When starting a new company, it makes sense to become obsessed with perfecting your product -- but what about your brand? Creating a new website has become almost effortless, with sites like Wix and Squarespace. As the number of new companies proliferates, however, having a well-defined brand is important if you're going to stand out from the crowd. Good branding starts with a strong name and a visually attractive logo. A study conducted by the New York based branding firm Siegel+Gale -- whose slogan is "Conquer Complexity"-- found that well crafted logos are 13% more likely to get consumers' attention, 7% more likely to interest them in the brand, and 6% more likely to suggest a company is more unique than others in its category. In short, a memorable logo helps customers create a relationship with your company and its services, making them more likely to engage.

For smaller companies that can't afford big agencies, crowdsourcing can be an excellent alternative. You'll get lots of ideas for a brand name and a logo that reflect the description you provide of the company, your products/services, and the values and aesthetics you want the brand to embody. Ross Kimbarovsky, the founder of crowdSPRING, runs one of the world's leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. As such, he has seen the good, the bad, and the truly awful. He asked some of the most popular logo designers on crowdSPRING to come up with the most essential elements of a great logo. Here is what they shared:

1. A logo should be strong and balanced.

A logo can be just text such as IBM, just a graphic symbol like the Nike "swish," or include both elements. Regardless, it should reflect your company - its heart, soul, and personality. First and foremost, keep your audience and products/services in mind, because you want your logo to reflect your business. Logos that have a strong, balanced look work best because they are easy to read, and in the crowded marketplace, that can attract positive attention.

2. A logo should be simple.

Simplicity is key. A complex logo will be difficult to print and reproduce, and may be complicated for your audience to "get". Think about brands that are successful and famous. Most likely, you'll think of companies like Apple, Facebook, and MacDonald's. What do their brands have in common? They all have logos that are simple, easily recognized and clear, whether printed in color or black and white.

3. A logo should be memorable.

Your logo does not always need to describe exactly what your business does. Have you ever seen a car manufacturer with a picture of a car as their logo? How about a shoe manufacturer? It would look silly to have a picture of a shoe...on a shoe.

When using icons in your logo design, consider images that will communicate your brand without the company name. This will allow you to use the icon as a stand-alone image on product packaging, and on labels.

The Nike logo, that iconic "swoosh," was created in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, a design student. It represents the wings of its namesake Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, and suggests speed, grace and athletic triumph. Amazon is building on a similar idea by pulling the arrow that connects the A and Z out more prominently on their videos. The Golden Arches of MacDonald's, or the Apple shape are two more good examples.

4. A logo should be flexible.

A logo should be visible and recognizable on a large billboard from 100 yards away or on a business card from 3 inches away. It should also work well in different sizes for brochures, t-shirt designs, embroidery, stamping, embossing, and other marketing materials, such as product labels.

A good logo will work well in many colors and in just one or two colors (and yes, black is a color). It will also work on light backgrounds as well as dark backgrounds, and even on multicolored backgrounds.

Be sure that once you've created a solid logo, you use it consistently.

5. Use Appropriate Colors.

If you are looking for a color logo, consider the psychological messaging that color implies. Do the colors reinforce and strengthen the intended core message, the personality and mood you're trying to communicate -- or are they distracting?

For example, blue associated with trust, loyalty and freshness. The color blue is therefore common in banking or finance. Green represents life, nature and cleanliness, and may signal organic products.

Also consider colors that work well with dark and white backgrounds. Because logos are often printed in black and white, chosoe a logo design that is as strong or stronger in black and white.

Avoid complexity. For example, although gradients can provide an aesthetically pleasing effect on computers, consider future uses of your logo for materials like letterhead stationery, business cards, and sewn merchandise. Will the logo be easy to reproduce on all types of media?

Think twice about including more than 3 colors in a logo. Extra colors will increase the cost of production and may make the logo more difficult to reproduce and recognize.

If you plan to scale your business to span geographic boundaries, remember to consider cultural differences when creating your logo. Color meanings and visual images are usually culture specific. Get expert feedback on your logo if you plan to market abroad.

6. A logo should be timeless.

Trends are good, but fads can be deadly. A logo should have a long life expectancy. It may evolve and change over time like the little girl on the Morton salt shakers whose haircut is modern now, but the longer it stays nearly the same at its heart, the better brand recognition you'll get. A good logo will have a sense of timelessness about it. A logo that feels anchored in a certain time period may become outdated or need substantial repurposing. The best logos change very little, yet feel fresh and vibrant.

7. A logo should be unique.

Will it stand out among the clutter and the crowd? Does the symbol or icon distinguish itself from the competition, or is it predictable and bland? Is it highly visible to the intended audience?

With thousands upon thousands of fonts, billions of color combinations, and an infinite flow of design ideas, choosing a logo that is unique may take time and patience.

Avoid common logo clichés like "swoops," "wooshes," and "pinwheels" -- the most commonly used icons in the logo industry now.

Also avoid clip art like the plague, unless it's significantly modified by the artist. It's quite a problem when you start noticing your logo or a highly similar one, on other people's products. It detracts from your ability to reach your customers reliably.

8. A logo should have strong typography.

Typography is important. Typefaces with serifs, such as seen in Old English, convey a sense of dignity & power but can be hard to read, especially when small. San-serif fonts are clean and lighter looking, offering a sense of openness or charm. Typography is a craft in itself. Be sure that the font itself feels right for your message and your brand.

9. Your logo should derive meaning from your brand.

Your logo has to derive meaning from your brand, not the other way around. The world's best brands are not well known because of their logos; the logos are known because of the people and vision they represent. Of course, it doesn't hurt that companies spend millions or even billions of dollars marketing and advertising their logos.

When deciding on the direction of your logo, make sure that you have thought about your brand and the direction of your company. This guide on building your brand identity from the ground up is a good start. Be sure to get input from others during this design process. They may spot a problem that simply doesn't occur to you.

10. Make sure your logo is vectorized.

Whether you work with a friend, an agency or with crowdSPRING's community of 200,000+ designers and writers, always request "vector-based graphics" when you buy a logo design.

A common garden-variety JPG, GIF, PNG or PSD isn't going to cut it in the complex world of using and promoting your logo. A properly created vector design will provide you with the requisite flexibility to use your logo in countless different ways and different sizes.

"As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Make it a good one!" Kimbarovsky concludes. His platform certainly makes the process of logo creation easier and more affordable.

For more of Kimbarovsky's business advice, check out his e-book on creating a stand-out business.