What is one tip for doing research into brands that may be similar to yours and therefore potential competitors?

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Become One of Their Customers

“The best way to test their product is to actually use it. I’m not saying buy something from them weekly, but every once in awhile, use their product. Browse their website, sign up for the newsletters, follow their blogs, and definitely download their app and monitor their updates. This will help you see what kind of content they put out, how much content they produce, and how good their product is.”

Manick Bhan, Rukkus

2. Ask Industry Insiders for Help

“You can get a lot of information using Google’s search algorithm, but talking to industry insiders can give you great insights about other companies, other products, their business models, their value propositions, and their customer demographics. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And the more people you ask, the better off you’ll be.”

Alan Carniol, Interview Success Formula

3. Opt-In For Their Email Sequences

“Opt-in for their email sequences to see how offers are positioned, how their leads are nurtured, and how they’re marketing. There’s only so much you can glean from their website. Looking at how they directly communicate with leads can teach a lot about their place in the market. Hint: Most entrepreneurs who do this use a personal email account for stealth.”

Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

4. Find Out Which Brands Are the Best at What

“Competition research starts for me by identifying who is the top dog in the market, and why. However, I have also started to understand over the last year that the top brand is not necessarily the best one — certainly not the most enduring ones. I have seen “strong” ones fail while others stay. When exploring the competition, try to see what each of them does best with thought to long-term.”

Adam Steele, The Magistrate

5. Avoid Using Similar Brand Names

“Before using a new brand name, research to make sure a competitor is not already using a similar name that is likely to cause “customer confusion.” When in doubt, invest in a preliminary legal check to help avoid trademark litigation. It is wise to make sure you are not stepping on anyone’s IP toes before you spend marketing time and money developing a brand name, not afterward.”

Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

6. Monitor Mentions of Their Brand

“Listen to what others are saying about them online. If customers have an unsatisfactory experience, they will tweet, post a Facebook comment, and even write a whole blog article about it. That’s the time to see where your company can serve them better. Monitor the conversation using tools like Social Mention, Google Alerts and TalkWalker.”

Humberto Farias, Concepta

7. Survey Bloggers and Journalists

“Professional writers tend to bundle companies they believe offer similar products and services. Talk to bloggers and journalists that cover your industry and ask them who they think your competitors are. You may be surprised by who they list, and sometimes they have inside knowledge about the new product developments from each of your competitors.”

Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

8. Use the Right Tools

“To get the most insight into your competitors, you need the right tools. With SEMrush, you can see their estimated traffic from both Google Organic and Paid, as well as keywords they are ranking for. Use Ahrefs to study their backlink data. Buzzsumo is great to determine what content on their sites has the most social shares. Spyfu is fantastic for studying competitors ads and keywords.”

Marcela De Vivo, Gryffin

9. Download Their App

“As the founder of an iPhone app, I have our competitors’ apps on my iPhone and I regularly check out their latest versions. In addition to this, we have Google Alerts set up to monitor new developments our competition is making and the new competitors entering the space we’re in.”

Brian David Crane, Caller Smart Inc.

10. Research Their Customers, Not the Brands

“You can find most of what you need to find about a competing brand just by nature of being involved in the same industry. Competitors tend to know of one another even as early as the planning stages of their respective companies. You’re going to paint a much more definitive picture of their brand by knowing their audience.”

Blair Thomas, First American Merchant

11. Follow the Money

“Savvy customers have already done a lot of the legwork for you, so you should be constantly engaging them to stay on the cutting edge. Maintaining honest and resilient relationships with your customers — even the bad ones — is an important practice. Other peoples’ perception is your reality, so you need to find out what that is so that you can adjust accordingly.”

David Mainiero, InGenius Prep

12. Form Distribution and Sales Networks

“Distribution and sales networks can be difficult to form and take time to develop. By looking at sales networks of brands that are potential competitors, you can compile a list of possible points of sale that you already know are interested in products similar to your own.”

Peter Bonac, Bonac Innovation Corp.

13. Reach Out and Know Your Competitors Directly

“We know most of our direct competitors. I speak to a CEO of a competing company once a quarter, and we talk about strategy, revenues and major challenges. That’s because we all think that we’re competing against the established players and believe our niche industry is not a zero-sum game.”

Fan Bi, Blank Label