How To Make Friends and Recruit People, Part II

Posted: July 9, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2, Guilds

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.

-Sir Winston Churchill

As promised, here is the second part to my thoughts regarding guild recruiting.  In the first part of this series, I discussed the basics which need to be regarded before a single recruiting effort should be made. Now that we’ve laid the foundation, it’s time to start building the house.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of ways to recruit new members for your guild.  Most of these methods can be boiled down and reduced to just a handful of categories, however.  I’m not necessarily going to go into detail on all the different ways I advocate within my own Legion.  Not only would many of these ideas not work for many different types of guilds, but the contextual nuances would be missing, leading to possible confusion and thus frustration.  So, for the time being, we’ll stick to general lessons I’ve learned over the years. 

Suggestion I: Buy Before You Sell

Just like the real world, recruiting involves salesmanship, marketing, and a bit of consumer research.  You’re both the seller and the buyer in this case, and you’ll be making decisions that cross both sides of the aisle regarding any and all potential recruits. 

I think a lot of young guildmasters ignore the “buyer” side of the equation, and spend all their time selling their guild.  This is a great way to fill your ranks with all sorts of people you don’t really want.  It may sound like a cold assessment, but I guarantee you that if you’re only looking to sell your guild like a product, you’ll find tons of players willing to buy who you probably didn’t really want in the first place.  

Guilds aren’t, and should never be seen as just repositories of warm bodies.  Whatever your reason for forming a guild, I doubt any of you listed “want lots of strangers who argue a lot” or “hoping for lots of drama” at the top of the list. 

Stop looking at every recruit as someone that you need to sell to.  Stick to the foundations you built in Part I and decide early on what type of recruit you want.  It’s not enough to sell your guild.  You’ve got to look at those recruits as a buyer as well.  Quality matters.  Remember that.
 

Suggestion II:  Visibility

Want to know why big guilds keep getting bigger while your smaller guild stagnates?  First, look up their guild’s online membership right now.  Now, compare to yours.  What do you see?  Before you look again, read the following:

Most recruits – especially the quality ones – are looking for guilds that are active.  After searching through the last 300 applications to join my own guild, fully 50% referenced activity levels or grouping opportunities as a reason cited for desiring membership in the Legion.  One out of every two applicants looking at us as a possible guild home listed group activity as a primary factor of consideration in selecting us. 

Now that you’ve heard that, go look at that other guild online again and tell me how many groups appear to be formed up.  Look for common zones.  Look for common levels.  Now, look at your own guild and levels.  Are there any immediate patterns…or are your members all over the map?

Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.  I say this constantly to my officers whenever the topic of recruiting comes up.  When I’m worried about applications, I ask my membership to group up and turn off any mode that can hide levels or location (/role or /anon).  I advise my members to form up partial groups of 4-5, then to pick up random players to fill in the remaining spots.  I encourage them to frequently form up in populated areas and then to travel together whenever they can.

Sometimes, we’ll just sit around Qeynos Harbor together, joking around or dueling, and make sure to answer questions directed to us from passersby. 

The goal here is visibility.  You want your members seen – pretty much everywhere you can be seen.  If some of your members have multiple accounts, have them log in even if it’s just to stand around doing nothing just to increase the online “presence”.  Form up into groups publically.  Show groups.  More importantly, show groups having fun. 

Suggestion III:  Branding

What are the two most recognized words in the world?  Give up?  “Ok” and “Coca-Cola”.  That’s right.  Go to pretty much any country in the world and say the word “Coca-cola” and chances are someone knows what you’re talking about.  Coke didn’t get that kind of recognition just because they sell their product pretty much everywhere (though it doesn’t hurt…and that references back to Suggestion II by the way).  No, Coke pushes the brand.  They push it hard.

The moment I say “swoosh”, most of you think “Nike”.  I say “Mac” and most of you think “Apple”.  Some brands are so pervasive, the brand itself has become synonymous with the product itself.  Most folks talk about “Kleenex”, even if they’re referring to another brand of tissue.  It doesn’t matter what DVR you’re using, most people simply refer to TiVo, anyway. 

The reason your mind jumps to these images immediately is due to the effectiveness of advertisting – specifically “branding”, or the effort companies put forth to associate their trademarks with their product. 

A great deal of money – billions, really – is spent every year on commercials which barely mention a product at all.  Think of the GEICO “Caveman” commercials.  You’re lucky to hear the word “GEICO” once or twice per ad, and even then, a lot of the ads don’t even mention insurance at all.  These aren’t ads to push a product or to educate customers.  These are ads designed to reimpress the brand into your psyche once more. 

So what does this have to do with guild recruiting? 

In games like Everquest 2, you not only have guild names floating over your head, but you now have guild heraldry, as well.  Use this to push the “brand” of your guild.  The very name of your guild can have implications. 

“Legion of the White Rose” wasn’t chosen at random, and it certainly wasn’t built around any testosterone charged desire to build a name we thought would attract angst filled 1337 speakers raging to pwn.  It was chosen by a group of six founding members, who turned down a variety of “powerful” names to build one which was a bit more traditional, and which inspired images of chivalry, knights, and fair treatment.

