Turning Lemons Into Lemonade: Observations from a Guildmaster Who’s Also Been There.

Posted: July 14, 2008 by Kendricke in Guilds
Tags: ,

A little over a month ago, I was starting to grow concerned over some issues I was seeing regarding my guild.  Activity levels were starting to drop, raid attendance was starting to flag a bit, and I was starting to hear a bit more grumbling than I’m used to in our guild’s chat channels.  When we did raid, we often had to start late due to critical classes being absent, and even then our performance would often be much lower than expected.

None of these issues were particularly troublesome individually, but together, I was starting to see the patterns between the problems, and started to identify the problems I felt were the root causes.

I knew part of the problem was due to the standard summer “doldrums”.  I knew some members were trying out Age of Conan.  I knew other members were probably just tired of hitting the same content over and over.  I had to find ways to overcome these issues and put the guild back on track, or I knew I’d have to deal with the repurcussions all the way up till the next expansion.

It’s now six weeks later, and looking at my guild now, you’d hardly realize that the picture I painted above was ever an accurate depiction of my guild.  Activity levels are soaring.  Raid attendance is at record highs.  We’re taking down new targets frequently.  We’re receiving several new applications to join us per day, which enabled us to pick and choose 8 new members so far.

In less than two months, we’ve gone from a guild which was having issues just getting members to log in to a guild which is the envy of much of our server.

How did we do this?  More importantly, how can YOU do this?

I can’t speak for every guildmaster’s situation, but I can tell you the issues I identified and what I did about it.


ISSUE ONE:  Activity

A guild isn’t in trouble just because the activity levels start to dip.  In fact, it’s inevitable that every guild’s activity levels will be affecting by seasonal ebbs and flows.  However, even though this is the reality of the situation, the perception within your guild’s ranks may be radically different.  What I recognize as a naturally re-occuring event may be seen as a fatal death blow by members in the ranks – members who might decide to start looking elsewhere for greener pastures.

On the three raid nights my guild runs, my activity was running between 20-25 members online during primetime.  During the rest of the week, I’d be lucky to see half that number online when it mattered.  Whereas I was accepting this as “that time of the year”, some of my members were complaining about “problems with the guild”.

I knew I had to get out in front of this issue, and fast.

The first thing I did was to start speaking with my officers.  I told them it was important that they start logging in and helping to form groups – even pickup groups – with guildmates on non-raiding nights.  I asked every officer to choose just one 2-3 hour block each week outside of raid nights that they’d make sure they were online for.  I just wanted to see them online and available – so that other members would see their officers online and available.

I then began to engage some of the more active members who were already online night after night and started to ask them privately to start making sure they were forming up static groups as often as they could, and to let me know what issues they were having that prevented them from doing so.

Over and over, I heard the issue that we didn’t have enough fighters to form groups on non-raid nights.  I asked these members to start finding fighters in other guilds we could use for grouping.  I started asking members who were online, but perhaps bored with their current class, to start working on fighter characters as well.  I started working on gearing up my own high level monk.  We started forming up groups with 4-5 guildmates in them, and then went out looking for fighters to fill in the blanks for us.  We managed to pick up some truly horrible fighters this way, but we also lucked out and found some true gems – who we made sure to add to our friends lists.  Though it wasn’t a direct increase to our own fighter activity levels, by using these fighters-as-proxies, we were able to increase the activity levels of our other members.

ISSUE 2:  MEMBERSHIP

Coupled with the dip in activity levels, I had to accept that we simply had less active members overall logging in.  The number of members I had on my roster who had not logged in for at least 2 weeks was on the rise, and applications were fairly stagnant.  I knew we had to start bringing in some new fresh faces right away.

First off, I made the radical decision to give recruiter access to every member of my guild ranked “Veteran” or higher.  This increased us from about a dozen recruiters, to over 40.  I then went on to give the same recruiter status to every secondary (alt) character of each of those members, which gave us nearly 200 recruiters.  I learned everything I could about how the recruiting tool works and then went out and shared what I’d learned with my guild so we could best utilize the tool.  I asked our guild’s webmaster to update our application system in our forums to streamline the process a bit.

I then made sure that every member in the guild understood how important recruiting was for us – what type of members we wanted, how to bring up recruiting in conversations, what to do when someone asked for more information, and the steps involved in assisting someone who actually wanted to join.

In short, I used recruiting as a tool, not only to bring in new members, but as a means to rally the rest of the guild around a common goal.  I tried to get EVERYONE excited about recruiting.

It worked…though not right away.  At first, I had to keep checking the recruiting window to find out where were ranking on the list, and to make sure that all recruiters online were actually set to “recruiting” status.  After the first day or two of reminding members, other officers started to assist as well, and then so did non-officers.  Soon, it became standard that if you logged in, chances were good that someone would check the guild recruiting tool to make sure you were showing as a recruiter for us.

