Ever offered a coupon or run a sale on your Instagram account and have nobody take advantage of it?

What the heck, right?!

It doesn’t really make sense why your followers wouldn’t use that discount…

Except it does.

There are LOTS of reasons why your sale on Instagram won’t work, and I see so many small  businesses making really simple mistakes.

Most people don’t know the simple strategies that they  need to use before, during, AND after the sale to make sure it’s more successful.

(Yep, I said BEFORE and AFTER too!)

The thing is, while these strategies are common sense and once you read them below you’ll be thinking, “DUH, that totally makes sense!”, they aren’t obvious to someone relatively new to social media marketing or growing a business.

So if you’ve ever ran a sale on Instagram that left you frustrated and confused with what you’re doing wrong… then this lesson is for you.

I’m about to break down 14 different things you can and SHOULD do when running your next sale on Instagram to set you up to get more sales.

1. Have a full plan for your sale ahead of time

I’m talkin’ a strategy you create ahead of time, that all you have to do is execute when the time comes because you have everything ready – copy, graphics, timing, etc.

By having a plan you are less flustered and stressed while your sale is running because you’ve already done the hard thinking – all you have to do is post!

Without a plan, you could screw up important sale and post sequences which leads you to leaving out important details that make you money.

The whole point is, you don’t want to do all the work and be left at the end of your sale without the results or sales you need.

Your Action Steps =

  • Create all your graphics, captions, and links before your sale.
  • Organize all that content into a post strategy schedule like this:


Here’s an example of how a sale post strategy flows:

  1. Teaser post
  2. Contest or engagement post
  3. Sale announcement post
  4. Lifestyle image still promoting sale
  5. Engagement post
  6. Sale promotion post

Depending on how long your sale runs, the number of posts you need will vary. The idea is to mix up the content so in between explicit sale promotion posts you have other content that still relates, but aren’t as salesy.

(Later you can delete the sales posts so your feed looks better).


Teaser Posts

Most people don’t think about what to do BEFORE a sale, but it’s just as important as what goes on during and after.

The point of a teaser post is to get your followers excited for your upcoming sale. If they know it’s coming, then they will wait and look for it.

It’s called priming them for the sale, and it makes it easier to sell to them.

It’s up to you if you want to give away all the details of your sale, or just mention that you’ll be running one.


Engagement Posts

You want as many people to see your sale posts as possible right? ‘Cause the more people that see it, the more people you can get to buy from you.

The point of engagement posts (before and during your sale) are to get your followers active AND to get more eyeballs on your content.

If you have a post asking your followers to “tag a friend”, then you’re getting fresh eyeballs looking at your account during prime time to sell. Score!


Sale Announcement/Promotion Posts

Obviously you need these to tell your followers your sale is going on! These ones are clearer than the other lifestyle posts you fill in between. They are explicitly salesy ‘cause the goal is to SELL.


Lifestyle/Other Regular Posts

These are less salesy posts that promote your products, and brand, but are a nice change from the explicitly salesy Sale Announcement/Promotion Posts.


2. Run a contest right before your sale

An alternative to just posting an engagement post right before your sale, is running a contest right before. And for the same reason.

If done right, a contest will generate a LOT of hype, excitement, engagement, and new followers to your account.

And when you do this right before your sale, your followers are primed to want your product, and the new followers are still hot leads.

That means MORE SALES!

Your Action Steps =

  • Choose a product that’s going to be in the sale – that way when the people that entered that didn’t win see you’re running a sale on them, they’ll be like, “oh hey, I didn’t win a free one, but I can still get one for cheaper!”

That’s good “priming” at work my friend ^

  • Also, make sure in your contest one of the rules of entry is to “tag a friend” – this way you’ll get some new followers right before the sale!


3. Give your sale some context

You can totally, 100% run a sale just ‘cause you feel like it.


If you want your sale to do better, it needs some kind of context. Context helps give customers a reason to buy.

They’ll be more inclined to buy your swim suits if you’re running a “cruise season” sale than if you just run a random $50 off sale in the middle of winter.

Some options for sale context:

  • holidays


  • seasons


  • special events


  • store launch


The only wrong time to run a sale is when you don’t have any context! There are plenty of seasons, holidays, and other reasons you could run a sale. Be creative, have fun with it, and just make sure it relates and makes sense!

back to school sale buy one donut get one free WHAT?!


National Donut Day – buy one donut get one free YAAAS



Your Action Steps =

  • Check your calendar!

