Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt López’s Strategy for International Expansion

    There is no buzzword buzzier than “scalability.” Silicon Valley has built an entire industry around the concept. But sometimes, the buzz around the term obscures the genuine effort that moving a business from a small market to a bigger one takes. And it’s through those small, overlooked, unsexy details that Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt López excels.

    As a former investment banker with a net worth north of $2.6 billion, Betancourt López possesses a deep familiarity with the global market that has long informed his strategies for scaling. While it may not be possible to recreate his knowledge, it’s possible to distill his moves down to practicable, usable advice.

    Examining how he grew the sunglasses company Hawkers from a respectable local startup into a globally recognized brand shows the pragmatic genius behind his approach to scalability.

    Take Advantage of Differences

    Hawkers began as a Craigslist-like project started by four friends in Spain. Eventually, the team invested in inexpensive sunglasses and turned a healthy profit by selling them through the platform. Inspired by the success, they devoted all their attention to the sunglasses market.

    It worked — initially. But the founders quickly bumped against a wall. They were doing well in Spain but couldn’t break into new markets. Luckily, the early success attracted the interest of Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt López. Shortly after he invested money in the product, the founders named him president of the company.

    Hawkers connected with consumers because it offered a low-priced alternative to luxury eyewear. Betancourt López understood the brand needed to capitalize on this differentiator. He also believed Hawkers would benefit from more control over its products. During his tenure, Hawkers began to design and craft its own sunglasses.

    With a more controllable base of operations in place, Betancourt López built a plan to further capitalize on Hawkers’ unique position in the sunglasses market. While most brands relied on retailers for sales, Hawkers used a direct-to-consumer model.

    Spend Money Where It Counts

    Betancourt López knew from research that Hawkers held the biggest appeal for social media consumers, especially those in Generation Z.

    Virtually every user’s social media profile features photos of them wearing sunglasses. But appealing to the tastes of young consumers isn’t as simple as buying digital ad space. The most effective social media advertising leverages the medium’s biggest differentiator: authenticity.

    “It was cool, it was fresh, and we were doing something different than anybody else at the time, which is online social or social media marketing,” Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt López says. “That approach totally disrupted the market. And I think that that innovation has built a huge brand that is today Hawkers.”

    Social media influencers build their audience by providing regular, appealing content. It made sense to pair a fresh, exciting, and inexpensive brand with platforms that reflect the same cultural values. But no one was sure, exactly, how a new brand could break through.

    Recruit the Right People

    From the outside, TikTok users may seem like a monolithic entity. How else to explain the success of Stanley cups and The Pink Stuff? However, it’s not the Instagram-famous who launch new brands. Zoomers aren’t solely interested in what the stars of TikTok do; social media is primarily about connecting friends.

    Under Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt López’s leadership, the company divided its advertising budget between professional influencers who commanded large national audiences and “campus ambassadors” — teens with smaller local followings. Lured in by free plane tickets to hip concerts and festivals, college students could apply to become campus ambassadors through social media. In return for free trips, the students were asked to promote Hawkers sunglasses by spreading the word about parties and co-branded events and sharing shots of themselves wearing the product on social media.

    The two-pronged approach added up to more than the sum of its parts. Social media sites supplied youths with both national and local images of peers hanging out in Hawkers, giving the sunglasses an impression of ubiquity and of-the-moment trendiness. Hawkers weren’t just for the sidewalks of Rodeo Drive; they were also made for the campus quad, the local music festival, and spring break.

    Just as important as where Hawkers were was where they didn’t show up. By focusing on social media and campus ambassadors, Betancourt López could restrict Hawkers’ ads to appear only before specific audiences, keeping the products away from markets like parents that could pollute their social cachet.

    Only after the brand established enough credibility with its target demographic did they begin to pursue other consumers. But even then, Hawkers stayed loyal to its Instagram aesthetic. Sticking with its social media-approved style allowed Hawkers’ growth to feel organic even while it strategically courted new consumers.

    Getting Results

    After Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt López became president of Hawkers, the company quickly grew its net worth to nearly $100 million in annual sales. It has established itself across the globe, becoming a hot brand in Europe, North America, and Australia.

    By focusing on his brand’s unique identity — what differentiated it from luxury sunglass brands — Leopoldo Alejandro Betancourt López did what his competitors couldn’t. He took advantage of the brand’s newness and low price to appeal directly to consumers who wanted something different from the expensive eyewear other companies offered. He used every step as leverage to conquer a new market, using the same tailor-made strategy of targeted advertising to appeal to new consumers.

    His tireless focus on consumers and a willingness to take risks made Hawkers a force in the fashion world. And that’s something any company can learn from.

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