During last week's Total Galactic War my guild managed to conquer Balmorra. I didn't ask people to make an effort for this week's conquest, but currently it looks like we'll end up in the top ten on Nar Shaddaa anyway, which is just bizarre for a guild of 20-25 active players. Admittedly it helped that my pet tank decided to randomly grind out his conquest target on six different characters by chain-running Nar Shaddaa heroics, but still...
I still see people claiming that conquests are only really something for big guilds. I know I definitely had that impression when they first came out, but since then Twin Suns Squadron has managed to celebrate some moderate successes regardless, conquering two different planets so far and making it into the top ten another half dozen times. Here are some things that I've learned:
1. There is no such thing as being "too small".
Before writing this post, I thought about just how small a guild could possibly be while still succeeding at conquest. And funnily enough, the answer is that even a one-person guild could theoretically conquer a planet. A single dedicated player with a number of alts and a lot of cash to burn can actually score over a million points by crafting at maximum capacity throughout the week - and depending on the server, week and planet, it's possible to reach first place with such a score. Of course it's unlikely that this would ever happen... but it's not impossible. So while having more members in your guild obviously makes things significantly easier, it's not strictly required. It's all about being determined, in the right place... and maybe also about having a bit of luck.
2. Choose your battles.
The biggest problem with participating in conquests as a small guild is that every individual member has to put in that much more effort compared to a large guild. I'm not saying that there aren't people in big guilds who work hard to help their guild succeed as well - but the point is that a guild with 200 active members can still be moderately successful even without anyone trying very hard. That's something that's just not possible in a small guild.
As such, you can't realistically expect your members to work on conquest every single week or people will likely experience burnout. Use places like Dulfy to find out what each event entails in advance and when it's likely to come up again, then pick one to work on each month, or once every two weeks at the most. The more planets are up for grabs during an event, the more spaces will be available on the scoreboard, and the higher your chances of at least making it into the top ten. Total Galactic War is obviously best for this, but even during "regular" weeks it can make a difference whether there are three planets available or five.
3. Learn to understand the meta.
This ties in with point two but means that other than simply choosing to only participate in conquests every so often, you also have to understand when and why you should do so, as well as which planet to invade when the time comes. Some planets offer better bonuses than others but also tend to be more contested for this reason (Tatooine is a good example, on my server at least). While places like Quesh may not have much to offer and can actually make it harder for your members to hit their personal targets due to having the "wrong" bonuses, you're also less likely to face fierce competition there.
You'll also want to keep an eye on the scoreboard over the course of several weeks to learn who the biggest guilds are and which planets they've already conquered. (If they haven't got the Galaxy Conqueror title yet, they are more likely to go for one of the targets they are missing.) SWTOR Conquest is a great site to help you keep track of these things, or to just help you learn more about a potential competitor about whom you don't really know very much. If you're going for first place, obviously you don't want to share the planet with a mega-guild that is pretty much guaranteed to beat you, so you want to have a close look at these things before making your choice for the week.
4. Educate and communicate.
Make sure that everyone in your guild actually knows what conquests are, how they benefit your guild and how they work. Players who've been away for a while may find the whole concept confusing, while others who have been around but are very casual may not know about things such as planetary or stronghold bonuses.
When you've decided to push for a place on the scoreboard, make sure to let people know through all available channels, such as the guild website and the guild message of the day. If you're in the top ten but struggling with competition, draw attention to this and urge people on to help you stay ahead. (I've found that getting into the top ten early works well to encourage people to keep going - seeing the guilds behind you slowly creep up on your score really creates a sense of urgency.) Encourage things like guild runs of content that awards conquest points that week.
After the event, whether you were successful or not, make a point of taking note of and praising people for their efforts. I hear that some guilds even give out prizes to their top contributors, though my guild has never done this. I have however kept a log of every member's conquest point earnings since we first started participating. It's busywork, but it's quite handy as a way to keep an eye on who your biggest and most regular contributors are. If you know who earns most of your points and how, this can also help you to make better decisions in regards to bonuses when choosing a planet to invade.
5. Crafting is key.
I mentioned in my last conquest post that crafting is the most effective way of earning lots of conquest points in a short time, even though it's also expensive. Make sure your members know this as well! (As per point four.) Try to gather as many of the materials needed for crafting the relevant items whenever you can, even during weeks when you're not actively working on conquest, then save them up for your next big effort. Don't be afraid to raid the GTN either if you have to. Depending on how your guild is organised, you may want to use the guild bank to provide people with materials as well.
Especially with crafting, you also want to keep in mind that the personal conquest target is indeed just a target and not a cap. While it's obviously more rewarding to hit your target on multiple alts instead of earning lots of points on just a single character, it's quite possible to keep accumulating points way past your personal target just to keep adding to the guild's overall score. In a small guild you may well need multiple people to earn several hundred thousand points each to have any form of success.