is a great margin, while in others, a 5-percent margin indicates a poorly run business.
Why Should You Maximize Margin?
A relatively small increase in costs can cause a relatively large decrease in profit. That’s why maximizing margin is so crucial to your company’s success. To continue the above example, suppose you bring in an additional employee at a total cost to your business of $50,000. That’s about a 7-percent increase in your business’s costs ($50,000 divided by $800,000.) However, your profit drops from $200,000 to $150,000, a 25-percent decrease. The small increase in costs caused a much larger drop in profit.
Similarly, a relatively small decrease in costs can lead to a relatively large increase in profits. Suppose that, instead of hiring another employee to help with all the work, you cut your advertising costs by $50,000. By cutting your costs by about 7 percent, you increase your profit from $200,000 to $250,000, an increase of 25 percent.
Maybe you read those examples and thought, “Sure, but if I cut my advertising costs, my sales volume will decrease.” Typically, that’s true. But will the decrease in advertising cause a decrease in sales volume that’s large enough to reduce your profit rather than increase it? It’s often hard to know ahead of time. Maybe the decreased advertising won’t affect your sales volume as much as you expect. The only way to know is to try it —and you’ll want to track your advertising ROI to see what the actual effects are. Another thing to look at in this example: if decreasing your ad budget decreases your sales volume, maybe it’ll also lead to other cost reductions. Making fewer sales typically means lower employee-related costs and less spending other things, such as supplies.
Sometimes increasing margin by cutting costs is a no-brainer. If you can cut your costs on print cartridges without sacrificing print quality by switching to a generic brand, your margin increases without a decrease in sales volume, and your business profit increases. Likewise, if you can generate additional margin by switching to a product line that costs you less and that customers like just as much, you’ve increased your margin and made a good move.
Using Industry Statistics as a Guide
To make decisions about margin versus volume, is to look at statistics for your specific industry. Consider using benchmarking to see what the most profitable, highest margin businesses in your industry are spending in various cost categories. These can provide you with useful targets in your business planning and help your strike the perfect, most profitable balance between margin and volume.