Where are the silent majority of your members?

Many professional bodies have a silent majority of members who are largely content to pay their subscriptions each year, keep up to date with their professional development, take a passing interest in updates and periodicals but want little more from their membership. 

Does this matter?

That depends on whether you are doing enough in their eyes to deliver value. Research we have carried out on behalf of a number of professional bodies points to some common themes: 

Value is in the halo effect…

Significant anecdotal evidence suggests that what members really value is the recognition that comes with being seen as a trusted professional. Anything that you do to promote them in these terms will be well received. This is not just about explaining the value your sector creates (important though this is) but being seen to lead a debate about how your members are integral to the way the world is developing.  

If the feedback you are getting is negative this is more likely to be about your strategy or price points than the way you are communicating…

It is easy to assume that when you get resistance from your members (be this a twitter spat, the formation of a ginger group, a drop off in numbers or a challenge at the AGM) this is because of a failure to communicate. More often than not it is actually because they do not like what you are doing. 

That said good communications matters and there is a law of diminishing return here 

Be relevant, concise, joined up and don’t over communicate. Better still put in place a system that enables your members to choose how they want to receive information from you and let them decide. A periodic and well targeted email from the CEO matters far more than blanket all member broadcasts that can actually damage confidence in what you are doing. 

Members want to feel you have their back covered…  

Am I compliant? Do I have a handle on sectoral good practice? Can I understand and anticipate disrupters across my areas of responsibility that I will need to manage? These are the things they will want assurance and support on.  

Don’t trade the silent majority as an asset 

Tempting though it may be to trade the member database in exchange for affinity deals with third parties (accepting that GDPR makes this more difficult these days) it is worth asking whether you are going to engender trust and confidence by bombarding the silent majority with offers on car insurance or work shirts?

Generally speaking, the majority will be accepting of you being tough on the minority provided this is in the overall best interests of the profession. 

You cannot please all your members all of the time. What you can do is ensure that, where a minority transgress, this does not impact on the good standing of the majority. If that requires tough action, that is the cost of good leadership. 

Being able to help members adapt to change really matters

The world is changing at a faster pace than many of your members may want to recognise, with significant implications for the way in which the professions operate. Helping the silent majority navigate this change is not just the right thing to do.  It is also how you ensure the long-term sustainability of these relationships as well as your pipeline of new members.

Here are some questions to consider when thinking about your member engagement strategy: 

  1. Do you really know what the silent majority of our members think? 
  2. Are you doing all you can to respond to these concerns? 
  3. Are you resilient enough not to be bounced by the vocal minority unless there is good strategic reason for what they may be advocating? 
  4. Are the commercial services you offer still relevant?
  5. Is there more you can do to help your members adapt? 

Investing time in getting this strategy right is core to the sustainability of your business model.  


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