The printing and imaging industry has taken the small business to heart this year (see "Observations: The Year of Small Business"), with efforts to boost their efficiency and productivity via in-house publishing (see "Observations: Low-End Color Lasers—Build Them and They Will Come?") while not ignoring sensible outsourcing decisions when quantities, price breaks and capabilities so dictate (see "Small Business Printing -- when to stay in-house, when to go out-sourced").
Of course, there are two ways to help on productivity and efficiency, including the direct way, like on the aforementioned marketing collateral efforts, and the indirect way, by removing non-core tasks from the small business person's workload, thus freeing up more time to focus on what they do best. This is the angle I see being played to by well-known commercial print provider PrintingForLess.com, and their small-business-oriented turn-key custom holiday card service being announced tomorrow. The value proposition: get your all-important holiday greetings out to your valued customers and suppliers with the minimum amount of time and hassle, leaving more time to build your business, especially at this time of the year when time is money for so many of us.
In the same vein, I want to mention a personal experience I had with another source of services, in this case relieving me from potentially hours of non-core activities. Elance offers a service matching buyers and sellers of services, in my case a seemingly minor but still knotty web programming challenge that I just didn't have the expertise to take on, and also didn't have the time to develop that expertise. I described the job, put it out on Elance, and a few days later had a completed job done for a very reasonable price. I'm a very satisfied first-time customer.
And speaking of customer satisfaction stories, I need to add one more. My Apple iPhone's protective case, provided by Incase, has saved my phone and me from disaster at least a few times, but it had a problem beginning to develop. I called the company, got immediate help with some simple information-sharing instructions, and a new replacement case was on its way to me in no time, which I've since received and am very happy with. Thanks Incase, both for the painless exchange and the great example of how to treat your customers!