Nicolas Cognaux - Tech entrepreneur & engineer

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Track your metrics like a Pirate with the AAARRR Canvas

2020-06-07 Nicolas Cognaux 7 min readStartup

There are numerous ways to measure the impact of your marketing efforts, and it’s easy to be tempted to monitor them with a lot of tools and metrics. The Pirate metrics is a technique to avoid tracking too many things at a time and keeping monitoring simple.

The idea is to visualize your metrics in a simple funnel for your product or service and allows to find where to put your efforts.

The Pirate Funnel is composed of 6 groups of metrics: Awareness, Acquisition, Activation, Revenue, Retention, Referral. The name “Pirate Metrics” comes from the acronym: AAARRR !

The whole user journey with your product is covered, from the first day he heard of you to the day he refers friends. This model was originally applied to SaaS by Dave McClure but it can also be applied to other businesses. His presentation is available on SlideShare.

I’ll describe the different groups and the kind of metrics to take into account for each of them. I’ll also give an example of metrics that I track, based on my project: Seety. All metrics you choose have to be observed for a specific time-frame: daily, weekly, monthly. I prefer to measure the metrics on a weekly or monthly basis but it depends on your business, its maturity and the marketing actions you are taking to boost your metrics.


The first group is Awareness. It measures people reached and that know your product or company. For this group, the metrics can include:

  • Website visits: The visits on your website or landing page.
  • Impressions: The reach of your ads, your social media posts,…
  • Offline: People that went in front of your shop

For Seety, a mobile application, we can measure the Social media impressions per week for example. The website visits can also be a relevant metric for an app. But in our case, our website is a different product of the company, not just landing pages.


The Acquisition group measures the conversion from a simple visitor to a lead. You want to measure the actions performed by your visitors, that are now becoming leads. Some metrics can be:

  • Newsletter registration
  • Reactions on your social posts
  • App downloads: A user that downloads an app is acquired, but you can also focus on app opening.

For Seety, I would use App downloads per week, but account creation can also be used at this stage.


When a lead becomes a user, it’s said to be Activated. Here are some examples:

  • Account creation: When a user creates an account, if that’s your goal
  • Payment information given
  • A product added to the shopping cart. For an e-commerce, it’s a strong Activation.
  • A customer enters your offline shop: It’s your job to make him buy something

For Seety I would use the users that input their credit cards per week.

When your users are activated, they are ready to create value for you. The order of the next steps depends on your business and the value you want to get from your users, but the Revenu, Retention, Referral is the most logical path for a lot of businesses.


This group is straightforward. It measures the revenues you get for the measured time period. You can measure it per transaction, or per amount:

  • The amount of payments for the period: This is only important if your pricing is fixed
  • The revenue for the period: Either the average per user, or the total for the period. More relevant when you have multiple pricing plans or options the users can take.

For Seety, as we take a fixed commission on each parking payments, the amount of transactions is our metric.


When you have a paying user, you want him to stay active and to consume more of your service. For this group, you can measure the following metrics:

  • Retention rate: How long will a user use your service on average
  • Customer lifetime value: The average amount a user will spend on your product
  • Product usage: At what frequency do the user comes back

For this metric to be easy to relate with the other stages, I fix a time period I want the user to stay (let’s say 5 weeks), and I count the users using the service for more than 5 weeks.

For Seety, it can be the users that did a parking session more than 3 weeks in a row.


A happy user is your best ambassador. You want to be sure that each active user can bring new users. That’s the referral metric. It can be measured by:

  • Referral links sent: If your users can send a referral link to friends, count the clicks
  • Shares of your products on social media. For some businesses it’s super important
  • Good reviews on the app stores. A Good review on the store is a super boost for an app!

For Seety, we have a referral system with a dedicated link. We can thus count the amount of clicks on those links per week.

Google Sheet canvas

Now that you understand the different groups in theory, it’s your turn to apply it to your product or service. I compiled the Pirate metrics in a Canvas. It’s super easy to use it in a process and to be sure that you always focus on the right group of metrics before going to the next one. For example, at CovEvent, we review this Sheet every week for the team meeting.

Access my Google Sheet here for Free: Pirate Metrics Canvas.

How to use the canvas

  1. First, define one metric per group (in the second line). This will be the group’s key metric. It’s important to only focus on one metric per group.
  2. Paste the link to the measurement of that metric in the third link. It’ll be easier to find the metric back for each period. Link to your Google Analytics, Amplitude, CRM,… One link per metric as it has to be as simple as possible to retrieve the metric.
  3. Each period (monthly, weekly,…), you define the group you want to optimize (The one you want to grow the metric): That’s your focus metric. Highlight it to keep a track. Then, fill the metrics for each group for that period. All your marketing actions will be directed to this metrics.
  4. Decide how you’ll act on that Focus metric and which actions you’ll take to grow it. That’s a discussion you must have with your team. That’s the point where the Pirate metrics becomes super useful.

For each period you fill, the spreadsheet computes the evolution of your metrics between groups (the conversion in the funnel, from left to right), and the evolution of each group compared to the previous period (from top to bottom). Those computations allow you to understand if your marketing efforts or product changes are good or not for your focus metric. It’s also useful to take concrete action and to measure those actions.

Pirate metrics pitfalls

The main pitfall of the Pirate metrics is to optimize everything whereas you have to focus on a single metric (a specific stage) at a time. Generally, you optimize the stages from left to right: From Awareness to Referral.

It’s also tempting to use multiple metrics per group. Doing so, will certainly loose you as you’ll track too many metrics at a time. Keep only one metric per group. This metric will certainly change with the maturity of your project but if you change one metric, just start a new Canvas to not mix everything.

If this article was useful for you, don’t hesitate to share it around. And leave a comment bellow if you have any feedback!

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Nicolas Cognaux (Gp2mv3) - Tech entrepreneur & engineer

About Nicolas Cognaux

Entrepreneur and CTO. I’m an electrical engineer and passionate about software development. I post about technologies, entrepreneurship, projects, and geeky stuff. Follow me on social media to stay updated.

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