Eliav Cohen, Founder Of Seattle Ballooning: Getting Real Value From Influencer Marketing
Eliav Cohen is the Founder of Seattle Ballooning, a luxury hot air balloon flight company. He regularly works with influencers but has a strict vetting process to ensure he reaps real value.
Seattle Ballooning is a premiere hot air balloon flight company offering balloon flights across Seattle, in front of Mount Rainier, Walla Walla, and the vineyards in Washington state.
In addition, they offer worldwide luxury tours with high-end, multi-day balloon tours. For example, they provide a hot air balloon tour of Switzerland where riders can see the snow and cross the Swiss Alps.
Eliav Cohen founded Seattle Ballooning in 2016 and began working with brands that would randomly reach out to him. These relationships led to the company becoming an influencer in its own right, with companies like Canada Goose giving the team $10,000 worth of jackets.
Getting Real Value From Influencer Marketing With Eliav Cohen, Founder Of Seattle Ballooning
Working with Influencers
Riding in a hot air balloon ride is lucrative for content creation, with many influencers wanting to ride with Seattle Ballooning for the opportunity to create unique content.
As a result, Seattle Ballooning’s process for working with influencers differs from many companies.
Eliav shares, “I think we have a different view on it because [many companies] are like how can this influencer help us? We look at it almost as the opposite. We get less value than the influencer gets out of working with us, so it’s not one of those things. We’ve never paid an influencer because we have a product that’s ridiculously awesome enough.”
Eliav adds that he doesn’t have strict guidelines for the influencers he works with. He looks for influencers with at least 100,000 followers and a 10% or greater engagement rate.
Influencers with blogs with high domain scores are also ideal because blog content is more evergreen than social media posts.
Eliav’s process for working with influencers typically starts when Seattle Ballooning is contacted by influencers looking for a free experience when they’re traveling to Washington state. He always begins by looking at their engagement rate and audience.
For example, if the influencer is popular because they post risque photos, this doesn’t fit Eliav’s desired customer base: people looking for unique travel or luxury experiences.
He explains, “That’s the thing to always remember for any influencer is, does it actually benefit the company when you’re talking to them? It’s not about you. It’s how can I benefit them?”
Eliav stresses that it’s important to find influencers who act as professional marketers that benefit the companies they work with, rather than working with influencers solely trying to get a free vacation experience. The latter won’t help the company.
After an influencer passes Eliav’s vetting process, they schedule their hot air balloon flight. The influencer must create a pre-video about their experience and write a blog. This ensures that Seattle Ballooning isn’t waiting around for the content and review to be released.
Eliav adds, “This is definitely a different approach to influencer marketing. I think a lot of people look at it like – they can reach out to so many people and whatever else… I’m like; you’re not providing real value. I think that there are ones that provide real value, and it’s trying to find those ones. It doesn’t mean you have to have a massive amount of followers, but you need a really high engagement rate.”
What are the Most Important KPIs?
Eliav shares that conversion and the money made from the bookings are all that matter to him when assessing an influencer campaign’s success.
He shares, “With most influencer stuff, they’re just doing a couple of stories and all that kind of stuff. It trails off pretty quickly, so you can really see the results pretty quickly.”
Successful Influencer Campaigns
One of the most successful influencer campaigns was working with an influencer who was collaborating with Visit Seattle, a marketing organization for the city of Seattle.
The influencer and his girlfriend, who is also a photographer and influencer, came out for a free hot air balloon flight. Their content reached several hundred thousand people and generated a huge number of bookings for Seattle Ballooning.
Another successful influencer campaign was with a popular blogger with high-ranking articles on things to do in Seattle. Seattle Ballooning collaborated with them for a blog post because their entire website was dedicated to Seattle activities.
“It has to be the exact target audience. There’s something of real value that someone’s bringing, especially if we’re going give them almost like real money in a free ride to come with us.”
Challenges Working with Influencers
One of the biggest challenges of working with influencers is time constraints. Timeliness is critical when planning hot air balloon rides as the winds and weather can affect the flight and if you can even take off.
Eliav has worked with influencers who want to go up in the balloon for photoshoots. However, they don’t always respect that they must work quickly to capture their photos before the wind and weather change.
He explains, “I’d say that would be the biggest one [challenge] is people wanting something very specific, and in that case, that’s fine. We just charge a lot for it. We’re not giving you a discount because you put our name on it. That’s not that helpful to us. It’s really about you getting followers.”
Ballooning has many positive aspects, so Eliav shares that influencer content is typically very positive. He does ask influencers to backlink and be clear about what company they are flying with.
Eliav doesn’t let people post about “close calls” or use clickbait titles talking about “almost crashing” when it was a standard hot air balloon landing. Hot air balloon rides are very safe, and he isn’t okay with influencers spreading lies about their safety for views.
Eliav predicts that more sensible influencer partnerships will emerge over influencers asking for free stuff or money.
He notes, “If you want to go and travel around the world and do cool experiences, the best way to do it is not by asking people for money. Show your value and see if you can get it for free, even if it’s only one of you that’s free, and you pay for the other. That’s still such an extraordinary life you’re living.”
He always anticipates more brands only offering influencers half off their products or services rather than gifting them freely because of the enormous increase in the number of influencers on the market.
Many influencers also aren’t that effective at bringing in more sales for the brand, which could add to this sentiment.
As for Seattle Ballooning, Eliav shares that they have recently moved to multi-day tours worldwide. One trip this winter will be flying over the Grand Canyon and other canyons so that you can capture beautiful pictures from above.
He adds, “Right now, we’re focused on a lot of AI stuff. Our goal right now is to create eight pieces of content for each person in our organization and then post that on all the platforms. We’re using our own pilots and our own team in order to grow the social following, versus working with a lot of outside influencers.”