Introducing the ACCRE Framework for B2B SaaS Startups

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Dave McClure created and popularized Pirate Metrics as the only framework you needed to get your startup off the ground.

It is an awesome framework and one that we used at Paubox during our time at 500 Startups.

The problem was that I always felt that the AARRR framework didn’t fit that great with a B2B SaaS startup going after enterprise customers. Especially since we also had more than one product and our onboarding didn’t fit the typical model.

I also thought the “Acquisition” phase in Pirate Metrics was too much of a one-size fit all bucket and didn’t really address the differentiation it takes to take someone from never-heard-of-you to considering a purchase.

That’s why I came up with my own framework called ACCRE.

ACCRE represents five phases of a customer journey you can focus on to increase your growth:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Conversion
  • Retention
  • Expansion

As you successfully nurture people through each phase, there are more opportunities to grow your startup.

Each of these areas provide a lever you can pull to grow exponentially.


You can think of the Awareness phase as a time where someone is becoming aware of your brand.

This is often called top of the funnel activity, though we know that acquisition is never linear.

Maybe someone Googled a question and your website popped up in a search result, or they saw a review while researching a competitor.

Congrats, you have successfully entered their sphere of awareness and it’s time to move them on to the next phase – Consideration.

Some examples of activities that gets you in front of an audience that has never heard of you – often called a “cold” audience – includes:

  • Google My Business listing
  • SEO
  • Running paid ads to a cold audience
  • Cold email campaigns

Quite obviously, the more eyeballs you can get on your brand, the more opportunity you have to convert them into customers and grow.


Potential customers enter the Consideration phase when they start narrowing down their choices to 2 or 3 competitors and you’re in the mix.

In order to make it to the Consideration phase, it’s important that you have pieces of information available that build trust and confidence that your SaaS is THE choice to make.

A lot of this has to do with the authority and trust you build as they become aware of your brand.

  • Do you have positive reviews on Google?
  • Is the copy in your Facebook ad relevant and addresses their pain point?
  • Do your blog posts or videos that position you as an authority in your space?
  • Do you have enough information on your website to answer the most common objections or questions your prospects have?

You want to get people to really start interacting with your brand and have enough trust and information that they can make a purchasing decision, which leads us to…


The Conversion phase is exactly what it sounds like – the point where someone goes from interested in your brand to actually giving you money and becoming a customer.

There’s a lot of things that contribute to making someone become a paying customer and a lot of the activities you do in the Awareness and Consideration phases help as well.

As we said before, despite what a lot of online “guru’s” say, a conversion funnel is not a linear process.

People will start and drop off a trial, contact you and then ghost, only to see an ad and come right back into the process.

Also, unlike Pirate Metrics, I don’t separate activation of a free or trial user into a paid customer.

That’s because I see this Conversion phase as one singular move from a non-paying customer to a paying customer, which makes it more versatile as a lot of B2B companies have almost no activation to do as their trials are paid proof of concepts that have higher conversion rates than a less intensive smaller sales cycle.

That being said, here are some example activities that help prospects convert:

  • Good “social proof” – testimonials and reviews
  • A clear call-to-action where the person knows what steps they have to take next in order to become a customer
  • Multiple ways to take payment
  • A great offer
  • Good sales reps who can take a demo and convert it into a trial
  • A good onboarding process to take someone from trial to a paid customer


Once someone does become your customer, your job isn’t done. This is the one place where I agree 100% with Pirate Metrics.

A leaky bucket will never fill up and you want to grow your SaaS, not just replace churned customers with new ones.

A lot of this has less to do with marketing, than it does have to do with you doing what you do best – delivering a great product experience.

That being said, here are some activities that can help with your retention:

  • Automatic renewals with annual contracts
  • Have a customer success team to manage high value accounts through renewals
  • Stay in touch with your customer often, not just once a year with an invoice
  • Use customer feedback as a roadmap to improve your product and keep customers in the loop


The last phase is Expansion, where you take your current customers and leverage them to create more revenue.

There’s no referral metric as in Pirate Metrics, because a lot of B2B SaaS software don’t have viral or easily created referral mechanisms.

Rather those opportunities are part of a larger general bucket for expansion.

That’s because B2B SaaS allows for other expansion opportunities, especially for multi-product companies where there’s room for things like up-sells and cross-sells.

This is done by activities like:

  • Having quarterly business reviews to check in on accounts and look for expansion opportunities
  • Have tiered pricing to maximize your revenue opportunities
  • Make it easy and obvious to upgrade
  • And yes, have a referral program if you are able to


Wrapping it up

There’s lots of ways to grow your SaaS, but hopefully the ACCRE framework will help you segment and prioritize areas that need the most focus for you.

If you have any questions or need help prioritizing and getting traction in your acquisition, let’s talk. Just book a free strategy session.

About the author

Rick Kuwahara

Rick Kuwahara is a data informed, people driven marketer with over 12 years of strategic marketing experience.