Recently, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a question that jumped out at me. Someone posted this on my community’s networking page: “We’ve used the same lawn company for quite a few years now. We’re not necessarily unhappy with them but are thinking of looking around for different prices/service…Preferably a local company. We don’t need mowing, just weed/pest prevention, aeration, etc. Who would you recommend? TIA.”

Ouch. As a business owner, I would imagine this kind of query cuts deep. The first thing I thought was, “Wait. Your current company has done nothing wrong, and you’re not unhappy, yet you’re looking for someone else just because? And you’re asking in a public forum?”

It’s times like these when you need to be prepared to tell your customers exactly why they need you, what value you bring to the table and if you’ve improved any existing services or are offering new ones.

Actually, now that I think about it, “times like these” might actually be too late. If your customer is at this point, they’re probably already a former customer. (Maybe not on paper but in their mind.) That’s why you need to be proactive.

I know what some of you may be thinking. “I don’t have time to resell something I’ve already sold. It’s spring! Termites and ants are afoot!” While I certainly understand being busy, this is exactly the time to reaffirm your value to your customers. It doesn’t have to be labor intensive or expensive. A simple email or letter will do. Something like, “Happy spring! Just wanted to drop a line to say hello and thank you for being a customer. In the coming weeks, in our area you’ll see _______ types of pests. We’re doing _______ about it. Also, did you know we’re now offering _______ service? This service prevents _______ and we’re happy to add it to your next visit. Please like us on Facebook and earn referral discounts by sharing our information with your family and neighbors.”

In this issue of PCT, there are several easy, inexpensive and thoughtful examples of similar proactive and positive customer communication that jumped out at me.

The first, from Tom Sieminski, owner of Team Pest Control in Sayville, N.Y., is so simple, yet I’ve never heard anyone say it before. It costs nothing to do, takes just a few seconds and shows empathy toward someone who’s certainly feeling vulnerable in that moment. When someone calls and says, “I think I have bed bugs,” Sieminski’s first response is, “I’m so sorry this is happening to you.

“I give them my empathy first. If I say that, I already can hear their lungs expand and they’re like, ‘Oh, thank you for telling me you understand what I’m feeling,’” he says.

It’s so simple. It’s so thoughtful. It’s so respectful. And it’s a game changer.

While Tom’s tip surely is part of his “selling” process, it’s definitely not a hard sell. So what about those times you need a conversation starter that’s a bit stronger?

In the cover story, Greg Schmidt, president, Pest Solutions, Richmond, Va., shares a tip that helps him show the value of his business to current customers before they’re potentially lured away by competitors.

Before the spring, which is when salespeople in his area tend to hit the streets to earn new business, Schmidt sends out a friendly letter to his client base. “It’s a forewarning of the solicitations that will occur to give them a heads-up,” he says, noting that the letter is ultimately a value statement. “We want them to know we are serving them.”

Greg’s letter is exactly what I thought of when I read that Facebook post above. Yes, it takes a little bit of time, and perhaps the cost of a postage stamp, but it’s an inexpensive way to remind customers of all the things his company does to take care of them throughout the year. And while some customers may be lured away by lower prices, I think such a letter will ward off many of those departures.

I hope these ideas — as well as others about how to (seriously! you can!) fight malaria across the globe, tips to discuss your termite treatment with customers and ideas on reaching out to local news media — help you communicate more proactively with your clients. Best wishes for a healthy and busy season!

The author is editor-in-chief of PCT.