Why did we choose this name over all others? 

Because we wanted to attract members who were more likely to enjoy structured heirarchy, light roleplay, and more honorable gameplay.  In short, our guild name is representive of our general charter and in-game traditions.  We built the brand to fit our already established goals. 

Build your brand carefully.  If you name your primary character Killdeath and put him in charge of the guild, “Army of Devastation”, don’t be suprised when a lot of seething psychopaths want to join your guild hoping for high end raids and lots of loot.  After all, you’ve practically built the brand around the concept.

Suggestion IV:  Activity

I touched on this a bit in previous lessons, but the fact remains that if you want to recruit active members, you have to show them an active guild.  Even if you only have a handful of members, schedule some events:  group nights, mentor nights, open raid nights, roleplaying events – whatever you feel would attract the right type of players.

Pick the lowest level you’re interested in as a guild, whether it be 10 or 70, and form up groups in areas that attract that level range.  Frequently look for players who are looking for groups, and then see if they want to join the lot of you.  Ask them what they’re looking for.  Take them out hunting.  Run them through a dungeon.  Keep talking with them.  This is actually one of the best ways to find quality members, even if it is the most effort intensive method.

Suggestion V:  Channels

Start up an open guild channel on your server and advertise the channel to any and all players you come across who you think might be even remotely interested in the guild (either now or at some point in the future). 

If you run a public voicechat server, be fairly liberal with the address. 

If you have a forum, run a public area and be fairly vocal with it. 

The point here is to keep constant public channels of communication open, available, and encouraged.  Make it easy to talk with members of your guild. 

Suggestion VI:  Real World

Some of my best members were recruited outside of the game entirely.  Referrals to the Legion have come from family members, co-workers, and even random strangers I’ve met at stores. 

I’ve actually made up little business cards at home to hand out to folks who sound interested in the guild, and now run a little online store just to sell guild merchandise to members. 

Sounds geeky, right?  It sure is. Then again, so am I to a great extent.  I may not prowl the local EBGames just to prospect for members, but if I happen to go to BestBuy and see a guy looking at an MMO in the gaming isle, I might strike up a conversation about EQ2.  If the conversation takes an interesting turn, I’ll let the guy know about my guild and see if it’s something he’s interested in.  Likely, I’ll never hear from the person again…but every few months, I get a tell from someone letting me know he or she decided to try the game out.  Pure awesome.

(One of our new officers was recruited at last year’s FanFaire, by the way.)

Suggestion VII:  Guild Mergers

Here’s a nice can of worms waiting to be opened, right?  Not necessarily. 

Guild mergers (really, it’s an acquisition) can be a very powerful way to increase a guild’s size and strength all at once.  It comes with its own set of potential problems (cliques and culture differences can be huge), but we’ve had great success in the past with mergers.  In all honesty, it’s one of our top recruiting strategies in times of distress. 

Since my guild started in 1998, we’ve either taken on the remaining members of or outright “absorbed” 16 different online gaming guilds.  Some of those members who came over in such mergers have become some of our staunchest supporters over the years. 

Most of the time, we’re the ones approached about the idea of a guild merger.  A guild master or officer may no longer has the time or energy to put into a guild; and so approaches us to see about bringing in several members all at once.  Concerns are raised by both sides and eventually rules are set down for the new potential members – sometimes compromised rules agreed upon by both sides to limit the culture shock and red tape normally reserved for new members. 

Other times, we’ve sought out the guilds we’d like to bring on board.

You’ve got to be very careful when approaching a merger suggestion, though.  First off, you have to respect the guild you’re working with.  Many of these guilds have been around for a while themselves.  Usually though, all it takes is a couple of strong officers quitting a game and a previously strong guild can be cast suddenly adrift.  I’ve seen this happen to hundreds of guilds in the past, where guilds slowly die off, one or two members at a time.  Reading the forums of such guilds is often a sad and depressing historical account of the downfall of what once promised to be a strong home for many players. 

Mergers aren’t always the promised land.  Frequently, they lead to more problems than they solve, and you’ve got to be constantly aware of the possibility of members who feel ostracized or threatened by the new arrangement. 

When they do work out though, they seem to work very well.  I could easily point out several of my top members who only joined us through such situations to begin with.  I’m sure they’d be some of the first to point out that the merger worked out for all parties involved.  (By the same token, I could point you at a few former members who weren’t so happy – so again, approach with caution).

Suggestion VIII:  Write.  Write a lot.

One of the most cited reasons on applications to join the Legion of the White Rose is “…so-and-so’s posts on X forum” in some fashion or another.  Whether it was the old Archmage “Banquet Hall”, the EQII.com forums prior to launch (the official SOE forums since), or even this blog, on some level, posting on forums has helped to bring in a whole mess of members to my guild. 

It’s not just me, though.  Other Legionnaires are often prolific writers, and we tend to attract some of the most outspoken members throughout the MMO “sphere”.  A few examples:  Jaye from “Journeys with Jaye”, Fozzik from “Silky Venom”, Loki from Stratics, and Darren from “Common Sense Gamer” are ALL former Legionnaires (not all are happy former Legionnaires, mind you, but that’s a different story altogether).

