This past weekend, I ate at a Vietnamese place that had me confused. For one, it was decorated mostly like an Italian restaurant, with posters of Italian coffees and pictures of Tuscany and Italian ingredients everywhere. Not in any sort of hipster ironic way, but in a ‘this location used to house an Italian restaurant and we never redecorated when we moved in’ way. But the visual disarray went even further. Their business name looked one way on the sign out front, a different way on the front of the menu, a different way on the back of the menu, and a different way by the register. The menu itself was also a mish-mash of fonts from page to page. They clearly had no established logo or consistent branding, and did not deem such things important. It made me question how long this place would be around and whether I would return, despite the food being decent.

Chances are, you’ve had a similar experience with a business at some point in your life. Maybe you took one look at a poor website and decided that wasn’t where you’d take your business. Or maybe the bad design of a place became the butt of a joke with your friends. Think back to such an experience and ask yourself: is that how I want my business to be perceived?

Getting your visual branding in line is an important step in establishing legitimacy and credibility as a business. And the core of that is your logo. Here are three reasons why, if nothing else in regards to design, you should make sure your business has an official logo:

1. Having a logo shows that you care enough about your business to put in the effort.

Are a logo and good visuals the most important aspect of your business? No, of course not. You need a solid business idea and a way to deliver your product/service first and foremost. But, design can play a significant role in helping your business succeed, and the heart of that is your logo. It’s often the first part of your business that people interact with: they see it on your storefront, or your business card, or your website, or your product. it can be a powerful tool for helping establish your business (see #2). Ignoring that is really not a smart move.

See, here’s the kicker: your business has a brand, whether you’re helping shape it or not. Nonexistent or sloppy visual branding sends a message. You are, however subtly or unintentionally, telling customers and potential customers that your business is not very important to you. You can’t be bothered to be consistent in the marketing and visual materials you put out for your business. And if you can’t be bothered to do that, what else about your business might be getting the slapdash treatment? The quality of your product? The amount of time you put into your service? Any sort of professional standards you need to meet? These are the types of questions that sub-par visual branding can set running through your customers’ minds.

I put this as the #1 reason because it’s a personal pet peeve of mine. Not just as a designer, but as a consumer. If a business can’t be bothered to spend the time or money to get their look (how they present themselves to the world) in order, I’m MUCH less likely to become a patron. Because it’s such an easy fix!! Even if you DIY your logo and marketing materials. Having a set logo image that you use over and over again, and set colors, and set fonts, builds both credibility and recognition. It shows you care about getting details right. And a business owner who pays attention to getting details right goes a long way towards building consumer trust.

2. When done well, a logo reinforces what your business is about.

Your logo is an opportunity to create a great first impression on your potential customers. It can help set the tone for the interaction, conveying a sense of your business’ personality, atmosphere and/or industry. If you want your business to be known for it’s quirky, upbeat service, your logo and branding should reflect that. If your business has been around for 100+ years and that’s important to it, your logo can help convey that sense of history. If your business type isn’t clear from the name itself, a logo can help inform people what you do/are.

There are SO MANY ways a good logo can be an asset to your business. Throwing any old thing together, or not bothering with one entirely, is a really big missed opportunity. Hiring a designer to help you craft a great logo that really captures your business’ essence is a bona fide smart business move. They will ensure that your logo pulls its weight and serves your business well.

3. A unique logo differentiates you from competitors.

It can help your customers find your storefront in a line of shops, your product on crowded shelves, your profiles or website online. If you have an established Look for your business, people start to associate that Look with you and it becomes a key part of how you stand out from other businesses offering the same thing. Your logo is the heart of that. It’s an instantly recognizable piece of your business.

Aside from that, if it was done well and your field well-researched, you likely also ended up with a logo that is different from your competition. Maybe the personality is unusual for your industry, or the color choices are ones none of your competitors are using. These kinds of unexpected choices should all be done with care, of course, but they can set your business up as something new and exciting compared to others. If a potential customer is researching businesses that do what you do, that difference can help catch their attention and interest.

Of course, I think your dedication to how you present your business should go beyond just a logo, into all of your visual branding. But if you needed some convincing, I hope you’ll at least take this first step, for the sake of your business.

Does your business have an official logo? Can you think of a reason to have one that I missed?