Over the past few years, a growing number of independent advisors have been using video as a marketing tool. But how they use it depends on whom you ask.

“Video is absolutely a powerful channel to reach many different audiences,” said Amelia Dunlap, marketing vice president at Nationwide Mutual in Columbus, Ohio. “Especially now with hybrid working, many of our onsite functions have moved to virtual forums, and having video brings back an element of personal connection.”

Some of Nationwide’s video clips are marketing tools aimed at a general audience, she said, but others are more in-depth or educational, targeted specifically to clients.

Timing and individual personalities can make the difference between a clip that engages audiences and one that falls flat, she said. “That’s one of the great things about video,” she noted. “It’s very personalized and in-the-moment.”

For others, video is an essential way to reach the next generation. Wealthspire Advisors in Seattle is a good example. “We recently embarked on using Instagram Reels to connect with Gen Z and younger millennials,” said Julie Penwell, a Wealthspire assistant vice president. “The timing felt right, given that we are in the midst of a significant wealth transfer to these generations.”

Video, she said, is a way to “bridge the gap and provide support during [younger clients’] financial transitions.”

It can also aid financial literacy for those who are new to financial planning, she added. “We'll touch on subjects like taxes in April and vacation budgets during the summer,” she said. “The goal is to create a series where each video builds on the last, providing viewers with a gradual understanding of financial basics.”

Pat Allen, executive vice president at the Lowe Group, a financial-industry consultant firm headquartered in Milwaukee, explained that there are three basic types of videos that advisors are producing.

“Evergreen” content, she said, is intended to introduce clients and prospective clients to the firm or its management team.

Timely commentaries are those that are issued periodically in reaction to news events that may impact financial markets or retirees.

Finally, client testimonials—a recent addition, she said—are used to promote the firm’s capabilities.

In all cases, she said, “there has to be a deliberate plan to capture something a written narrative couldn’t—personality, emotion, environment, etc.”

No one wants to hear a long, boring lecture or sermon, as Wealthspire’s Penwell put it. Her firm’s videos are rarely longer than two minutes. “Recognizing that short-form videos are the go-to for younger audiences with limited time, our aim is to offer easily digestible information,” she said.

This view is echoed by others. “The best videos captivate people in the first five seconds,” stressed Carolyn Dalle-Molle, a Boston-based vice president at FiComm Partners, a marketing agency for the financial industry. “It's important to say a truly compelling point right away, so viewers perk up.”

Dalle-Molle coaches clients on how to make their presentations more effective, stressing the need to use body language to “keep energy high” while on camera. “It can feel silly at first, but when done in an authentic way, this one change immediately elevates the energy and makes your videos pop,” she said.

She added that many advisors prefer talking on camera to writing reports or blog posts. For them, she said, video is “a primary vehicle for developing more meaningful connections.”

It can also engage clients and prospective clients in ways that print media can’t, she continued. “Businesses that implement video regularly report a strong" return on investment, said Dalle-Molle.

But advisors who use video are finding rewards beyond computer-generated metrics. “If multiple clients or prospective clients are reaching out with feedback or requesting more information, then the video clearly had its intended effect,” said Patrick Swift, president of wealth planning at Amplius Wealth Advisors in Philadelphia, which has been using video since the firm launched in 2021.

Swift said that at his previous firm, Merrill Lynch, video content was “essentially forbidden, along with generally any creative marketing.” When he went independent, video just seemed like a fun, new avenue to explore, he conceded. Since then, however, his appreciation for its capabilities and impact has evolved, he said.

So has the firm’s production values. “We have upgraded our cameras and microphones, and use an elevated production software,” said Smith. “It may evolve from there, but right now everything is done in-house.”

Jerry Davidse, co-founder of Presilium Private Wealth in Radnor, Pa., said that his firm’s videos are produced in-house, too, “so that we have full control over the final results.” But he acknowledged hiring an outside expert to put the finishing touches on each one. “We interviewed five different video production specialists before choosing one to work with.”

He emphasized how video can generate more meaningful discussions with clients. “It has made our planning conversations even deeper,” he said. “We have also become better financial advisors because of the time and effort that goes into researching each video topic.”

His firm’s videos, which are two to four minutes long, are posted to a YouTube channel, the company’s own website, and emailed directly to clients. Over the past year, he said, the videos have had more than 100,000 views.

If video has become more popular in the advisory community, that’s partly because the technology has improved. “We have produced videos for a few years, but only recently got more serious about organizing our content,” said Bill Bolen, chief marketing officer at Homrich Berg in Atlanta.

In general, he explained, the idea is to educate clients and potential clients about a wide range of topics, from estate planning and tips for people who are suddenly single or widowed to long-range economic and investment projections. All of his firm’s video content is uploaded to YouTube.

“For some content, the key is the personal connection—making viewers feel as if they are sitting down talking one-on-one with one of our advisors,” said Bolen. “In other cases, the key is to use charts to keep things interesting and informative.”

The advantage of a YouTube channel—as opposed to a private site that requires a secure login—is that it’s accessible to more people, he explained. The video format is one that “many people find more interesting than reading a blog post,” he said.

Like any document that an advisor puts out, video content must pass legal and compliance hurdles. That’s just part of the mechanics of video production, experts attested.

“It’s essential you have a strong plan in place before you get started,” said Marissa Comerford, senior vice president at Gregory FCA, a public-relations agency outside Philadelphia. “Consider your audience and how they consume information—and importantly, whether videos will resonate with them.”

You don’t want your videos to sound like TV commercials, she cautioned. Rather, she said, the goal is to “engage your audience and generate clicks.”