Re-Thinking the Instagram Sales Funnel


Re-Thinking the Instagram Sales Funnel

One of the questions I get asked most often is how to make sales on Instagram. It’s what we all want!

So we dig into some sales research and might come across the idea of a sales funnel.

If you’re not familiar, google “sales funnel” and you’ll get a nice little image of an inverted triangle that leads your customer through various stages.

There’s a few different ways they’ll label the stages, but essentially a sales funnel walks through the customer path of Awareness > Interest > Decision > Action.

And sales funnels are often thought of as a slow process that develops a visitor to a customer over time…

You know the one 🙄 … that they’ll find you on Instagram, you’ll slowly nurture them over time by getting them on your email list, writing great captions, providing value, sharing your brand story, getting them to engage with you, and then slowly but surely they make their way through from new follower to buyer.

But what if that’s too simple?

(and of course, not at all simple, since it’s a pretty involved, complex song + dance)

But it is “too simple” to think everyone has the same experiences with your brand, comes in with the same understanding of your product (or lack thereof), and needs to move through the funnel in the same series of steps.

I’ve been re-thinking the way I discover and interact with brands on Instagram and while my results are just that – mine – I thought it’d be helpful to share + also challenge you to be aware of your own buying behavior.

How to make sales on Instagram -rethinking the traditional sales funnel on Instagram - instagram tips for etsy shops and small business


1️⃣ IMMEDIATE: See it, want it, buy it

Please tell me I’m not the only one to fall wonderfully victim to impulse shopping on Instagram. And this has happened both with shops I’ve followed for awhile + brand new ones I literally just stumbled across.

How did that brand position themselves to make sales on Instagram? What makes this purchase so easy and “gotta have it”?

A | I’ve already been thinking about the item and the brand just happened to show up in my feed at the right time

B | A ridiculously compelling customer testimonial for an item I maybe didn’t know I wanted or that it existed, but it addresses a problem I was aware of

C | It’s been referred by a friend – she either has it / has talked about / or sent me a DM of it.

… Soooo, notice any similarities between these three?

You as the brand have VERY LITTLE CONTROL of my experience.

Sure, you can show up and post a certain type of content….

But the actual purchase is dependent on:

  • my timing
  • what I already think about an item or problem
  • my friends + relationships.

You can’t necessarily “force a sale” with hard pitches. Sometimes it’s gotta be on my time.

So your goal here is to just KEEP SHOWING UP — solidly on brand, laser-focused, serving your ideal customer.

When she’s ready – she’ll decide.

2️⃣ INTERESTED: But need a nudge

If I’m in this stage, it’s likely I’m already following the brand; and I need to see the product over and over again. For some reason, I’m not quite convinced I want to buy… I’m kinda dragging my feet going back + forth like, do I really need another striped shirt?

In this stage, I can absolutely be influenced.

I just need a nudge.

Typically for me, that looks like seeing the product over and over again until I’m drooling (so to be clear: not as a sales pitch). Just hit me over the head with pretty + fun ideas again and again.

It’s FOMO at its highest level.

Show me all the beautiful pictures, talk about how to style it, show me how other’s have used it, create compelling Instagram stories that grab my attention.

At this point I’m practically foaming at the mouth (or should I say, fomoing? …. ha, terrible) and waking up in the middle of the night to hit ‘buy’.

Your goal here is to just shower your feed with irresistible value. SHOW – don’t tell.

Don’t hard pitch or ask me to buy. Just show up with awesome ways to use your product, fun pictures that show it in use, and keep talking about it…

3️⃣ SLOW BURNER: I like what you got, but I don’t need it

In case the sub-title didn’t give it away here, you’ll want to spend your least amount of time on this group. (spoiler!)

In this case, I love the visual feel of your brand or aspire to it, but don’t have an actual need or desire for your product. Not a great thing, but not a bad thing either.

For me right now, this is looking like creeping on a lot of baby brands…. (and as a reminder, I’m NOT pregnant + I don’t have kids yet.)

But I’m interested… I like the shop’s brand or messaging and I want to keep them in my peripheral so I can be a cool mom someday.

I also do this with some more fashion-forward brands that I really love, but it’s just not practical for my current life situation (aka pretty basic work wardrobe needs + prefer being more casual on the weekends).

This is the group I think a lot of us get hung up on.

We want to see higher conversion rates, we don’t understand why only 7 people out of 500 followers leave a comment, so we start to go fishing for these people…

We start to question if we’re focused on the right topics, so we start to talk about unrelated things… just in case they’d be interested!

But here’s the thing — if it’s not right for me, it’s just not right for me.

Nothing a baby brand says will make me want to purchase right now. It’s not something I need.

BUT by watching the brand continually show up for their customer + stay focused on what she needs, it’s naturally building trust with me (whether I realize it or not).

When I see them respond to their customers’ comments, do cool customer features and giveaways, and provide education and encouragement to new parents…. I feel a sense of community I’d want to be part of, someday.

Or if I take a new job downtown and want to up my wardrobe game… I know exactly who I’m turning to.


So what does all this mean?

Did I just completely strip away any sense of having a sales strategy on Instagram?

I hope not.

As a huge reminder to myself and hopefully lots of encouragement to you, I want this to be your takeaway:

Showing up with a clear brand story in your captions, a cohesive, repetitive (but varied) visual feed, and a strong focus on serving your ideal customer >>> you’ll naturally reach a buyer in any 3 of these paths.

We can’t predict and personally cater to every customer journey on Instagram.

You typically get one post up a day and maybe a few stories.

So don’t go chasing sales.

Focus on how you can show up for that ONE ideal customer.

Focus on building relationships so you can listen to what they need (communicating on Stories is a *key* way to get feedback!)

Focus on getting a conversation going.

… That’s when you’ll naturally lead them from follower to buyer.

Put yourself in the position to be there when they’re ready for you.

If you want help putting your content strategy together, from understanding why your customer wants your product, to what she needs to hear, and how to plan your posts so you align with your business goals, I’d love to help you inside the next round of Content Catalyst.

What are your buying habits on Instagram? Did any of these ring true for you?



One Comment

  • This post was so helpful & relatable. Also, you have me cracking up over here while reading a few of your posts, I love your humor 😉 My finance is like, what’s so funny over there? lol I will be definitely checking out your resources because I have recently partnered with a company (vegan hair + skin products that I love).

    I tried to show up on stories consistently with valuable tips for possible customers (not my target person, I need to get clear on that) but I found myself walking the fine line of feeling like I’m being annoying because I want to share the product and show up every day & hopefully make some sales but all without using a hard sales pitch. Ugh ;/… but this post gave some reassurance and great tips so thanks!

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