Soon, we began to see more applications coming in-game again.  Only a handful asked for information in the first week or two, but eventually it became a common occurence to see 2-3 applications a night.  We’re now averaging 3 or more notices each night that someone wants to find out more about us, and that’s translating to more actual applications coming in.

The net result is more people logging on and chatting during primetime – which is a win-win for the veteran members of guild AND the new members just coming in.

ISSUE 3:  RAID ATTENDANCE

For months, my guild had been avoiding pressing too hard toward higher raid progression.  We’d found ourselves in a situation where we were comfortable hitting the same few targets over and over again.  It was relatively easy to keep hitting Protector’s Realm, Kor’Sha, and Shard of Hate night after night because they provided a relatively large selection of loot for relatively little effort.  It was much harder to justify spending some of our limited raid time learning new encounters which typically resulted only in large mender bills.

First off, I made sure the membership understood that the way things were was going to change a bit.  I made a few posts in our forums explaining that it was high time we started to stretch our wings a bit and challenged members to find out what they could about the encounters we’d not yet completed.

In addition, I made sure to explain that any members worried about gearing up would be able to do so outside of raid nights.  I challenged officers to use the time they’d set aside for helping guildmates outside of raids to use that time to help find top end gear that could be gained without raiding.  We started working up factions, running collections, crafting items, and hitting group dungeons over and over again.  The goal was gear, and I did everything I could think of to get members desiring that gear.

This had the added benefit of increasing activity outside of raid nights, which quickly helped to establish a couple of regularly static gear groups.  I personally started to run a Saturday morning group run each week just to help members who still wanted their Wands of Crystallized Plasma from Unrest or their Vampiric Chokers from the Shard of Fear.  My monk was more than up to the task of tanking these zones for our members.

For actual raiding, I made sure to become more encouraging whenever I could (didn’t always work) and I was VERY open to new ideas for new targets.  In addition, I did start pushing harder to progress.  We’d open up a Kor’Sha raid, clear through the instance, then spend 2 hours working on the Overking.  When the next raid night rolled around, we’d move right back to where we left off and started up again on the Overking.  Though I was worried this sort of “smack head into wall” type of raiding would hurt our attendance, I was pleasantly surprised to find it had just the opposite effect.  Members were were bored silly of Protector’s Realm runs were chomping at the bit to take down a new target.

In addition, as we started to bring in new recruits, we started to use short term (30 day) raid attendance records to help determine who earned a spot on the raids and who did not.  We used the same basic records to determine who had a priority when we bid on raid loot.  At first, I wasn’t sure how these changes would play out, but the results have been very good so far.  Members know that they count as “attending” a raid even if they’re benched…so they show up to raid even if they realize they don’t have a good chance at getting a spot.  This gives me more raiders to choose from when selecting that initial force.

It may not seem like a good thing when you have to leave some of your guildmates behind on raid nights, but trust me – from a raid leader’s perspective, benching is a good thing.

It didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would to take down the Overking.  Venril Sathir ended up taking even less time though I’d given us up to two weeks to take him.  On Tuesday, we’re making our first real run into the Chamber of Destiny and once we clear that, we’re in Veeshan’s Peak.  For a relatively casual raid guild that only raids 3 hours at a time, just 3 nights a week, this is a massive accomplishment.

On Sunday, I had to bench a six members.  That means we had 30 members show up ready to raid.  I haven’t had those sort of numbers in the last year.  So far, the strategies we’re using are working for us.  At a time when more and more guilds are folding and coming apart, we’re thriving.  Our numbers are up across the board and we’re excited about the next month or so.  Nightly attendance is growing, and applications are still on the rise so far.

It didn’t happen overnight.  It wasn’t always easy.  However, we’re not doing anything that anyone else couldn’t do as well.  If you’re hitting the same walls we were, perhaps some of the above suggestions could help you out.

Good luck, and keep up the good fight.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Illuminator says:

    Guild turnarounds seem rare anymore; maybe the game isn’t dying so much as most people out there just not being smart or competent about guild management. Good write-up and good read.

  2. Rijacki says:

    There are those who look at a cup and see it as half empty and those who see it as half full.

    While I have seen an ebb and flow in population on Guk, it’s the same ebb and flow that’s been there since I first created a character on Guk. It’s not the doom and gloom that some on the SOE (or presumably the EQ2Flames) forums insist it is. I’ve actually noticed more people around this summer than last, going on purely subjective impressions, but they’re not all in the highest levels (which is actually, in my opinion, a good thing). I have also, though, noticed more polarisation in the high levels to only group or associate with those in guild or who you know. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something that happens when a community becomes more “settled”.

    LotWR had a similar slump last summer (and the one before, too). The difference this year is that the there were active steps taken earlier in the slump than last year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s