June 30, 2020 Last updated on December 3rd, 2020
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So you know Instagram is great for business, right?

For starters, a whopping 81% of people use Instagram to help research products and services.

And, 200 million Instagram users visit at least one business profile daily.

There’s money to be made on Instagram.

But to do that, and do it consistently, you need to have your Instagram sales funnel set up and optimized.

Now I’m going to be honest for a second.

For the longest time, the term “sales funnel” freaked me out.😨


Try searching “sales funnel” on Google images and see what comes up.

Here’s a clue: hundreds and hundreds of complicated looking diagrams, each one using slightly different terminology.

If you’re new to making money online or you happen to be a little bit like me, then here’s a definition I found super helpful from the people at Teachable:

[It’s]… a fancy way of talking about the different phases in the buying process that a company leads its prospects through.”

In this scenario, your brand or business is the “company” and you are going to set up your Instagram account so that it seamlessly guides people towards making a purchase with you.

So let’s jump right into the IG sales funnel and how to make it work for you.

What Does an Instagram Sales Funnel Look Like?


The best way to better understand the Instagram sales funnel is to break it down.

There’s a few different ways to do that. In this article, we’ll focus on four key phases: Attract, Deepen, Convert and Refer.

This is the purpose of each stage:

  • Attract: Get more eyeballs on your content to turn strangers into cold leads.
  • Deepen: Build connections with your audience to turn cold leads into warm leads AND prove your authority to turn those warm leads into hot leads.
  • Convert: Get hot leads to buy from you/invest in you to become new customers/clients.
  • Refer: Provide a stellar experience to guarantee glowing testimonials and benefit from word-of-mouth-marketing.

YouTube videos

It’s important to understand each one, so that you can get into your customers’ mindset and know what message to send them and when.

The first phase: Attract

Sometimes referred to as the “Awareness” phase, this is the moment when you first catch a consumer’s attention.

They first become aware of you and what you have to offer. The best way to attract people to your Instagram account is with shareable content AND proactive engagement.

First, let’s address shareable content. What exactly is it?

Well, it differs slightly depending on your industry and what your own unique audience responds to.

This is why it’s so important to keep an eye on your Insights because what generates shares for your competitor may not generate shares for you, and vice versa.

Here are some examples of the kinds of Instagram posts that get shared:

  • Controversial
  • Relatable
  • Humorous
  • Inspirational/aspirational

Inspirational/aspirational Instagram posts perform very well for industries including travel, food, fitness, interiors and fashion.

Just think how many times you’ve shared an image of a far-flung destination with your friends, or a photo of a mouth-watering burger.

The same goes for fitness transformations, beautiful interiors and coveted fashion items.

But what if you don’t work in those industries – what does shareable content look like for you?

That’s where your controversial, relatable and humorous content comes in.

This content tends to drive shares no matter your niche or industry because it chimes with people.


  • Take a stand for something you believe in. You might turn some people off with this kind of content, but that’s ok. What matters is that the position a brand takes aligns to its own values and beliefs.
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  • The better a brand knows its target audience, the easier it is to get inside their head and create something that makes them think: Yes! That’s me! It could be as simple as being a perfectionist or believing that any meeting without food should be an email (as the example below).


  • What was shared more than anything else during lockdown? Memes! Why? Because they make us laugh. If you can make your audience laugh with content that relates to them, and aligns to your brand, you’ll be in with a good chance of increasing your shares.
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Drop a 🍕 emoji if you can relate. 😋

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For some people, they’ll discover you through a piece of shareable content and will connect with you instantly and be ready to buy your service or product then and there.

For most, however, this will be the beginning of a relationship.

If your content resonates with someone, they will click “follow”.

And you know what will increase the likelihood of people hitting follow?

Proactive engagement.

If you want to attract more people to your Instagram account, go out there and find them.

Make community nurturing – i.e. commenting on people’s posts, interacting with their Stories and sending them DMs – a part of your daily routine.

The more you do this, the more people will come back and return the favor.

Instagram is such a busy social media platform, that relying on your content alone to grow your community and attract people to your account is no longer enough.

So take control of the Attract phase of the funnel and fuel it as much as possible by being proactive with your existing community as well as new people, every single day.

