AAARRR, Matey! Putting the Pirate Funnel to Work for Your SaaS Brand

skull wearing pirate hat and candle

If you think that pirates and SaaS companies don't have much in common, then you're absolutely correct... with one major exception, that is: AAARRR!

While for pirates, it might be no more than a "catchphrase, for you, it's a funnel that can take your growth marketing efforts to the next level. Ahead, find out how you can leverage the so-called Pirate Funnel for your SaaS company.


What Is the Pirate Funnel?

AAARRR is a lot more than just a fun word to say (though it certainly is that). In the world of growth marketing, the AAARRR framework (also known as the Pirate Funnel) refers to:

  • Awareness: How many people does your brand reach?
  • Acquisition: How many people sign up for a free trial or join your email list?
  • Activation: How many users take the first step?
  • Revenue: How many users become paying customers, and how much do you earn from each one?
  • Retention: How many customers come back for more?
  • Referral: Are your customers spreading the word?

growth marketing pirate funnel-1

The exact order of each item will vary depending on who you ask, and some of their meanings can even be customized depending on the scenario.

For instance, maybe it makes more sense for one company to define activation as the number of people who actually try the product in question. On the other hand, another company might prefer to define it as the number of people who make an initial purchase.

Whatever the case, what's most important is that the Pirate Funnel achieves its main function: helping to identify key metrics about the most critical steps of the customer journey.


How Can the Pirate Funnel Benefit SaaS Companies?

While the Pirate Funnel can be a helpful tool for organizations in a wide array of verticals, it can be nothing short of invaluable for SaaS companies in particular.

That's because the Pirate Funnel facilitates growth marketing by cutting through the noise and nailing down the data that matters most for reaching, gaining, and keeping customers.

The AAARRR framework also aligns perfectly with the goals of most SaaS companies. If your company offers SaaS, then you probably want to:

  • Build awareness by reaching people who are most likely to be interested in your software.
  • Acquire people who sign up for a free trial of your software.
  • Secure activation by successfully encouraging users to actually launch and use your software.
  • Earn revenue from users who decide to become paying subscribers.
  • Improve retention by increasing the number of users who regularly use your software and ultimately renew their subscription.
  • Boost referrals via subscribers convincing new people to try and subscribe to your software.

Long story short, the Pirate Funnel addresses the things that you care about. And by implementing it, you'll be able to quickly and accurately identify the areas you need to improve if you want to boost growth now.


How to Optimize for the Pirate Funnel

Knowing the components of the Pirate Funnel is just the first step – in order to truly begin growth marketing, you need to know how to optimize each one.

The order in which you tackle these elements will vary depending on your SaaS company's unique strengths and weaknesses, but to get the highest possible growth, you'll need to address each one in due time.


To ensure that all the right people know about your software, you need to get more eyes on your brand. You can do so with the help of:


If you want people to take the time to sign up for a free trial of your software, you can focus on:


Not everyone who signs up for a free trial of your software or subscribes to your email list will actually give your product a shot. To increase their chances of doing so, try:

  • Implementing email nurture campaigns.
  • Sending occasional reminders.
  • Encouraging leads to try out specific aspects of your software.


This component of the Pirate Funnel is pretty self-explanatory: for your SaaS company to thrive, it needs an adequate amount of revenue. So if your revenue isn't as high as it should be, you can boost it by:


The only thing better than a paying customer is one who gets you even more paying customers. While referrals can and will happen organically, you can actively encourage them by:

  • Incentivizing customers to refer their contacts.
  • Driving social shares.
  • Hosting competitions that involve sharing your brand.

Ultimately, the Pirate Funnel isn't about using a catchy new tactic to magically gain more customers. Instead, it's about shining a light on the metrics that are most vital to your brand, zeroing in on those that are lagging, and using targeted techniques to improve them.

So even if you've never so much as boarded a sailboat or felt the urge to get a pet parrot, the Pirate Funnel will have you saying, "AAARRR" in no time.

Want even more growth? Check out our growth engines below to find out how we do it!



Who we are
Sign up and receive the latest marketing advice via email