Are there any holidays coming up?

What season is it?

Are there any fun “national ______” days relevant to your biz?

  • Pick one that makes sense with your products and incorporate it into your sale graphics and even the name.


4. Offer something your audience actually wants

If you’re running a sale on a product that your audience really just don’t like, then it’s not going to do very well.

If you’re offering a discount that isn’t enough value for your audience, then it’s not going to do very well.

Your Action Steps =

Before you choose the details of your sale ask yourself…


“What would my audience want?”


Then ask yourself…


“What do I feel comfortable offering?”

Then find the balance between the two!

You will learn what your audience responds well to through running sales overtime. If a 15% off the entire store doesn’t work, then try a 25% off the entire store the next time. If that goes over better, then you know it’s gonna take a bigger discount to get them to participate.

Always, ALWAYS pay attention to what your audience wants and cares about. That’s your ammo to get your content to get you results!

If this is your first sale or you aren’t sure what kind of discount to offer, this guide to Which Discounts to Offer (and When) to Get More Sales will give you the low-down and a place to start.  


5. Create a sense of urgency

Urgency sells.

When you’ve got an order that needs to be shipped out tomorrow if it’s gonna make it in time for Christmas, you’ve got that sense of urgency pushing you through the night getting it done in time.

But if you didn’t have to ship it out for another month or two, would you stop what you’re doing right now to finish it?

Maybe not.

Urgency helps make that choice for you. And it works pretty similarly with your customers.

Your Action Steps =

  • When promoting your sale make sure to include messages like,




This way people feel that need to stop and do it right now (otherwise they might never!)

  • Run a flash sale

             These are super quick sales that only last for maybe a few hours. They create a TON of urgency and are super clear in the fact that they will only last for a short while.

             They give your audience the message, “Buy RIGHT now or miss out”.

  • If you handmake your products and you only have a few in stock, use that to your advantage and be specific.

             In your sale make sure you include in your captions and even your images, “There are only 5 left!”




6.  Change your link in bio to direct sales

When you’re promoting a sale on your social media accounts, YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR LINK IN BIO!

Especially when we’re talkin’ Instagram where that’s the only clickable link you get.

On Instagram, your promo will be directing your followers to click that link, so make sure it sends them to the page in your online store where the sale is happening, not just to your homepage, or your blog, etc.




 Your Action Steps =

Once your sale promo starts, update the link in your bio to take your followers to the page on your store where the sale is happening.

So if you’re running a sale on tshirts, send them to your tshirt category page (skip the homepage so there are less steps for them to take).

If you’re running an entire store sale, then send them to the homepage.

1. Take the link from the page where the sale is happening


2. Shorten it so it looks nice and neat in your bio using bitly or google url shortener


bio_link3 3. Paste it in your Instagram bio


bio_link5 bio_link4


7. Change your bio CTA too (for more clicks)

A small, yet really important thing a lot of sellers forget to do is to change the CTA in their social media bios.

Use that space as another opportunity to DIRECT your followers to the purchase, don’t waste it!

bio_link4 Say someone didn’t see your last sales promo post, and they are a new visitor to your account. What’s the FIRST thing they are gonna look at?


So don’t assume they saw your last post – direct them as if they were only seeing your bio, and include a CTA that tells them to click that link to get in on your sale.

Your Action Steps =

Add a short and simple CTA to your Instagram bio like this:




8. Include CTAs in your post graphics

Having CTA’s in your captions and bios are not enough.

As humans we are naturally more visual, so when you post about your sale, the first thing we see is the image, and the second is the caption under it.

So, to have your bases covered and offer the most direction possible, include a CTA in your sale promo images as well as your captions!


This way it’s SUPER clear what your followers should do to shop!


9. Post at the right times for optimum engagement

When you promo your sale is soooooo important.

If you post about your sale when your followers, readers, and visitors aren’t active, then you’re wasting your time. Let’s not do that!

Since a sale is such a big deal, you want to promote it when your social media, blog, etc gets the MOST views and activity.

There are tools you can use to keep track of your optimal posting times for social media, and I recommend Iconosquare because it’s super easy to use and it’s free. YAAS.

Your Action Steps =

  • Log into Iconosquare with your Instagram account


  • Check when you get the most engagement from your followers

iconosquare_2              The dots that are the largest are your optimal times to post!

  • Use those times to plan your full post schedule (post your sale promo at those times!)


