"Pirate Metrics” by Dave McClure

By Thomas Bennett Financial expert at Priceva
Published on July 11, 2023
We are always on the hunt for robust frameworks that simplify the lives of entrepreneurs. One such framework is the AARRR, also known as "Pirate Metrics." This tool was proposed for startups by Dave McClure, a venture capitalist, and founder of a startup accelerator.

This framework assists business owners in understanding their customers better, dissecting their journey to the product in detail, and optimizing their sales funnel. It is also crucial for setting key metrics in companies that are just embarking on their entrepreneurial journey.

Key metrics are statistical data based on which you can comprehend the overall state of affairs and the company's performance, both as a whole and in specific divisions. They also measure the progress of various processes and track the achievement of set goals.

In essence, a startup is a quest for a repeatable and scalable profitable business model. To determine the viability of a particular business model, an entrepreneur conducts a series of tests on different elements of their business in a real-world scenario.

As mass marketing transitions from offline to digital, and online platforms (websites and apps) become the cornerstone of commercial organizations, it is becoming increasingly crucial to implement product metrics.

Product metrics are digitized data that allow you to evaluate the success of a specific product (website, service, app), how it is used and functions, how customers rate it, and how useful it is to them.

Digitizing these aspects allows for an objective evaluation of the state of the product being created or promoted and understanding which stages show less-than-optimal results, and where there is confident growth.

The abbreviation AARRR stands for:

AARRR: 5 Steps to Success

The AARRR framework comprises five stages, which are most crucial for any entrepreneur's business funnel. It aids in monitoring the efficacy of each stage and identifying metrics that directly impact the company's growth.
Let's delve into each letter of this acronym in more detail.


In our time, there are ever-increasing accessible channels for customer attraction. The goal at this stage is to discern which channels perform the best.

The father of advertising, John Wanamaker, once said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half." But unlike the 19th century when he uttered this now-legendary phrase, we now have digital tools to find the 'right' half.

It's important to monitor not just the final stage—conversion of a visitor into a paying customer—but also each step of your customer's journey through the funnel, starting with their very first touchpoint on any channel.
To understand which touchpoints should be tracked, you need to map out your customer's journey and then optimize it.

A huge part of success at this stage involves figuring out if your advertising is indeed effective. There are four simple ways to find the most effective channels:

1. Which channels provide the most extensive reach?
2. Which channels deliver the highest efficiency (%)?
3. Which channels are the cheapest ($)?
4. Which channels show the highest return on investment (ROI)?

You'll learn this from the data you obtain after the test launch. Once you discover the most conversion-effective and profitable channels, focus on them and continue optimizing.

At this stage, you should test the following channels:
SEO, SEM, PR, SMM, Content Marketing.

Metrics to measure effectiveness:


Activation represents the first experience of using the product. The goal at this stage is to ensure customers have a positive emotion from their first visit to the store and provide a pleasant user experience upon their initial interaction with the product.

Here, you need to immerse yourself in the activation process and try to determine what will contribute to a positive experience. It's essential to understand what exactly should be measured at this stage.

This could be the time spent on the site, the number of pages viewed, clicks, etc.

Ensure you've conducted enough A/B tests of landing pages and content to achieve optimal interaction with potential customers.

Possible tools for this stage:
• Newsletter subscription
• Push notifications
• Trial access
• Content Marketing


Our goal is to entice the user to return and purchase the product again and again.

Retention activities in a digital product typically include:
• Email messaging
• A blog with expert content
• Retargeting

Here, an automated sales funnel, set up on a communication channel left by the client, whether it's an email or one of the social networks, works brilliantly.


Our goal is to make the product so appealing to the user that they'll want to share information about it with others. It's important for this desire to be natural and organic.

However, don't engage in viral marketing if you're not confident in your product's quality. Because you could get a backlash from strong negativity.

Test your product until you get genuinely high indicators, and then you can start thinking about seeding viral ideas.

Tools for this stage:
• Referral links
• Affiliate programs
• "Share" button etc.


You need to determine your business monetization method. Then, define the metrics you'll use to measure performance. At this level of the funnel, what needs measuring falls into four categories:

1. Quantitative Evaluation

Track what users do, the percentage of usage, and conversions from an empirical sample of users. Look for the most efficient solutions that provide the highest volumes at the lowest costs.

