Here's a great recession freebie: business cards.
As grim as times are, day after day, week after week, remarkable innovations happen, especially for small businesses.
This week, business cards are gratis. We're not talking dime store, DIY cheapies, but professionally designed and printed business collateral. And the price? Nothing but the time and creative energy it takes to make them.
Even better, the source of this small-business miracle isn't a graphic-design shop. Hardware giant Hewlett-Packard (Stock Quote: HPQ) is behind the deal. The drivers are simple. Computer hardware, particularly imaging, is a tough business. HP and rivals like Lexmark (Stock Quote: LXK) and Xerox (Stock Quote: XRX) are getting crushed. Lexmark's profits dropped 82% in the fourth quarter. I can't even look.
HP, trying to find profit in imaging, is betting on printing services with MarketSplash by HP, which offers low-cost, high-quality graphics and business stuff to small businesses. This market is also competitive. England-based Moo.com, and American players VistaPrint (Stock Quote: VPRT) and 123 Print all provide solid Web-based printing services.
HP, trying to grab market share, recently launched what company spokespeople call a no-fee, no-shipping, "zero cost" business card service aimed at small businesses.