The Pirate Funnel: six phases to achieve growth.

If you followed the pirate funnel blog series in the past few weeks, you should have an idea of all the different phases that map out the customer journey from awareness to referral.Β 

Time to tie it all together, right?

1. How did we get here?

There is no doubt, the Pirate funnel is one of growth hacking’s most valuable key concepts.Β 

But did you know the funnel dates back to 1898? That’s right, more than a century ago. E. St. Elmo Lewis, for the first time in marketing history, broke the customer journey down into AIDA’s 4 steps:Β 





Now, jump cut 109 years. It’s 2007 and Dave Mc Clure introduces the pirate funnel as we know it. Truth be told, not entirely as we know it, awareness was initially left out of McClure’s picture but was rightfully added later on. There was, and still is, some confusion around the order and the number of the steps, partly due to the fact that the pirate funnel kept changing and adapting to suit the time and the kind of business it serves.


2. Let’s make some clarity

In a nutshell, is the map of the customer journey from the very first touchpoint, awareness, to loyal, returning customers, referral.


It’s about making the audience aware of the fact that your product even exists.

How? 19 traction channels.


It’s about turning visitors into customers, it’s essential to start creating your user base.

How? Growth engines


It’s about the user’s first interaction with the product and their first action. 

How? Aha moment


It’s about monetizing your users.

How? Pricing 


It’s about retaining users.

How? The Hook Model


It’s about letting your customers become ambassadors and refer your product.

How? Referral systems

AAARRR, do you understand now why it is called pirate funnel?

3. Metrics

As you might know (if you don’t, this is the blog you need to read asap) the very first thing to do in your growth hacking process is defining what the North Star Metric for your business will be.

That one metric everything revolves around, the one you’ll use to measure if something is a success or a failure. Is the key to sustainable growth, the one thing you should be always looking at, what drives every decision.

The NSM should be communicated and shared, the common goal everyone is working towards.

“Is the NSM the same thing as an OMTM?”

We found this query to be googled so often that we wrote a blog about it, go check it out if you found yourself googling it as well;) 


To cut it really, really short, the NSM is the most critical metric, it represents the value you’re delivering, while the OMTMs are specific for each funnel phase and they work in function of the NSM.

Let’s just quickly go through the typical metrics per funnel phase: customer acquisition cost (CAC) and cost per acquisition (CPA) for acquisition, activation rate and time to activate for activation, average revenue per user (ARPU) for revenue, Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), churn rate and Net Promoter Score (NPS) for retention.

4. Where do traditional marketeers stand?

Traditional Marketeers’ approach to the pirate funnel can be easily described as “Top of funnel focused”. That’s the main difference between traditional marketing and growth hacking when approaching the funnel. Traditional marketeers are dedicating their time and energies mainly on the As of the funnel, stressing the importance of awareness over the other phases.

On the other hand, growth hackers see this kind of approach limiting, to say the least. Their primary intent is to be present in every stage of the funnel, from the very first touchpoint to the achievement of loyal, referring clients. When focusing solely on the top of the funnel you will certainly end up missing big growth opportunities that lie in the other phases. And you should know it by now, growth hacking means running experiments across the whole funnel, identifying strengths, weaknesses and the areas to optimise in order to achieve sustainable growth.Β 

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