The point is that like attracts like, and if you write a lot, you’ll soon start to attract like-minded individuals.  Maybe they like what you write about, or how you write about it.  At some point, you’ll start to attract followers and colleagues who find themselves wondering if the rest of your guild is similar to you (and if you’ve stuck to your guns on quality control in the first place, chances are that most of your members ARE similar to you in some capacity).

For myself, the Legion seems to thrive on passionate people who are knowlegeable opinionsmiths.  It makes for some fairly interesting guildchat, I can assure you. 

What it also means is that a great many of them write a lot on forums, which leads to more forum frequentors coming to our guildsite and filing an application with “…so-and-so’s posts on X forum” as a reason cited for interest in us. 

Who knows?  Maybe this entry will be the one to bring in another applicant or three (if so, you’ll find the directions at www.legion-whiterose.com). 

Suggestion IX:  Enthusiasm

More than any other suggestion, this is the most important. 

Enthusiasm is contagious.  It’s hard not to get caught up in it.  If you’re excited about your guild, chances are that other folks pick up on that when you talk about it.  And I talk about it, alright. 

I love my guild.  I do.  I brag it up.  I talk about the members.  I talk about our events.  Even in this article, I’m constantly talking about the Legion.  I talk about the guild because I’m excited about the guild.  That’s enthusiasm. 

If you’re not enthusiastic about your guild, then you need to be.  You don’t need to be bouncing off the walls or jumping through fiery hoops to prove how passionate you are about your online membership, but you’d better get at least a little fired up whenever the subject of guilds is brought up. 

Because if you’re not excited to be in your guild, why on Earth should anyone else be excited about joining it? 

Ask me about my guild.  Go on.  Do it and you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of a gushing rush of information about how gosh-darned golly-gee excited I am to be a part of the best darned guild this side of the Shattered Moon.  I’ll talk to you about our 8 years of history, how many folks are going to FanFaire, how many time zones we cover, and which quests we’re all working on at the moment.  I’ll point out how we’re not the most cutting edge guild, but that it doesn’t matter because it’s not our goal to be…and then I’ll tell you about our goals. 

I’ll tell you all this because I’m excited, proud, and at times even humbled to lead this great guild of mine.  I’ll tell you all this because I want you to be excited as well.  

Suggestion X:  Persistance

Ask any Sales Manager what the most important attributes are for a successful salesperson, and you’ll almost always hear some form of the word “persistance” come up right away. 

Always be recruiting.  Even if you’re not outright asking someone to join your guild, you should always be gauging new friends or groupmates on their potential as possible guildmates.  You should always have an eye on the recruiting needs of your guild – both current and future – and you should be constantly working on addressing those needs on some level.

Don’t stop putting up recruiting posts just because things are comfortable right now.  Even if you have every possible member you could ever hope to have (and even a few more), you have to accept the possibility that someone’s going to leave sooner than you expect.  Even if you’re not currently actively recruiting, you should never completely close the door on promising new applicants.

Summary:

Every lesson here works only when used.  As Wayne Gretzy once stated, “you’ll miss 100% of the shots you never take.”  Take the shots, even if you’re not sure you’ll hit.  Open conversations.  Talk to that guy looking at MMO’s in the store.  Chat with that girl wearing the T-shirt on the bus.  Ask that Mystic you’ve been grouping with for 2 hours how he likes his guild. 

If the worst comes to pass and a gaggle of guildmates drop from the ranks – don’t despair.  Persist!  Go out and start rounding up new guildmates right away.  Encourage the rest of the guild to do the same.  If you believe in your guild (and if you don’t, see Suggestion IX), then you should have no problem exciting others with your enthusiasm. 

Always be recruiting.  On some level, always be recruiting.

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Comments
  1. Staranah says:

    Enjoyed both your articles on guild leadership and recruiting. Lots of good ideas and advice!

    I’m an officer in our guild – Schsim / Blackburrow server – we’re still a young guild, but have lots of fun, and your advice is very useful!

    I’ll make a point to share this with the leaders/officers.

    Guild site below.

  2. Jeff says:

    I’m one of the five leaders in The Council of the Five on Butcherblock server in EQ2. Great group of folks, great fun and great memories past and future there. Our basic philosophy on recruiting goes kinda like this…

    We don’t blind recruit, we don’t like bad seeds… so we try to group with the person first, whether it be alt or main, they if they ask about us or have already and we enjoy them and they play well, we invite them.

    I think we really try not to exclude anyone, but don’t include just anyone. We also don’t want 300 members, so our strategy works better for staying a bit smaller, meaning less than 100 unique accounts. I believe we’re about 55 uniques now.

    We love to group up and run instance zones, and while I enjoyed your view on leaving one or two slots in a group to grab a pickup player or 2 that may potentially be a member, it makes it difficult to justify to members already shut out of that particular group due to the 6 person group limit that your leaving 2 slots for potential guildies. So I’m kinda torn as to how this would be handled so you don’t “jilt” current members feelings of involvement and family style play.

    Anyway, I like a lot of the material you put here, so I’ll be checking it out more often now that I’ve been pointed here from one of our officers 🙂

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