These last of couple of weeks have been busy with new business pitches. Companies big, small, new, and old were all on the roster. I have helped make plans to sell everything from online B2B insurance to probiotic drinks and everything in between. I love pitching for new business. Its like a new puzzle to play with and my liberal arts brain is in full drive to do everything from research, to ideating, to thinking about how the presentation should look. Every process of the whole journey is fun for me because of the blank canvas that a new client can be. There are restrictions with every client brief, but creating an idea that fits all the filters and finding ways to measure it are reasons why I love marketing and communication (this might be the first time I have written this wow).
A typical new pitch works with a request for proposal where either the client or the person leading the project gives you a brief— filled with company history and key objectives. This is probably the most stressful times in the process. Here, I really don’t mean stress as a bad thing, but a time where I have the least clarity about how we would pull the project off (and rightfully so. I have literally just heard the brief!). Having completed 45 pitches in the past 19 months (yes I have a detailed excel sheet to track the companies I pitch for, my level of involvement, and success rate haha), some ideas come almost naturally but there are always curveballs that really need some brainstorming, poking around, and most importantly— the ability to understand that shooting in the dark is not always bad.
I recently worked on a health app company that provides health advice in regional languages to a tier 2 and 3 audience. This makes the product something for the masses who’s first language isn’t English. Which is a lot harder to sell primarily because the platforms that our ideas hinge on aren’t optimised for this much wider and underserved audience; but more importantly, this is an audience that resonates to a very different message that needs to be simpler in its jargon but complex enough that people trust the product since the level of trust is very low in such markets as the channels of doing research about the product rely heavily on what people hear, see, and are told about rather than purely incepting the concept and letting them research on their own (one could say that they’re a very lazy audience…).
When we got the brief, my first thought was— “well no way we’re winning this pitch,” which was the thought process for the next three days as we worked in our own silos to tinker with thoughts. The pressure mounted on day 4 when we realised that we had no ideas primarily because none of us have worked in purely tier 2 and 3 market, but more importantly with a Hindi-first product. All I did was research to try and understand how we can make an impact. Finally, day 5 we sat together and just began throwing out ideas from community radio shows to working on partnerships with Google. In a matter of 2 hours we had 11 great ideas, of which we presented 7; five of which were loved and two were things they were already working on. The fact that two were things we thought of were already in the pipeline just reaffirmed how in-line we were with the brand. From not knowing anything, we have now reached a place where we know how close we were to the ground realities of the brand. From thinking we can’t do this, we are now in a space where we might just be the agency for them.
Long story short, this was a great exercise in learning that even things you don’t know can be taught as long as you know the basics. The same goes for cooking. I have rarely followed one recipe religiously, and this sesame lavender swirl tea cake is an example of one such recipe. I knew I wanted to make a tea cake with a swirl. I also knew that there aren’t too many seasonal fruits in the market right now. I then read a whole article on tahini being used in sweets to get a beautiful sweet and savoury flavour. The lavender was literally the last thing I added when I was searching for vanilla and the bottles of vanilla and lavender looked exactly the same. This recipe takes some thought so do follow the recipe to get that texture right but by all means, change it up! Comment below of how you plan to make it and if you want to see a behind the scenes look at the recipe, head on over to my Instagram handle!
Glimpses from the week
White sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
½ cup plain yogurt (thicker the better)
½ cup tahini
1 tsp. Lavender extract
½ cup vegetable oil (or any neutral oil)
1½ tsp. sesame oil (optional)
Preheat oven to 180 Celsius (350°F). Line an 8½x4½” loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang on long sides. Lightly coat parchment with veggie oil or cooking spray. Sprinkle sides and bottom of pan with white and black sesame seeds and sugar and shake around in pan to coat; tap out excess. Finely grind 2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds in a spice mill or mortar pestle.
Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and baking soda in a medium bowl to combine.
Whisk yogurt and tahini in another small bowl until smooth.
Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat eggs, vanilla, lavender, and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl until eggs are pale and thick (2 minutes). Reduce the speed to medium or low and gradually stream in vegetable oil and sesame oil.
Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with yogurt mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat after each addition until fully incorporated.
Scrape half of batter into the bowl that held the dry ingredients. Add reserved ground black sesame seeds to the remaining batter and mix on medium speed until evenly distributed—this is your black swirl.
Alternating between batters, spoon large dollops into prepared pan.
To make the swirl, use a wooden skewer (the extra long toothpicks basically) . Push one till the bottom of the pan and then make large figure 8’s. Do it like 4 times max because anymore and you might over mix the batter.
Sprinkle with more white and black sesame seeds, then with more sugar. Bake until a tester inserted into the centre of cake comes out clean, 55–65 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 10 minutes.
Take it off the pan and let cool completely.