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Implementing A “Metrics for Pirates” Dashboard

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Guest Blog by Mark Kofman from, a 500 startups incubated company.

The first days of the startup are always challenging. You have more tasks than you can actually complete, and more questions than you can answer. And at the same time everybody tells you building a proper dashboard for your business is critical from day one. As much as you love metrics, spending time on the dashboard always feels like stealing precious time from product development. So how can I get two parrots with one stone?

We initially started tracking user activity on our service with Google Analytics but needed a dashboard that could drill down further into the real time data throughout the customer lifecycle without requiring a team of developers nor too many valuable hours on it.

Startup Metrics Model

Dave McClure has done a great job at defining extremely simple metrics model for startups that he calls Startup Metrics for Pirates – AARRR.

No time to browse through the slides? Here’s a quick overview of each user lifecycle stage that you need to understand and measure:

  • Acquisition – user comes to your site or app
  • Activation – user gets good first experience with it
  • Retention – user comes back to your site regularly
  • Referral – user refers product to others
  • Revenue – user pays you money or does something that generates you revenue (like clicking on ads)

Implementing AARRR Dashboard

I used a combination of Google Analytics and Totango to create my AARRR dashboard because they gave me the fastest results and required the least effort from our development team. Sometimes though when your metrics are hard to define, it makes sense to invest some coding time into building your own dashboard without any third party tools.

Here’s how I implemented mine:

0. Setup Google Analytics and Totango tracking code

If you aren’t using Google Analytics or Totango yet, you’ll need to set it up. It’s fairly simple as it only requires you to copy/paste simple javascript into your website. Here are quick links to the Totango setup guide and Google Analytics setup.

1. Acquisition

Google Analytics has helped me efficiently track the various sources of where users are coming from. The dashboard hosts a simple set of widgets that show a breakdown of Unique Visitors traffic by Source and Country. Google Analytics Dashboard

2. Activation, Referral, Revenue

After configuring the dashboard for my traffic sources (“Acquisition”) via Google Analytics, I still had to setup a dashboard for the other lifecycle stages: Activation, Referral, Revenue. Totango works really great for this and has its own built-in Lifecycle Dashboard feature.

In my dashboard, I had the following defined as:

  • Activation stage – when user completes the setup
  • Referral stage – when user shares our app for the first time on Facebook
  • Revenue stage – when user upgrades to paid account

See the screenshots of my setup below: Totango Dashboard

Totango also has a nice feature that allows you to subscribe to a daily/weekly/monthly email digest – a simple summary email of all your AARRR transitions. Totango Dashboard Cohort Reports

3. Retention

To track retention I set up two lists using Totango’s “Active Lists” so I can determine how many users are returning at specified periods of time since their registration:

  • 7 days returning – users who return to application after 7 days since their registration
  • 1 month returning – users who return to application after 30 days since their registration

Each of those shows us the number of users who are returning to our application after 7 days or 30 days since signup. Totango Active Lists Dashboard Totango Active Lists Dashboard Details

By combining these two dashboards together, I can get overview metrics for any lifecycle stage: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue, for all my users in real time.  If we had to build a AARRR dashboard from scratch, without using available tools, my team would have spent couple of weeks to get it right. That’s valuable time I’d rather use to build new features to customers!

Guy Nirpaz

Guy Nirpaz is a Silicon Valley-based Israeli entrepreneur and CEO of Totango, a Customer Success software platform. A pioneer in the Customer Success field, Guy established the Customer Success Summit and is a well-regarded industry speaker and community contributor. Guy loves people and technology and has dedicated his career to improving the way in which business is done through innovation. Fun Facts: Guy moonlights as the lead guitarist in a rock band based out of his garage in Palo Alto and used to command a tank well as having grown oranges.

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