Advertising & Marketing

How to Start a Merch Line to Promote Your Business

You may look at those big businesses with their fancy swag, the branded bags, custom mugs, and logo t-shirts, and think that’s only something for brands like Nike or Google. But more and more smaller businesses are creating their own merch lines and cashing in both with sales and an increase in return customers. In fact, promotional products can be a major part of any business marketing plan, whether you’re a big name brand or a 2-year-old startup finally getting your first taste of profits. Need help getting started? Here’s our guide for how to start a merch line for your business. 

How to Sell Products With Your Logo

Promotional products don’t have to just be giveaways—people will pay for quality products from their favorite brands. The question is, how are you selling it? Here are a few tips to help you get the right approach to sell your products in store or online. 


One of the most effective ways to sell merch is alongside your existing products or services, especially if it relates to your business. A great example of this would be a coffee shop that offers their own company branded coffee mugs or expresso cups that customers can buy with their coffee. This allows customers to show off where their favorite coffee is and bring additional profits to the business. 

You don’t have to sell services or food to offer merch. You can also offer your merch as a separate product. For example, an outdoor recreational goods store can offer company branded backpacks. While the store itself doesn’t have the resources to design and create their own backpack, they can buy custom branded backpacks through a promotional products retailer and sell these with their other products. 

If you want your merch to draw in new customers, you can also partner with other companies to share your merch. Give your branded t-shirts and commemorative coffee mugs to gas stations and local retailers to sell alongside their other products. Independent workers like authors can also promote their image by offering their merch in bookstores. Take your merch to where your customers are and you’ll gain greater visibility in your community. 


Sometimes you just don’t have a lot of space for offering products on-location, or you may be an online-only company. Luckily, the internet is a great place to sell merch, whether on your website or through a sales funnel on social media. Some of the best merch sales online include: 

Rewards for investors – Many donation sites offer rewards packages, including merch, for big donations. The bigger the donations, the more merch they get. This is especially effective for artists, charities, and other donation-dependent businesses. 

A swag shop – Customers love to show their support for small businesses, and a swag shop is a great place for them to do that. Set up a separate shop page on your website where customers can support your business by buying branded mugs, shirts, bags, and other popular promo products. 

Exclusive event sales – Got a big event coming up? Get on social media and market exclusive products to celebrate! This is especially effective for major holidays and company anniversaries. 

Want more tips for how to spread your merch around? Check out our blog post on social media giveaway ideas! 

How to Choose the Most Effective Products

Custom merch created by Excell Sealants

What you offer is just as important as how you offer it, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. When looking for something to inspire your own merch line, consider these options: 

  • Industry: What products best match your industry? For example, a vineyard can offer custom wine glasses, and a car dealership can offer custom keychains.
  • Application: What can your customers buy alongside your products or services? For example, a reusable shopping bag with your produce, or a gym bag for a gym membership.
  • Popularity: Are these something customers would want to buy? For example, customers may want a backpack more than a refrigerator magnet.
  • Relevance: Does your brand add to the product? For example, customers might want a shoulder bag from their favorite clothing store more than from an accounting firm.

If you want to branch out, there are also many universally used promotional products that customers will enjoy no matter what industry the brand is from. Here are a few that you can offer in your merch line that customers use every day, all day: 

Design Wrap 11 oz. Ceramic Mug 

This mug is easy to customize to any brand with its fully customizable exterior. Utilize one of our 99+ free design templates or upload your own unique artwork! 

22 oz. Eli Stainless Steel Vacuum-Insulated Travel Mug 

Who doesn’t love having their favorite beverage on the go? This travel mug is sleek, stylish, high quality, fits in cupholders, and easily adapts to any company style.  

Engraved Alpha Soft Touch Pen with Stylus® 

Pens are a dime a dozen, but few can resist a pen as tricked out as this. Shiny accents, luxury soft touch design, laser engraved custom imprint, and a stylus on the plunger makes this pen fun for anyone to hold and use. On top of that, luxury pens like these can fit into any industry seamlessly. 

Kapston® Jaxon Sling Bag

Trendy, convenient, and can fit into any industry, this sling bag is something any customer would love. Leather accents and a simplistic design make this a fashionable day bag or a professional office bag. 

Medium Galina Cotton Tote Bag 

A classic cotton tote, made strong for continuous use, is an excellent addition to any merch line. This bag can be used in any industry, can be sold online or in-store, and is a convenient and stylish home staple for any customer to buy.  

Want to see some of the numbers behind the best custom merch? Check out our blog post covering the top statistics on promotional products. 

How Much Merch Do You Need?

As tempting as it is, don’t just start stocking up on promotional products without a plan. First, decide how you’re going to use them. Will this be a limited-time offer for an event? A social media giveaway gift? Something you pass out at the front desk? Do you want to err on the side of too little to make it exclusive or too much to make it spread further? Think about what you want to accomplish and how much you’ll need to do it. 

If this is your first time testing out a new merch, don’t be afraid to make a smaller order just to test the waters. See how much demand there is for your chosen products among your audience and feel out the bugs when it comes to distribution. Worst case scenario? You’ll have some seriously happy employees who get to take home their own company swag. 

It’s also important to think about variety. A yoga studio, for example, may want a variety of water bottles, duffel bags, and other exercise equipment for their customers to collect with memberships. A bank, on the other hand, may prefer to only offer branded pens and magnets. At the same time, that bank may want more pens to offer each customer while the yoga studio may want fewer products to offer to an exclusive number of customers. 

Design Tips for Promotional Products

First and foremost, think about what you want your customers to remember. For most people, your logo will be the key element in any promotional product. Unless you want your imprint to double as business card (best to do that on pens and magnets) then you should use less words to give your logo more emphasis. After all, customers are more likely to carry around something with a trendy logo than something bogged down with promotional text. 

Then there’s color. For most products and brands, a simple single-color logo will give the greatest visual impact and be more memorable after a single glance. Just like babies respond better to stark black on white images, a bright logo silhouette on a dark background (or vice versa) will imprint much faster and more effectively than something with too many complex parts and colors. However, if a full color logo is essential to your logo being recognized, then choose a background color that will contrast with the majority of your logo colors to make it pop. 

Do you think your brand needs a facelift? Check out our blog post on rebranding for small businesses

How to Personalize a Merch Line

Obviously, your logo will play a huge factor in personalizing your merch. However, if you really want your customers to feel your company behind the product, you’ll want to get creative. What colors work well with your brand image? What patterns or designs would reflect your business on a commemorative mug? What shapes for magnets and notepads would reflect your industry? 

Your style can also be reflected in the materials. Are you a company that prides itself on organic products? Find products that incorporate bamboo, jute, and other natural materials. Are you high tech and trendy? Offer giveaways that feature rose gold accents. Whatever merchandise you want to offer, take the time to find the best colors and materials to reflect your image as a company. 

The demand for merch is out there, and every company can benefit from having their own custom merchandise. What is important is how you plan your design and distribution. What you offer, where you offer it, and how you promote it will make all the difference in how successful your merch is. Get started with our tips for how to start a merch line and check out our other blog posts for ideas on how to use your new merch to promote big online and in-store. 

Katie Yelisetti

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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