I'm going to touch on the specific question.
Don't force things, play the server to enjoy it. Don't focus on the player base growing, as time passes and the server continues to be developed and promoted, the player base will grow. Servers in the past have become successful due to pure patience. Another thing I would like to touch on and disagree with, is, the application process. It's not appealing to a player who just wants to play a game, who wants to go through a 20 minutes application just to role-play? An application should just be to make sure you have basic English skills, RP understanding and rule understanding. You shouldn't administrate and judge people on their role-playing ability via an application stage, it should all be done in-game.