Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tracking Pirate Metrics in Just the Facts

One of the most well-known frameworks for startup key performance indicators is Dave McClure's Pirate Metrics.  It defines five categories of metrics that correspond to the stages a web site's users pass through:
  1. Acquisition
  2. Activation
  3. Retention
  4. Revenue
  5. Referral
Because these metrics are captured and tracked in a variety of different systems of record, it's a natural fit to use Just the Facts to collect them into a single daily report.  This series of posts step through one example of how to define and consolidate these metrics.  At the end, we'll have a single, daily summary of these key metrics with built-in alerting:
Pirate Metrics Daily Report
In the process, we'll see how it's necessary to put a fair amount of thought into the appropriate metrics to track to ensure that you're targeting actionable rather than vanity metrics.  We'll also see how Just the Facts' ability to combine together and calculate metrics makes it such a powerful tool for reporting on metrics that would otherwise require custom engineering work.


Acquisition tracks the users arriving at your site; they have to become aware of your service before you have the opportunity to present your value proposition and convert them from visitors into users.  Typical measures in this category are the number of users visiting your site and the percentage of users that do not bounce; that is, users who have some degree of engagement with the site and are therefore potentially in the target audience.

In our example, let's assume we're using Google Analytics for basic tracking of visitor behavior.  Let's also assume that our key starting acquisition metric will be the weekly count of Unique Visitors.  We choose a weekly total to smooth over any day-to-day differences over the course of a work week, and we'll assume that a single day's bump in traffic is not a significant event for our long-term tracking purposes.

To subscribe, we log into Google Analytics using Google Chrome and from the default Audience > Overview dashboard select a date range of "Last Week:"
Google Analytics Date Range Picker
We then activate the Just the Facts Chrome extension and select the Unique Visitors metric:
Subscribe to Google Analytics
After giving permissions to Google Analytics:
Permissions Dialog
the new fact is added to our dashboard:
Newly Subscribed Fact
In order to provide a more descriptive label for this fact, we click the Settings icon () to bring up a dialog allowing us to re-label the fact.  We'll apply a label to make it clear that this metric is associated with acquisitions.  Since the value is only going to change once a week, we'll also update the Refresh Frequency to the beginning of the week:
Fact Settings Dialog
We now have our first of the pirate metrics tracked and emailed to us every day:
Daily Report showing Acquisitions
The following post will look at adding in the "Activation" metric using a custom Google Analytics goal.


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