A3R3 or AAARRR Funnel: The New Pirate Metrics and AARRR Funnel


This is detailed documentation of why you need to replace the AARRR funnel and the Pirate Metrics and how to adopt the A3R3 funnel in your growth marketing.

The A3R3 funnel was first announced by our founder, Rishabh Dev, on his Medium blog.

We will specifically focus on how to include Awareness and “Awareness Marketing” in your growth marketing process.

Rishabh starts by writing “The AARRR funnel worked really well. Until it didn’t.” The reason is that this observation came to us multiple times in terms of client feedback and the startups who were working with us often reported they actually needed “awareness” and growth hacks to drive awareness metrics.

“For a lot of startups we worked with, we were faced with the task of hacking awareness in the market rather than hacking acquisition of their target audience. Consider a niche business where the actual need is to first educate the market and the customers.

This is where the new funnel comes in. And we call it the A3R3 funnel. The pirate metrics needed to evolve considering these niche startups and our new funnel has helped us streamline awareness hacking solving this problem for startups.”

– Rishabh Dev, Founder of Mapplinks & Mapplinks Academy

This made us do some more thinking and include an additional phase in the Pirate Funnel (called the AARRR metrics) for AWARENESS.

The Pirate funnel was put together by Dave McClure in 2007 and with this update to the funnel, our new, improved A3R3 funnel was much more robust in meeting all the growth marketing requirements of our customers.

The Pirate Metrics

For the uninitiated, The AARRR funnel stands for the following:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Activation
  3. Retention
  4. Revenue
  5. Referral

We’ve achieved amazing results with our startups using the above funnel and it’s helped us come a long way. A big shoutout to Dave for that.

But we started looking at it from a different perspective when we were faced with a common issue with multiple startups from time to time. And this concern is NOT Acquisition. It is AWARENESS.

In a new market, and with a new business model, hacking “Awareness” should usually be the main growth focus and the North Star of a startup rather than jumping into Acquisition directly.

And the question asked by our startups was “Where do we fit AWARENESS into the Pirate Metrics?”

Let’s go back to the basics. Startups are new innovative business ideas and business models which might have found a product-market fit but still need a lot of education to create a mature market for themselves.

So they feel growth is their main task at hand, their OMTM, and their North Star metric, but are not able to handle acquisition campaigns due to lack of Awareness.

This leaves them de-motivated in their acquisition experiments turning to blame for lack of awareness as a reason for ineffective acquisition growth campaigns and growth experiments.

This is where the new funnel comes in. And we call it the A3R3 funnel. The A3R3 funnel starts at the AWARENESS (education) level and is focused on several growth hacks and campaigns targeting Awareness.

This removes the pain point for us and for startups. As long as it’s a problem for startup growth, the growth hacking team should be able to adapt and able to solve it.

The pirate metrics need to evolve considering these niche startups. And here’s what’s working out really well for us:

The A3R3 funnel

  1. Awareness
  2. Acquisition
  3. Activation
  4. Retention
  5. Revenue
  6. Referral
A3R3 Funnel Growth Marketing
A3R3 growth marketing funnel

Now, let’s deep dive into the Awareness stage of the A3R3 funnel:

The Awareness Stage

The Awareness Stage focus on growth activities and experiments that make the potential audience aware in the following situations:

  • making the target audience aware that a solution exists for a need they have which they may or may not know about
  • making them aware that a solution is available with our startup
  • if they know a specific need they have but they’re not “aware” if there’s a solution yet, then we must design growth hacking experiments to reach them fast
  • if they’re not aware of their own need, it is about educating them as quickly as possible that they have this need and then informing them we can fulfill it

Awareness: Scenario 1

The customer is or may be aware of the requirement

Here’s a step-by-step example experiment in the Awareness Phase of the A3R3 funnel:

  • Step 1: Go through other close needs the customer may have
  • Step 2: Make a list of products or tools that solve the closest need
  • Step 3: Use the audience of these products or tools and market to their audience

Awareness: Scenario 2

Customer is not aware of their own need or requirement (Though this may sound funny, it’s oftentimes the case with a lot of audiences.

In this case, we can’t hack awareness of the product or solution directly, but we must first bring out the need and use Awareness hacks in parallel for maximum impact.)

Here’s a step-by-step example experiment in the Awareness Phase of the A3R3 funnel:

  • Step 1: Find a podcast or webinar or social media live chat or AMA platform which your target audience subscribes to
  • Step 2: Share general and specific tips during the event but also use it as a platform to ask questions and help people discover or understand or accept the need
  • Step 3: Capture their information and use content and retargeting via email or ads to reach them again with your solution for their requirement or need

What you can do – Awareness Hacks

  1. Run validation ad campaigns to their target audience (read more about Validation Marketing, another term coined by Rishabh, which is closely related to the awareness stage of the A3R3 funnel)
  2. Join their community and have conversations
  3. Find a few of their users and then leverage word-of-mouth
  4. Run retargeting campaigns
  5. Run email marketing drips and newsletters
  6. Create awareness landing pages with simple opt-ins

What you should measure – Awareness Metrics

  1. Responses to your initiated conversations
  2. Traffic to your awareness landing page through these experiments
  3. Impressions on your content and messaging
  4. Amount of time in terms of minutes of attention to your awareness stage content
  5. Visits to your website from your Awareness Hacks
  6. Podcast Impressions and Listen times
  7. AMA views where you talk about the need or product

This should give you a good starting point to initiate your Awareness Experiments. What you can do from here is design multiple awareness experiments based on the above ideas and then plug them into the growth marketing experiments process to start executing and measuring results.


Having a product-market fit and the audience having awareness are two different things and should not be confused.

Here, we’re talking about startups who have a product-market fit based on their initial feedback or MVP iterations.

The problem we’re trying to solve here is for them to be able to make their own target audience aware of the product by either first making them aware of the need or by addressing their existing need.

On the other hand, startups or ideas without a product market-kit should go back to the drawing board and focus on finding the fit first and not think about growth hacking or growth marketing.

A3R3 Funnel with Hacks & Metrics

We’ve also visualized the A3R3 funnel below in detail using a visual infographic.

On the left side of the infographic, you will find what you can work on (the hacks) and on the right side, there is a list of what you should measure (the metrics) for each stage of the funnel:

complete AAARRR growth metrics

This funnel should cover all your growth marketing experiments and you can categorize your hacks and metrics into these 6 stages of the growth funnel.

Here are some more examples of various metrics you can track within each step of the funnel from Awareness to Referral:

growth marketing metrics AAARRR funnel

This mind map of metrics is from our free growth marketing course. You can get the complete growth course in your inbox by signing up here.

Insight for marketers on “Traffic” or “Visitors” as a metric

I wanted to dig deeper and share how I categorize traffic in the growth funnel.

Traffic, in general, is not something my business can use as an acquisition metric in the future unless it’s pixeled traffic for example which can be used in the future.

Hence, I would place traffic (generally) into Awareness and pixeled traffic as an Acquisition metric.

This distinction, however, is not possible for marketers who still follow the AARRR metrics, and hence I published the detailed guide to the A3R3 funnel, a termed I coined a few years ago, first published on my personal blog.

The visual will give you more clarity and help you remember the difference.

traffic and visitors: awareness or acquisition?

These are only a few examples of metrics you can track at different stages of the A3R3 funnel.

Start by listing your own metrics – ones that matter the most for you – and design your growth marketing around it!

I wish you all the best for all your growth marketing experiments.

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