Unlocking Profit Potential: Demystifying the Marginal Revenue Formula

Unlocking Profit Potential: Demystifying the Marginal Revenue Formula

Jelena Lukic
Written by Jelena Lukic
August 3, 2023

Is the marginal revenue formula giving you headaches?

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In the area of economics and business, understanding how changes in production levels affect revenues is crucial for maximizing profits.

The concept of marginal revenue plays a central role in this process.

Let us explore what marginal revenue is, its significance in business decision-making, and how to calculate it using the marginal revenue formula.

What is Marginal Revenue?

Marginal revenue is a fundamental concept in economics crucial for businesses aiming to optimize their profits.

It refers to the additional revenue generated by producing and selling one extra unit of a product or service.

In simpler terms, marginal revenue answers the question: “How much more revenue will be earned by selling one more item?”

What Differentiates the Marginal Revenue Formula from Total Revenue?

To better grasp the concept of marginal revenue, it is essential to distinguish it from total revenue.

  • Total revenue represents the overall income a company generates from selling a certain quantity of goods or services at a given price.
  • On the other hand, marginal revenue focuses on the change in total revenue resulting from the sale of one additional unit.

Here’s an important distinction to keep in mind: total revenue considers the combined income from all units sold, while marginal revenue concentrates solely on the revenue generated by the last (additional) unit sold. In this sense, marginal revenue represents an incremental increase in revenue resulting from expanding sales by one unit.

What Differentiates the Marginal Revenue Formula from Total Revenue

The Importance of Marginal Revenue in Business

Understanding marginal revenue is critical for businesses looking to make informed decisions about pricing, production levels, and overall profitability.

Companies can optimize their operations and maximize profits by analyzing how changes in production or pricing affect revenue.

For example, knowing the marginal revenue helps businesses determine the ideal production quantity that would result in the highest overall revenue and, consequently, profit.

A company can stay competitive and efficient by avoiding overproduction.

Hence, it can avoid increased costs without proportional revenue gains.

Furthermore, marginal revenue is closely linked to the concept of price elasticity of demand. Businesses can utilize this relationship to adjust their pricing strategies.

For instance, inelastic demand suggests that changes in price have minimal impact on the quantity demanded, resulting in higher marginal revenue.

Conversely, for products with elastic demand, price changes can significantly affect the number of units sold and, consequently, the marginal revenue.

To put it differently, understanding marginal revenue provides valuable insights into the dynamics of revenue generation.

It guides businesses in making strategic decisions that drive success in the ever-evolving marketplace.

Companies can unlock their profit potential and achieve sustainable growth by recognizing the incremental nature of marginal revenue and its distinction from total revenue.

The Marginal Revenue Formula

The marginal revenue formula is a simple yet powerful tool that enables businesses to calculate the additional revenue generated by producing and selling one more unit of a product or service. It can be expressed mathematically as follows:



  • MR represents the Marginal Revenue
  • ΔTR denotes the Change in Total Revenue
  • ΔQ signifies the Change in Quantity Sold

Calculating Marginal Revenue Formula

Let’s consider a fictional coffee shop named “Caffeine Buzz” that sells cups of coffee at $3 each. Initially, the shop sells 100 cups of coffee per day, generating a total revenue of $300 (100 cups x $3). Due to increased demand, “Caffeine Buzz” decides to raise the price of a cup of coffee to $4.

Now, the coffee shop managers want to determine the impact of this price change on their marginal revenue.

Step 1: Calculate the Initial Total Revenue (TR1) with the original price:

TR1 = Quantity Sold (Q1) x Price per Unit

TR1 = 100 cups x $3 = $300

Step 2: Calculate the New Total Revenue (TR2) with the new price:

TR2 = Quantity Sold (Q2) x Price per Unit

TR2 = 100 cups x $4 = $400

Step 3: Calculate the Change in Total Revenue (ΔTR):

ΔTR = TR2 – TR1

ΔTR = $400 – $300

ΔTR = $100

Step 4: Calculate the Change in Quantity Sold (ΔQ):

ΔQ = Q2 – Q1

ΔQ = 100 cups – 100 cups

ΔQ = 0

Step 5: Compute the Marginal Revenue (MR) using the formula:


MR = $100 / 0

In this scenario, the change in quantity sold (ΔQ) is zero since the coffee shop didn’t sell any additional cups after increasing the price. As a result, the marginal revenue (MR) is undefined (division by zero).


The coffee shop’s marginal revenue is undefined because there was no change in the quantity sold after raising the price.

This result suggests that the price increase did not stimulate additional demand, and the shop is operating on the inelastic portion of the demand curve, where price changes have little effect on the quantity sold.

Understanding marginal revenue and its application in various scenarios can help businesses make data-driven decisions about pricing, production levels, and sales strategies to optimize their revenue and profitability.

Real-World Applications of the Marginal Revenue Formula

1. Pricing Strategies

  • Price Optimization – Marginal revenue formula and analysis play a pivotal role in helping businesses set optimal prices for their products or services. By understanding how changes in price affect marginal revenue, companies can identify the price point that maximizes their overall revenue. For example, if a company finds that a small decrease in price leads to a significant increase in quantity sold (elastic demand), they might opt for a lower price to attract more customers and increase revenue.
  • Bundling and Discounts – Marginal revenue analysis can also guide businesses in designing effective pricing strategies, such as bundling products together or offering discounts. By calculating the marginal revenue of each product in the bundle, companies can determine whether bundling will result in increased revenue compared to selling products individually. Similarly, understanding the impact of discounts on marginal revenue helps companies strike a balance between attracting more customers and maintaining profitability.
  • Price Discrimination – Marginal revenue formula can be instrumental in implementing price discrimination strategies, where companies charge different prices to different customer segments. By understanding how price elasticity varies among different customer groups, businesses can set prices to maximize revenue from each segment.

2. Production Decisions

  • Production Quantity – Marginal revenue analysis assists businesses in deciding the optimal quantity of goods or services to produce. Companies aim to produce the quantity where marginal revenue equals marginal cost. If marginal revenue is greater than marginal cost, producing an additional unit will contribute positively to overall profit. However, if marginal revenue is less than marginal cost, producing more units will lead to reduced profits. This allows businesses to avoid overproduction, minimize costs, and maximize profitability.
  • Short-Term vs. Long-Term Production – Understanding marginal revenue helps companies differentiate between short-term and long-term production decisions. In the short term, firms may continue production even if marginal revenue is less than marginal cost to cover variable costs and contribute to fixed costs. However, in the long term, businesses must adjust production levels to align with the profit-maximizing point where marginal revenue equals marginal cost.
  • Product Mix Decisions – Marginal revenue formula also aids businesses in determining the ideal product mix to achieve the highest overall profit. By comparing the marginal revenue and marginal cost of each product or service in their portfolio, companies can allocate resources to produce and sell the products that generate the most incremental revenue relative to their costs.


Understanding the concept of marginal revenue, marginal revenue formula, and their practical applications is essential for businesses aiming to make informed decisions that optimize profits.

By grasping the marginal revenue formula and its underlying factors, companies can develop effective pricing and production strategies, leading to increased financial success and sustainability in a competitive marketplace.

Jelena Lukic

Jelena has a Master’s Degree in teaching Serbian literature and language. Creative writing is her biggest passion.

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