5 Reasons Why Doing What Others Do Turns You Into a Small Business Zombie

I’m sure you have heard this advice: Follow the best practices. I’m not a believer in that advice. For me, do things others don’t; if you can’t, just copy the best practices and be sure to make them your own. Why am I such a rebel?

small business zombie

The answer to that question is simple: Doing what others do kills your creativity. And if your creativity dies you are becoming a zombie of the business world: Wandering around places, clueless. You are becoming resistant to changes and you won’t notice the wind of change that will help you navigate your small business ship.

Do you want to be a small business zombie? Do you want to follow what other small biz zombies do? Well, you could, but remember – doing what millions others do means you have to compete with each and every of them. And eventually, before you know it, you’ll fall into the trap of price wars – the wars you can’t win and the ones you don’t want to involve with. You are in between of life and death – just like zombies.

So – do you still want to be a small biz zombie?

If you answer is YES, I apologise – I can’t accommodate your aspiration. You might very well want to follow experts who focus on small business idealism and best practices.

If you answer NO and choose to be anti-zombie, read on; let’s explore the reasons why you shouldn’t copy what others do…

1. Best practices are not necessarily the best

Best practices are great to follow – but as guidelines, not an operating manual. Doing them doesn’t necessarily turn your small business successful. If you think a particular best practice is great, please be sure that you make it your own. Otherwise, what it does best is turning you into a zombie and leaving you scratching your head, wondering why implementing the best practices don’t work; why your small business is stuck; why your profit margins diminishes gradually; why the industry problems become your small business problems (it shouldn’t be this way!)… and so on.

Want answers? Do things differently. Make the best practices your very own.

2. When a cherry bomb explodes you will be out of the lawn

Have you played “Plants vs. Zombies” game? Well, when a cherry bomb is placed on your lawn, in a few seconds it will explode and burn down the nearby zombies.

Well, if your small business follow what others’ do, chances are, you will feel the same impact as other SMBs when things go wrong. Following the wrong people or business will lead you to the disasters you can avoid when you keep on working on your business to be unique.

In online business arena, many (including me!) follow what others do. So, when a hot, new SEO tactics is introduced, thousands implement them blindly. Then Google Penguin kicks bad SEO practices, and those who implement them, intentionally or unintentionally, will go down; no matter whether your online business is a 1-man show or a 20-people team.

If you want your small business to be burnt down with the others, be my guest! But if you don’t think that’s a good idea, being unique will avoid you to be turned into a zombie.

3. Pioneers rake in the biggest brand equity and operational profits; Zombies get the trickles.

Do you know who will grab the biggest market pie? That’s right – the small business who does what others’ don’t – or haven’t. When you are a pioneer in your industry, you will have a chance of enjoying what I call “locked benefits” – the benefits which will only be enjoyed by those who introduce a product/service for the first time in a particular market. For a certain period of time, the company will enjoy an extended period of “harvest” – until other companies will start to copy your products/services in one way or another (yes, even if they are copyrighted…) Then your market share will gradually diminish. But no worries – you have filled up your “granary,” which partly you can use for business development – to create and recreate products people will love.

Usually, the first entrants are the most successful; so take this opportunity to be creative and launch something people will love – and remember – for at least an extended period of time. Sure, you can grab your piece of the pie by being a copycat, but unless you are a pro copycat who can improve the copied idea, you will always be in a group of zombies who rant why the Government’s policy, the economy, etc. sucks.

4. Zombies don’t add value!

Small business zombies make profits from the margin of their price tags – nothing more. “I am selling auto parts” is not enough – thousands of others are doing so. When others lower price, you should do so, too – why? You are in danger of losing your business. Why? Because you don’t add value. More than just selling auto parts, you should offer suggestions on which auto parts your vehicle needs; you might want to offer home/office delivery service; you might want to offer installation service; you might want to establish a business website and feature your client on it; and so on.

Add value and more money will be added to your pocket.

Of course, there are plenty of external factors which can determine the survivability of your small business. However, you should do your part by working on those internal factors you can tweak as much as you like. Probably the best thing you can do so is by add value. Justify your price tags/asking price. Position your small business on a segment of the market who value quality over quantity.

If you don’t want to be a zombie, add value. Period.

5. Zombies don’t have USP!

Again – “I am selling auto parts” is not enough – it’s zombies’ elevator pitch. However, “I can boost your vehicle’s performance” will make a difference between success and failure, which can avoid you from getting caught in price wars.

Indeed, you need to have unique selling proposition (Read: You need to have reasons why people should buy from you, not from your competitors.)

Again, lower price is hardly a USP! I always confused why retailers, big and small, always use discounts to attract customers; it’s so last season, you know. Today, it’s all about USP and perceived value of your business. If your small business can talk with your customers with its brand image, service and support, you win.


Obviously, none of us entrepreneurs want our startup and small business to fail. We always want the best out of our business. However, things don’t always go as we expected. The best thing you can do is to innovate, innovate and innovate. Pitch new products and services; introduce something different; and so on… woo your customers and let them know you are in the business for a reason.

Don’t be a zombie. Srsly.

Ivan Widjaya
Founder/Editor BizPenguin.com