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Edited by: Kimberlee Leonard
 and Reviewed: Kimberlee Leonard

Understanding Marginal Revenue and How to Calculate It

Author: | Sep 27, 2023

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Go Sifter Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

The concept of marginal revenue (MR) plays a pivotal role in shaping strategies, pricing models, and profitability assessments. Understanding marginal revenue is essential for any business leader, economist, or analyst striving to make informed choices that maximize revenue and optimize operations.

This article explores MR’s significance, calculation formula, and practical applications.

What Is Marginal Revenue?

Marginal revenue is the additional revenue generated by selling one extra unit of a product or service. It reflects the change in total revenue resulting from a slight alteration in quantity sold. Essentially, MR quantifies the incremental impact on revenue when a business increases its output by a single unit.

Importance of Understanding Marginal Revenue

Understanding MR is paramount for several compelling reasons:

Optimal Pricing Strategy

MR guides businesses in setting prices that maximize profitability. Companies can determine the most advantageous price points by analyzing the impact of changes in quantity sold on revenue.

Efficient Resource Allocation

MR analysis assists in identifying the point of diminishing returns. It helps prevent overproduction by indicating that producing an additional unit would lead to lower profits due to increased costs.

Profit Maximization

The ultimate goal of every business is to maximize profits. By comparing MR to marginal cost, businesses can determine the level of production that maximizes profits. This analysis ensures optimal resource utilization and operational efficiency.

Market Entry and Expansion

Understanding MR aids in making informed decisions about entering new markets or expanding existing ones. It enables businesses to assess whether the potential revenue justifies the associated costs.

Budgeting and Financial Planning

Understanding how changes in production impact revenue is crucial for effective budgeting and financial planning. Accurate MR estimates contribute to more accurate revenue forecasts and financial projections.

Strategic Planning

MR insights play a pivotal role in strategic planning. They guide the development of effective growth strategies, market positioning, and long-term sustainability plans.

Avoiding Losses

Businesses need to avoid producing at levels where marginal cost exceeds MR, as this would lead to losses. MR analysis helps identify this critical threshold and prevent revenue losses.

Efficient Marketing Campaigns

MR insights can guide marketing efforts by helping businesses understand how changes in marketing strategies, promotions, or advertising impact the quantity sold and, subsequently, marginal revenue.

Total Revenue (TR) Vs. Marginal Revenue (MR)

While MR and TR both relate to a company’s income, they serve distinct purposes:

Total Revenue

Represents the overall income from all units sold. It provides a comprehensive view of a company’s earnings but does not offer insights into how individual units contribute to revenue.

Marginal Revenue

Focuses on the revenue generated by the last unit sold. It helps in determining the impact of changes in production levels on revenue. MR is essential for making pricing and production decisions.

Learn about the 38 key accounting terms every business owner must know.

Factors to Consider When Calculating Marginal Revenue:

 Several factors influence marginal revenue:

  • Price: Changes in price can affect both total revenue and MR. Lower prices might lead to higher sales volume but potentially lower marginal revenue.
  • Demand Elasticity: The responsiveness of demand to price changes influences MR. Elastic demand could result in higher changes in quantity sold and marginal revenue.
  • Market Demand: MR is directly influenced by consumer demand. A higher demand typically results in higher MR.
  • Market Conditions: External factors such as market trends, seasonality, and economic conditions can influence the demand for a product and, consequently, its marginal revenue.
  • External Factors: External events, such as promotions, advertising campaigns, or regulatory changes, can impact consumer demand and influence MR.
  • Competitor Behavior: Competitors’ actions, pricing strategies, and market share, meaning competitive dynamics can affect marginal revenue.
  • Consumer Preferences: Understand shifts in consumer preferences, as changes in product popularity can impact the quantity sold and MR.
  • Market Saturation: In a saturated market, increases in production and sales may lead to diminishing MR, as consumers may be less willing to purchase additional units.
  • Time Period: Fluctuations in demand across various time spans can impact both the quantity sold and MR. Consider whether the time frame for the calculation reflects any significant changes in demand.

Calculating Marginal Revenue: Steps with Example

The process of calculating MR is fairly simple if one follows these steps:

Step1: Determine Change in Total Revenue (ΔTR)

This is determined by subtracting the revenue collected before selling the last unit (unit before the extra unit) from the total revenue.

Step2: Determine Change in Quantity Sold (ΔQ)

Identify the change in quantity from producing and selling additional units.

Step3: Use MR Formula

Utilize the formula, which states that the difference in total revenue (ΔTR) divided by the change in quantity sold (ΔQ) is equivalent to marginal revenue:


Let’s try to understand this concept better with an example. Suppose you own a food truck selling 100 tacos for $8 a piece daily. However, on one particular day, you make 105 tacos, meaning 5 extra tacos, and sell those remaining 5 tacos for $30. Using the above formula, we can calculate the MR as follows:

$30 (Change in revenue) / 5 (Change in Quantity) = $6 (Marginal Revenue)

In this case, the usual $8 price of the taco is inconsequential as MR is only about the cost of additional items sold; in this case, it is $6. 

Notable Points:

  • MR is not a standalone factor but is closely linked to marginal cost (additional cost incurred due to the production of one extra unit).
  • For the additional production to make sense, MR should always be more than the marginal cost.
  • When marginal revenue = marginal cost, it signals companies to halt production as they will see no rise in profit even when there is an increase in the units produced.
  • MR is also subject to the law of diminishing returns and, at some point, will dip despite an increase in production.


Understanding marginal revenue is crucial for businesses striving to achieve profitability and operational efficiency. Accurate MR calculation empowers businesses to strike a balance between maximizing revenue and optimizing costs and helps them navigate competitive markets with confidence and precision.

In conclusion, mastering the concept of MR is a cornerstone of effective business management. It enables organizations to make strategic decisions that drive revenue growth and enhance profitability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Marginal Revenue vs. Average Revenue: What Is the Difference?

Marginal revenue (MR) focuses on the revenue generated by selling one extra unit, while average revenue calculates the average income per unit sold. MR considers the incremental impact of each additional unit, while average revenue provides an average overview of overall revenue.

What Is Marginal Revenue Used for?
How Is Marginal Revenue Used in Cost Analysis?
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