With shareable content and proactive engagement being a key part of your Instagram strategy, now your task is to deepen your relationship with your audience so that they turn from followers into fans.

Which brings me onto the second phase of your Instagram sales funnel.

How to optimize the Attract phase of your Instagram sales funnel

  • Make sure your Instagram bio is optimized. That means including a keyword in your “Name”, making it super clear what you do/who you do it for, including credentials where possible, and a direct call-to-action to move followers into the next stage of your sales funnel. For example, to your website, Facebook group, or to download your freebie and get on your email list.
  • Ensure your Instagram feed is cohesive and clear. You don’t have to have the “perfect grid”. As long as there’s some cohesiveness in your visual aesthetic (this can be as simple as sticking to the same fonts) it’s clear what you do, and your content is diverse ( i.e. not every image is a promotional product shot) you’re good to go.
  • Don’t neglect your Story highlights! Your Story highlights can serve as a “mini website”,  moving your ideal client/customer (IC) closer to the point of purchase. So think about the order of your Highlights and how they take your IC from know, to like, to trust, to “I want to work with him/her!”
  • Factor engagement into your daily routine. Without this, it will take you much, much longer to grow in any meaningful way.
  • Keep a close eye on your Instagram metrics so you understand the types of content that are performing well for you, and the types of content that aren’t. The more closely you watch these, the sooner you’ll learn what’s working and tweak your Instagram strategy accordingly.

The second phase: Deepen

While the “Attract” phase of your Instagram sales funnel is crucial to growing your presence on Instagram, arguably the most important phase is the “Deepen” phase.

This is where you strengthen relationships with your audience, building the all important know, like and trust factors with them.

So, how do you do this?

With video, personal posts and educational content.


Video is the best way to start developing more meaningful relationships with your community.

Your voice, your quirks, the phrases you say and the way you say them – all of these things help people to get to know you better and feel like they’re hearing from a friend and not an “account”.

Remember, Instagram users are very used to seeing video content – particularly Instagram Stories – from their friends and family.

And that content isn’t highly produced. It’s real and raw – and that’s great news for you because it means that video production doesn’t have to be intimidating or expensive.

In fact, when it comes to Instagram Stories and Lives, often the simpler the content the better.

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Personal posts

No matter the niche or industry, images of people coupled with honest/vulnerable/personal captions tend to perform very well on Instagram.

Those “people” might be the person behind the account, company employees or happy clients/customers.

This kind of content is incredibly powerful at putting a face to the Instagram account and building 1:1 relationships with people.

And you know what?

When your competitor is offering a very similar service/product at a similar price point to you, it’s you that will be the deciding factor for your customer and whether they choose to buy from you – or them.

Educational content

The final type of content that helps to deepen relationships with your community and move them from follower to fan, is educational content.

This kind of content is your opportunity to show off your expertise and prove that you know exactly what you’re talking about.

Educational content includes how to posts, tips and tricks, and tutorials.

Providing value and giving people a takeaway is a surefire way to move them further down your sales funnel and closer to the “Covert” phase – aka the buying phase.

This is because the more value you provide for free, the more your audience will be thinking: “If they give away this for *free*, how good is their paid content?!

So don’t worry about giving away your expertise for free. It’s the best way to prove you know your stuff, and offer people quick wins that leave them wanting more.

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How to optimize the Deepen phase of your Instagram sales funnel

  • Include more video in your content strategy. You don’t have to start from scratch – think about how your existing content could be turned into simple IGTVs or even Instagram Lives.
  • Show up more! This includes showing more of your face on your grid but also showing up as consistently as possible on Instagram Stories. This is the fastest way to build the know, like and trust factor with your audience. And yes, you do need to be persistent and consistent because your followers are bombarded with hundreds of messages every single day. If you want them to listen to yours, you must be there to interrupt their daily swiping habit as much as possible.
  • Share your expertise. There’s no such thing as giving away too much free content. As long as you’re educating your audience on the “why” and not the “how” (because the “how” is what they pay you to find out) then keep showing up and serving. If you share fantastic free educational content, your audience will be excited to learn more about your paid-for offer.

