If you had to select one tool for 2010 that would give you an edge over 99 percent of your competitors, what would that be?

When I wrote "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters," the main goal of the book was to help agents craft a "unique selling proposition" (USP) that distinguishes their services from their competitors and thereby earn a full commission. To achieve this goal, agents must be able to demonstrate how their USP helps sellers achieve maximum exposure to the marketplace that results in the seller obtaining the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time.

If you had to select one tool for 2010 that would give you an edge over 99 percent of your competitors, what would that be?

When I wrote "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters," the main goal of the book was to help agents craft a "unique selling proposition" (USP) that distinguishes their services from their competitors and thereby earn a full commission. To achieve this goal, agents must be able to demonstrate how their USP helps sellers achieve maximum exposure to the marketplace that results in the seller obtaining the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time.

While there are plenty of ways to create a USP, some startling new statistics indicate there is a tremendous opportunity in a surprisingly obvious place: video. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), only 1 percent of the agents are using video to market their listings, yet 73 percent of all sellers would list with an agent who uses video to market their property.

In other words, using video as part of your USP gives you an edge over 99 percent of your competition. If you want to convert more listings into signed business in 2010, video is one tool that shouldn’t be overlooked.

After Google, YouTube is the most-used search engine in the world. Also, Google’s algorithm appears to rank videos higher than podcasts, blogs or static Web sites. In other words, using video helps you increase your search-engine ranking. Google also has new software that translates the voice track on video into searchable text.

This means Google can search what you say on your videos. Consequently, it’s important that on the voice track you say the address, the city, the state and the ZIP code where the property is located.

At NAR’s annual conference and expo last month, Jerry Rossi’s session, "The Hook of E-Motion," was packed with useful tips about how to implement video in your business. Some highlights:

1. Emotion, not features, sell houses
The best way to tap into emotional buying is to use video. To engage potential buyers in your video, Rossi suggests using the "look, hook and then cook" model.

For example, if you are marketing a beach property, make a video called "Escape to the Beach." Your video should be 60 to 90 seconds in length. Instead of walking through the house saying, "This is the kitchen, this is the living room, this is the view," create an image that grabs their attention.

Rossi suggested taking a picture of your feet in flip-flops propped up on a beach chair overlooking at the waves lapping at the shore. Jiggle the ice in your drink and say, "Ahhh — home at last."

If you have a horrible house where the yard is a mess, you could use the same approach, except this time use work shoes rather than flip-flops. The suggested caption: "Not doing yard work is highly overrated." …CONTINUED

If you have a horse property, don’t just tell the listener about the corrals and stables. Instead, hop on a horse, take your video cam with you, and show the viewer the property as you ride. The point here is to give people an experience that captures their attention and is fun — that’s how you tap into the emotion that causes people to buy.

2. Highly polished videos turn people off
Because we are constantly bombarded with ads, most people have become adept at tuning them out. Our response to professionally produced videos is: "Oh, that’s an ad, time to tune out." YouTube viewers like "roughed up" or unedited videos. These are more likely to produce a favorable emotional response than highly produced, professional videos.

3. Which camera to use?
Rossi says almost any video camera you own can produce video good enough to post online. Rossi suggests that you take your "A" roll by photographing the highlights of the house. He then suggests shooting a "B" roll consisting of random shots of various parts of the property including neighborhood shots to cut into the main video.

Ideally, you will take about 45 minutes of video and then edit it down to 90 seconds or less. To edit your videos there are some easy-to-use applications, including Garage Band for Apple Computers and Movie Maker from Microsoft. If you are using this approach, don’t narrate on camera. Instead, add your soundtrack once you have edited the other raw footage.

A completely different approach is to use your camera-equipped phone or a digital camera to take video. This will force you to narrate while shooting, but uploading it online is simple. If you do need to edit the video, you can still do it using the tools listed above.

4. Panning made easy
Rossi suggested a simple way to shoot a 360-degree view of a room. Place a towel on a table or counter in the middle of the room and the camera on top of it. Slowly turn the towel to pan the room.

5. Lighting is everything
The most important factor that will influence the quality of your video is lighting. Experiment with different light sources including shooting different parts of the property at different times of day. Ask sellers about the times when there is the most light in the house. Also consider shooting the house at night to create an entirely different effect.

6. Post your videos on the secondary pages of your Web site
Rossi cited new data that shows that Google considers videos posted on the front page of a Web site to be promotional. To maximize your search-engine ranking, avoid posting videos on your home page.

If you want to convert more listing leads into signed listings and to convert more buyer leads into signed business, video is one of the best tools currently available to achieve both of these goals.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.

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