10. Promote your sale A LOT without being too salesy

One IG post announcing your sale isn’t gonna cut it. (As you’ve learned, it’s a whole sequence).

The more you promote it, the more eyeballs you’ll get that see it, and the more eyeballs that turn into customers.

Don’t be afraid of posting too much. There are ways to remind your customers about your sale after your first main announcement post.

Your Action Steps =

Share lifestyle images and other content that relates to your sale. In the captions, add a reminder, “if you haven’t heard, we’re having a sale right now, click the link in bio to get your 50% off now!”

That way your sale is always on the top of their mind, without you coming off as super salesy and annoying.

  Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 4.56.47 PM

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 5.00.09 PM

If you’re worried about posting “too much” (trust me, you’re less salesy than you think) you can always post and delete it later. Then your feed won’t look like it’s full of sales promo, but you’ll still get the job done.


before and after graphic (can use MF as an example)


11. Engage on instagram while your sale is happening

Even though your sale has started and you’ve already created hype and gotten some new followers beforehand, that doesn’t mean you have to stop getting some new eyeballs to your account!

Remember, the more people you get to see your promos, the more people you can get to buy.

Your Action Steps =

  • Engage with potential followers as a way to virtually “introduce” yourself.

(This post will teach you how to do it using the right hashtags, and without being spammy and straight up telling them to, “check out my account and buy from me pretty pleeeeease!”)


  • Find other big accounts with groups of business like yours that do “Follow Fridays” and things like that.

             If you’re a maker, there are accounts like @craftsposure that have “Follow Fridays” every week where makers comment and follow another account from the comments.

             You can also find other accounts that don’t do Follow Fridays, but have a lot of your target audience, comment on their photos so those people will see your name and hopefully click it!


12. Being SUPER specific and clear

When promoting your sale, you have to give your customers SUPER CLEAR instructions and details about the sale, and how to buy.

Even the most obvious things are worth repeating – it usually means saving a sale you would have lost.

Yep, if someone has one little question, they might not buy!

So when promoting your sale make sure to include details in your copy like:

  • date/time sale starts and ends
  • time zone
  • shipping details
  • what the discount is
  • which products are on sale
  • the coupon code (if necessary)

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 10.34.16 AM

Your Action Steps =

You’ll want to include all these details in the caption of your posts (since that is a lot to take in.) Try and write all these details in as few words as possible (while still sounding like good english HA) so you don’t overwhelm your followers.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 10.35.36 AM

You can and should also include important info straight in your post images.

Obviously you won’t include all of these details in your image, but if you get one question over and over then that could be a good one to include.

Or if you are using a coupon code, that’s a very important detail to include in your images to make sure nobody forgets it.

  Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 5.03.21 PM

13. Use a Simple and Clear Coupon Code  

Speaking of coupon codes – don’t let them mess up a sale for you.

If you want to sell, you have to make it as easy for people to shop as possible. Any little thing that confuses them, makes them ask a question, or misdirects them could lose you the sale.

It’s your job to make everything as clear as possible, including your coupon code (if using one for your sale).


Your Action Steps =

When creating your coupon codes, here are some  easy fixes:

  • using all CAPS
  • avoiding characters that can get confused for others like, 1 and I  &  0 and O
  • keep it short


14. Not following through with the marketing path to direct sales

A lot of people will post on Instagram at the right times, with CTAs, and using a direct link in their bio and that’s all great. BUT the marketing path doesn’t stop until you make the sale.

You have to follow through with matching, and directing imagery and CTA’s at every step until the person makes the sale.

The marketing path looks like this, and you have to promote your sale at each step if you want it to be successful:  


If you don’t have matching images with CTAs and clear direction at any step of the marketing path, you can and will lose sales.

Your Action Steps =


  • Create your matching slideshow images ahead of time


  • Create your matching category page headers ahead of time


  • Update any copy on your product descriptions



14 Ways to Make Sure Your Next Sale on Instagram Makes Money

Now I know that was a heck of a lot of information.

But it’s really, totally, seriously ALL necessary if you want your sale to get you real results, and more sales.

Don’t forget to download your copy of the summarized checklist version of the 14 ways at the beginning of the post so you make sure you’ve got everything covered the next time you run your sale on Instagram.   


Rachel Daley
Rachel is the resident Content Fairy at MadeFreshly, the ecommerce platform that makes your passion pay off. Click here to get her actionable tips and inspiration for entrepreneurs every week!