Growth Hacking with Customer Journey Mapping and AAARRR Funnel

growth hacking

The term “growth hacking” was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010 after he used this strategy to ignite unstoppable growth for Dropbox, LogMeIn, and other successful startups.

In essence, growth hacking boils down to finding small yet effective actions you can undertake with resources and tools you already have to drive business growth. One such tool that growth hackers actively use is the AAARRR framework. Affectionately nicknamed as the Pirate Funnel, this model helps you pinpoint bottlenecks and identify the weakest points to focus your attention on.

The AAARRR framework maps a company’s relationship with the customers, dividing it into six distinctive stages:

  • Awareness — How do you introduce your company to your potential customers?
  • Acquisition — Where are your potential customers coming from?
  • Activation — How many users take the first step?
  • Retention — How many users return or buy again?
  • Revenue — What’s your monetization plan?
  • Referral — How can you turn customers into advocates?

And since these are the stages that a customer goes through, they can be integrated into a customer journey map (CJM), which lays out the stages of a customer’s journey. This way a company can ensure a more comprehensive approach and drive growth by improving customer experiences.

Reasons to turn the AAARRR funnel into a customer journey map

Customer Journey Mapping Growth Hack #1: Take the best of both worlds

The AAARRR funnel is a great tool for keeping an eye on important metrics like acquisition and retention rates. These metrics are simple yet actionable, helping companies effectively measure their growth.

Customer journey mapping, on the other hand, brings a new perspective into the mix by helping companies put themselves into their customers’ shoes. The benefits of a tailored CJM are numerous — from enabling better user experiences to increasing engagement to boosting loyalty.

Customer Journey Mapping Growth Hack #2: 

Break down silos

Creating the AAARRR funnel is a company-wide effort. The marketing team is responsible for awareness and acquisition, the sales team — for revenues, and the product team — for retention. But involving different departments sometimes can break the experience for end-users.


CJM helps eliminate silos and bring visibility into the entire customer lifecycle. With a clear-cut customer journey map in front of you, it’s easier to see how different pieces come together to form a puzzle. Teams can better understand how all stages are connected and how their actions affect what’s down the funnel.

Customer Journey Mapping Growth Hack #3:

Get to the bottom of things

Although the AAARRR metrics provide valuable information, they do not give a complete picture. If retention metrics are underperforming, the reason may lay at the stage of activation or even acquisition. And while the AAARRR framework may not show it, a customer journey map will certainly do.

customer journey

By integrating these metrics into a tailored CJM, it becomes much easier to track whether you get the required KPIs at each stage of a customer journey. And if not, a CJM uncovers hidden relationships, helps you pinpoint the underlying reasons more accurately, and fix the issues faster.

Customer Journey Mapping Growth Hack #4:

Do not forget about people

Numbers are important, but in the pursuit of greater margins and bigger profits businesses can forget about what matters most — people. Customer journey maps help see real people behind the metrics.

In addition to user experiences, advanced customer journey mapping tools help visualize feelings and emotional states. Seeing the real people with their emotions and expectations, and knowing what makes them happy is crucial for turning users into your most loyal advocates and improving the referral metric.

customer journey metrics

Customer Journey Mapping Growth Hack #5:

Choose OMTM wisely

OMTM stands for One Metric That Matters, which is a powerful concept that can help you better align your team and the entire company. OMTM answers the most important questions and encourages you to define clear goals and work towards them.

Naturally, different startups have different OMTMs. Here’s an example of a few well-known companies:

customer jouney

Source: MarTechSeries

There are different ways to find your OMTM, and customer journey mapping is one of them. When all metrics are brought under one roof, it is easier to find what matters most at any given stage of your company’s development.

Customer Journey Mapping Growth Hack #6:

Find “Aha” moments

Remember your excited “That’s it!” when you have finally found what you’ve been looking for? This is the “Aha” moment — a moment of discovery or sudden insight. These moments are very emotional, and if you master them, your customers will keep coming back for more, improving your retention rate.

But creating these impactful moments takes time and a great deal of research. Remember to include in your qualitative research both groups of users — those who converted and those who canceled. Align the data you’ve found with a CJM to uncover any patterns or commonalities and see the key things that are happening in a customer’s journey.

How to turn AAARRR into an effective CJM

There are two ways how you can convert the AAARRR funnel into a customer journey map. 


Although the AAARRR funnel stages are not the perfect match to the CJM steps, there is a great deal of overlap between them. You can pull the metrics from the Pirate Funnel and group them in line with the stages of a customer journey map.

customer journey map


If you are new to customer journey mapping, you can try and combine the AAARRR funnel with several different CJM templates. This way, you can get an idea how maps from different industries and domains might look like.

The bottom line

In today’s highly competitive world, growth hacking is becoming an increasingly popular strategy that helps startups and companies rise above the noise and attract customers’ attention. For that, growth hackers leverage the AAARRR funnel to uncover any obstacles and find opportunities to optimize. Savvy marketers take a step further and align the AAARRR metrics with a tailored customer journey map to create a holistic picture of the user experience, find the hidden patterns, and increase retention.

If you are not already using these techniques, we strongly encourage you to give them a try and reap the benefits of accelerated business growth.

About the Author 

yuri vadenin

Yuri Vedenin is a UX/CX and entrepreneur and the founder of UXPressia, a collaborative customer experience platform. He’s an avid traveler and a huge fan of Burning Man. 


Yuri is a psychology addict and practices self-awareness and meditation. Now he learns to play djembe, swim, and sing. 

You can get in touch with Yuri on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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