SWAG is LOVE: Make Your Clients Feel Special with Thoughtful SWAG!

by | Feb 2, 2023 | 0 comments

Category: Business

Welcome to another installment of our “Dear BeastyBoss” series! Today’s Question is about SWAG for your business.

Dear Michelle,
What are some things to consider when developing merch/swag for your business?

~ Kelly B

Dear Kelly B (I THINK I KNOW WHO THIS IS! HIIIIIIII and thank you for the card!),

SWAG! Stuff We All Get. I LOOOOOOOVE SOME GOOD SWAG. I do not love plastic crap that will ruin the oceans or those rubbery sticky hand things the kids bring home from the dentist that leave stains on the ceiling.

I like this question because it’s one of those questions that seems easy to answer – until you sit down and really try to figure out what to get. AND you realize how much it’s going to cost.

Understanding the role of SWAG in our business is key.

It’s more than just “cool stuff” that makes people happy.

It’s internal marketing. External marketing. A chance to build behaviors and tools a client may need to achieve their desired outcomes. SWAG reminds clients of all the change they’ve brought for themselves through working with you!

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It does have to be thought out.

Deciding between merchandise or SWAG for your business

Here are my thoughts on some things to consider when developing merchandise or SWAG for your business.

Should I get merchandise, SWAG, or both?

Joslin Romphf Dennis sporting her new SECO swag sweatshirt on Facebook.
SECO member, Joslin Romphf Dennis showing off her new sweatshirt
  • Merch is something you sell people.
    • If you want to sell merchandise, you will most likely need to get a retail license of some sort in your state or county. Depending on the state, you may have to charge sales tax that you will then need to give to the state. Some states require you to charge sales tax as soon as you sell anything. Some are cool if you only charge sales tax if your annual sales are $500K or more. FIND THIS OUT BEFORE YOU SELL MERCH.
    • If you want to sell Merch, you can also go through a drop-ship company, like Custom Ink. This takes quite a bit of leg work, but this way you aren’t selling directly to the customer and won’t have to deal with sales tax things. Merch should be items that people will actually buy. Do not sell cat shaped telephones, no matter how cute they are, to people who do not use telephones.
  • SWAG is something you give people.
    • This avoids the whole sales tax thing and you can put the cost of the items in your marketing expenses category, reducing your taxable income. (Unless you are in France, because boo France and their lack of claiming expenses taxation things.)


I am going to assume you do not want to deal with sales tax and retail shenanigans so the rest of these thoughts are based on the assumption that you will be gifting.

What kinds of items do people NEED and WANT that align with your business?

Don’t worry about budget, yet. What do people always use when they are working with you? You’ll want to think through all the ways that people will use your SWAG, so that they are reminded of your business each time they use it.

  • In a music studio, people may use:
    • Pencils
    • Notebooks
    • Metronome
    • An App like Appcompanist or Ultimate Guitar
    • Music stands
  • In a business coaching program, people may use:
    • Calculators
    • Workbooks
    • Pens
    • Binders
    • Post it notes
  • In a body work program, people may use:
    • Yoga balls or mat
    • Foam rollers
    • Headphones
    • Water bottle
    • Habit tracker
  • What kinds of items will fulfill a marketing role?
    • Stickers
    • Keychains
    • Wine or pint glasses
    • Bumper stickers
    • Hats/Clothing
    • Magnets
  • What kinds of items will bring yummy feelings and joy to those who have chosen to work with you? What kinds of things create connection and community?
    • Jewelry
    • Picture frames with pics of you and client together
    • Blankets
    • Things like tea, wine, seeds, etc

Do a little research so that you can create a realistic budget

  • Honestly, this is something I wish I would have known – $20 per person isn’t going to cut it if you want meaningful, well loved and used SWAG.
  • Pens for 50 cents each sound GREAT until you realize that you are forced to buy 1000 of them.
  • Look for places that will do small batches – they will be more expensive, but worth it.
  • Yes, SWAG should have your logo/brand – it’s tempting to put together gift bags with plain ol things in order to save money – but that’s not what the purpose of SWAG is. The whole point is to think of your business and share your business.
  • Stickers or stamps are a great way to SWAGafy things, like the bags you put the swag in, notebooks, binders, or other items that won’t be used forever, or do not need to be used often.
Your swag bag should have your business logo on it

Decide how much you want to spend per person.

Do this before you determine your rates so your rates account for the cost.

  • Take the data from above and determine what you’d like to spend per person. This way, you get WAYYYY more flexibility than just setting a strict “total budget” up front.
  • If you determine per person, then the cost of this will be covered as you add clients to your business
  • You 100% can set a total budget instead – you do you! – just know that you’ll then have more limited options when choosing SWAG because of price per units on things.

Crunch your numbers, adding in this cost to your annual budget, including your growth expectations.

Buy the things.

Create the packages.

TWIRL and celebrate how wonderful that feeling is when you know you just did something super cool and sassafrassy!!!!

How we use swag at SECO

The SpeakEasy Cooperative is a company who needs to think about SWAG quite a lot. So I thank you for your question – you forced me to write an SOP on it! 😆

SWAG is something I would love every business to budget for. It’s typical for a marketing budget fall somewhere between 8%-15% of annual revenue. So, if the business you own makes $50,000, it’s not unreasonable to spend $4000 on marketing per year, once you are pulling the owners draw/paycheck that is right for you.

Give me a holler back after you read this, and for sure send pics of those SWAG bags, folks!!!

All My BeastyBoss,

Michelle Markwart Deveaux blog signature
Michelle Markwart Deveaux

Michelle Markwart Deveaux (124)

As CEO of FaithCultureKiss Studios, LLC, I lead underestimated humans through the personal and professional development needed to create successful solo and team-based businesses.

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