The third phase: Convert

In this phase of the sales funnel, someone is ready to convert. In other words, they are ready to drop cold hard cash on your offer.

This is your opportunity to share compelling promotional content. That’s right – it’s your chance to tell people why they HAVE to buy from you!

To do this most effectively, testimonials, reviews, benefits of your offer and stories of transformation will help convince your audience that your product or service is right for them.

If you’re sharing a good combination of shareable, service and soulful content, then sales content that has the purpose of converting people from followers into customers/clients won’t feel pushy or slimy.

In fact, it should fit seamlessly into your feed. The only time “promotional” or sales content feels uncomfortable is when it’s being shared repeatedly, without recognising that lots of people are at a different stage of the customer journey and aren’t quite ready to be sold to – yet.

When it’s time to share promotional content to advertise an offer or launch, make sure to spell out the key benefits.

Those followers who’ve been nurtured through your sales funnel will now feel like they really know you, they’ll trust your expertise and they’ll be ready to buy.

How to optimize the Convert phase of your Instagram sales funnel

  • Make sure it’s really obvious to people HOW they can work with you. Don’t bury your application form or landing page deep within! Instead, make sure you have a clear CTA within your bio (download the freebie/get your discount/book a sales call/check out the latest offer) that leads to a relevant URL.
  • Tell people how they can work with you at least once a week. Alongside your shareable, personal and educational content, you should be sharing promotional posts regularly. Avoiding talking about your offer for fear of coming across as “salesy” is one of the biggest mistakes I see business owners make. It’s not pushy. It’s good business.

The fourth phase: Refer

Ahhh, the often forgotten phase of the sales funnel… the “Refer” phase!

This phase is where you get glowing testimonials to share on Instagram that will convince strangers that they have to work with you.

This “social proof” encourages people to follow the actions of others – because no-one wants to be the first to buy something… it’s risky!

And an added bonus of providing a fantastic experience for your customers and clients is powerful word-of-mouth-marketing (WOMM).

While it’s difficult to truly control, you’ll give yourself the best chance of receiving WOMM by 1) providing a great experience and 2) thoroughly following up with customers and clients to receive their feedback.

Providing the best experience possible will mean your customers and clients are likely to rave about you to their friends and family and, more importantly, refer your product/service to them.

According to a recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey survey, 58% of small business owners identify word-of-mouth marketing as the most effective way to communicate with customers. This is due to a lack of time to research and a desire for quality products.

But it isn’t just small businesses that can really benefit from WOMM.

Nano influencers are the new-kids-on-the-Instagram-block to watch precisely because of their small but tight-knit community of followers. These followers, many of whom are friends and family, will likely trust the nano influencer’s recommendations more than those from an Instagrammer with multiple thousands of followers.

That’s because people want to connect with real people that share experiences they can empathise with, and for many, they’re not finding that on the accounts of bigger Instagrammers.

As Amber Atherton, founder of Zyper says: “At the end of the day, the most effective form of advertising is peer-to-peer referral.”

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How to optimize the Refer phase of your Instagram sales funnel

  • Make sure your purchase process/client onboarding process is set up properly and provides an easy, enjoyable experience for people. This means that from the very beginning they will feel great about investing their money in you.
  • Always provide a prompt feedback form for customers and clients. This is such an important part of the client offboarding process and can easily slip to the bottom of the to-do list – particularly when you’re a small business owner. You don’t want to be chasing past clients/customers weeks after you’ve wrapped up working together – it’s a real headache!
  • Create a dedicated feedback folder to save all testimonials, positive emails, and glowing direct messages. All of this can be shared (with the writer’s permission) on your Instagram account to encourage people to buy from you.


There we have it! A super simple run-through of the Instagram sales funnel.

I hope you now feel more confident about how yours could look. Remember, it does take time to build out an effective Instagram sales funnel – so give yourself that time to better understand your audience and test and analyse different kinds of content.

Tweak and adjust as you go, and before you know it, you’ll have an Instagram sales funnel that seamlessly moves customers through each phase. Cha-ching!

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About the author
Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell is a door obsessive and Instagram educator, teaching small businesses, solopreneurs and content creators how to build engaged communities on Instagram in less time. Read more from Bella on her website:

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