So you've gotten your ten signatures for the charter, picked out a great name, and designed your tabard (perhaps with the "crying bear" symbol -- I know somebody out there is using it, so 'fess up!). Now you need to generate some interest.
Starting a new guild is like starting a new business. There's a ton of competition out there, and you're already way behind them. How do you catch up? Like any new business, you first need to outline your goals: Are you going to be a friendly guild who focuses on having a great social atmosphere, or a more focused guild who wants to progress through all of the game's raiding content? (Not that the two goals are always mutually exclusive . . .) What size would you like the guild to be? Will you have a Web site? A dedicated VOIP server? The answer to these questions will determine your marketing message. When someone is interested in joining your guild, you need to be able to answer questions like these.
But the most important question to answer is, What are your differentiators? In reality, a differentiator is a type of circuit. But in the hazy grammatical territory of marketing-speak, a differentiator is a feature of your product that separates it from your competitors' products. For example, when a built-in camera was first combined with a cell phone, that was a pretty big differentiator. You don't have to do anything that revolutionary, but in order to market your guild, you need ways to define its uniqueness. It could be something as simple as restricting the majority of your membership to people from a certain time zone, or as specific as dedicating the guild to the level 30-39 battlegrounds bracket. When someone asks you, "Why should I join your guild?," your differentiator is the answer.
For Eric, your differentiator could be the very fact that you and your officers are new to the game. There's an underlying tension in games such as these between veterans and "noobs." People who are new don't enjoy being looked down on by the veterans, and people who are veterans can get tired of answering "noob" questions. I'd suggest turning your perceived weakness into an advantage. The game keeps growing, and all those new players need a home too! By finding others like you, you can all learn and grow as players together.
Good public relations is also important for your new guild. Don't make people on your server angry by spamming the trade channel or Barrens chat, which gets enough spam as it is, with a recruiting message. There's a dedicated channel for that now, called Guild Recruitment. Limit posting your message there to once every 30 minutes or so. Another good place to get your message out is your server's official forum. And of course there's our very own weekly GuildWatch column.
Creating a (tasteful) Web site instantly lends your guild more credibility. It says to potential members that you take the new guild seriously. People's biggest fear when joining a new guild (especially when they are leaving a guild to join yours) is that the guild will collapse within a matter of days or weeks. If nothing else, a Web site at least gives a reassuring illusion of permanence. But it's also the best place to lay out the specifics of your new guild to potential members. Your guild's rules, philosophy, and officer roster are all valuable resources for new recruits.
But overall, the best marketing message and the best public relations are your existing members. If your members are fun to play and chat with, generous, friendly, and helpful, people will catch on to that! Early in the life of your guild, it's important to group up with nonmembers frequently, whether it's for questing, PvP'ing, or running dungeons. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising.
In Eric's case, I'd also say a factor is his level. Few people want to be in a guild with a guilder leader who is a lower level than they are. So grind out those levels! Unless you're starting a twink guild, a 70 next to your name in the /who list is essential in the long term. For now, you might want to recruit people who are close to your level or below.
This is an issue I haven't personally faced in a long, long time, so I'd like to hear how some of the game's brand new guilds have fared in the post-BC world. Post your own incubation stories below!