Tools for this stage:
• Traffic analysis
• User engagement metrics

2. Qualitative Evaluation

Observe what users do on your online resource and identify any issues or obstacles that need to be eliminated.

Tools for this stage:
• Usability testing
• Session monitoring

3. Comparative Analysis

Find out how users behave in one scenario compared to another and choose what's better or which button/graphics/user interface (UI) is most effective in a specific user scenario.

Tool for this stage:
• Multistage A/B testing

4. Competitive Analysis

Monitor your competitors, compare with what you're offering. Here you can analyze demographic targeting, keyword traffic, user satisfaction, and marketing channels.

Find tools that will help you measure each of these and consider investing resources into the best of them.

AARRR Monitoring Dashboard

We recommend creating a dashboard to track the performance indicators of each stage of the AARRR funnel.

Key Questions to Answer When Implementing AARRR Metrics

● Determine in which structures of the company certain tools and metrics of each stage should be applied.
● Understand the customer lifecycle, map out the customer journey.
● Plot 5-10 steps of priority changes and update the list as they are implemented. You need to continually develop and move forward. Understand what people expect from the product and customer service, and provide them with it.
● Focus on improving conversion. This cannot be overstated!
● Assign each metric to a specific company employee, and provide them with the opportunity to improve it.

Marketing / Advertising

Your goal is to find out which audience attraction channels are best for your business. You can use general recommendations for working channels in your niche. But, to be confident that they show good results on your customers, you need to test each one with small budgets.

After receiving data on the effectiveness of each channel, analyze which ones gave a higher conversion rate at a low or optimal cost. Stick with the most effective ones and launch a full-fledged advertising campaign on them. Continue to experiment, supporting experiments with comprehensive analysis, and gradually expand the pool of effective tools and channels.

Working on Improving Product Metrics

Pay attention to continuous improvement of your website or application's UX and UI. Follow the advice that less is more. Don't proliferate a lot of features, think about optimizing what you already have for best results.

● Spend 80% of your time optimizing existing features.
● And only 20% of your time developing new features.

Create hypotheses, and then conduct A/B testing. Measure any improvements made and apply what works. And do the checks as many times as necessary to achieve optimal results.


So, Dave McClure's "pirate" AARRR framework is a great hint for startups that helps structure the approach to what needs attention first. What stages of the funnel need careful monitoring and which metrics to use for this.

Even if you already have a key performance indicator monitoring system in place, go through all five stages of the framework, perhaps at some stage you missed something and need to catch up.


What is the difference between AARRR and heart?

The AARRR framework, also known as "Pirate Metrics," was specifically designed to guide startups and online businesses through the critical stages of growth, focusing on Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, and Revenue. It's highly actionable for driving direct business growth. On the other hand, the HEART framework emphasizes the quality of user experience and product interaction, categorizing metrics into Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, and Task Success, making it more suitable for evaluating user satisfaction and product usability across various industries.

What are the stages of AARRR?

The AARRR framework, quintessential for understanding customer behavior and driving startup growth, delineates five sequential stages: Acquisition, where potential users first encounter the product or service; Activation, signifying the initial engagement of users with the product in a meaningful way; Retention, focusing on how well the product keeps users coming back; Referral, which tracks how users recommend the product to others; and finally, Revenue, representing the ultimate goal of converting user engagement into financial gain for the business.

What is AARRR in marketing?

The AARRR metric system, central to forming effective marketing strategies, provides a structured approach for marketers to identify and optimize the key stages of customer interaction with a product or service. By focusing on Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, and Revenue, marketers can allocate resources more efficiently, tailor marketing efforts to target specific stages of the customer journey, and ultimately make informed decisions that drive sustainable business growth.

What is an example of AARRR strategy?

A tangible application of the AARRR framework might involve a mobile app development company utilizing targeted social media advertising campaigns for Acquisition, ensuring a seamless and engaging onboarding experience for Activation, implementing push notifications and regular updates for Retention, offering rewards for users who invite friends as part of the Referral strategy, and introducing subscription-based premium features to drive Revenue. This strategic approach allows the company to systematically address each stage of the customer lifecycle, fostering growth and customer loyalty.
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