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THE FOOD & DRINK OF HEREFORDSHIRE, SHROPSHIRE & GLOUCESTERSHIRE

A lesson in communication from a Somerset cider man

Henry Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat County Councillor

 

 

Henry Hobhouse uses local stories, knowledge and wit to sell his products direct – actions that social media gurus encourage you to take when communicating online with customers

MEANDERING through a food and drink fair outside London’s Royal Festival Hall at the weekend my brother and I were stopped and asked this question by a jolly English gentleman: “Would you like to try my cider?”

As we happily watched him pour out two samples, we were unaware that old Etonian Henry Hobhouse was working his magic sales charm on us. And while we left with a greater interest in the Somerset cider industry, we were also a little lighter in cash.

Somerset orchard

The Somerset Ploughmen are at the Royal Fesitval Hall's food and drink fair every weekend till Christmas

My brother and I thoroughly enjoyed our time with honest Henry and both agreed he was the best salesman we’ve ever come across. He sold his fruity wares with charm, wit, a vast knowledge of the Somerset apple industry, local stories and free samples.

Cider brandy's first licence to distill has been awarded to Julian Temperley of the Somerset Cider Brandy Company

Although Hobhouse only relieved us of £11, the cheeky chappy would have got more money had he not had to serve other people waiting for pints of his cider. As it was we stumbled away lightheaded from apple brandy and laughing about the way we were talked into buying three jars of lemon curd and chutney.

Before we met for cocktails and a catch-up on the South Bank my brother and I had not the slightest intention of buying heavy jars to cart around for the evening, but something about Hobhouse’s swift use of words twisted our arms. It went something like this:

Henry: “Would you like to try my cider?”

Us: “Yes of course, how lovely. Mmm.. that’s really good.”

Henry: “I used to supply the apples from my orchards for this cider but now I sell all products made in Somerset.

Us: “Is it scrumpy? It’s quite strong?

Henry: “No it’s vintage cider – actually meat is used in scrumpy-making to give it a higher alcohol content.

Us: “Urghh.. how awful, I’ll never drink it again.”

Passionate about all things green - including apples - Hobhouse uses methane gas from rotting apple fumes to run his Jag

Here’s Hobhouse’s chance for another shot at a sale.

Henry: “Have you got 50p?”

He opens his fridge and takes out a pretty bottle of cider brandy. We give him 50p each because we can’t resist a sample of this stuff. Kerching! That’s £1 to Henry.

Us: “Here you go, here are our 50ps – what a pretty bottle.”

Henry: “It’s made by a very old school friend of mine – Temperley’s a real character.”

We turn the bottle around to read and the label reveals it’s made by Julian Temperley from the Somerset Cider Brandy Company.

Henry: “I still call him Temperley and he calls me Hobhouse – it’s been like that since school.”

Us: “Where did you go to school? You speak like Earl Spencer.”

Henry: “OK, do you really want to know? I’m Somerset through and through but my accent was soon changed when I went to Eton.”

Us: “Temperley – I recognise the name…”

Julian Temperley sells his cider products at Fortnum & Mason, Waitrose and online at www.ciderbrandy.co.uk

Henry: “Temperley’s daughter is a fashion designer.

Us: “Ah yes… Alice. And how nice that as old school friends that you’re now selling her father’s cider brandy. It tastes really great – does Temperley sell it in shops?

Henry: “He mostly sells all his cider brandies online and I’ll be selling it here in front of the Royal Festival Hall. We’re here till December.”

Us: “I’m sure you’ll do very well because you have great products.”

Hobhouse’s final shot at selling more of his range.

Henry: “Do you like lemon curd?”

Us: “Love it.”

Hobhouse takes a wooden spatula and gives us samples of lemon curd, lemon & lime curd, real ale chutney, along with samples of 16-month matured cheese.

Us: “Mmm… they’re all great – we’ll take three jars for £10.”

The Cider Brandy Company is based in Kingsbury Episcopi in Martock, Somerset

Hobhouse introduces us to his female helpers behind the Somerset Ploughmen stall. They take our £10 from us but we would have bought some cheese, too, had we not been on our way to dinner.

Us: “Is this a family business?”

Henry: “No this is my fiancée but she’s usually in charge when we’re not doing this.”

We all laugh and later find out that Hobhouse found his second young assistant when he saw her drinking cider outside a pub in Somerset and asked if she wanted to work for him.

My brother and I bid farewell to this dynamic team and chuckle about the madness and charm of Hobhouse – I’m still smiling.

The impression Hobhouse left on me as a consumer of these great Somerset products was profound. Fascinated by these local stories I Googled old Etonians Henry Hobhouse and Julian Temperley and I found a wealth of knowledge:

  • Henry is a Liberal Democrat County Councillor in Somerset and can trace his family roots back to 1304
  • Henry’s early ancestors traded in slaves but his later ancestors voted to have slavery abolished
  • Henry was the first man to use methane gas from rotten apple fumes to run his old Jag car
  • Julian Temperley’s daughter Alice designed Pippa Middleton’s beautiful green goddess evening gown at the Royal Wedding
  • The first written records of cider brandy in Britain go back to 1678 and Julian is the first person in history to receive a full cider distilling licence from HM Customs.
  • The Somerset Cider Brandy Company also sells products in historic London store Fortnum & Mason, Waitrose supermarket and its hot cider is sold at the Glastonbury Festival.

Conclusion:

This experience happened the day after I finished reading Guy Kawasaki’s brilliant book on communication: Enchantment – The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions.

Henry Hobhouse is a role model for any business that wants to communicate better with their customers and sell products with passion and charm.

I would most certainly recommend popping along to the Somerset Ploughmen stall at the Royal Festival to watch him at work. If there was an X Factor in sales, Hobhouse would win hands down. He says he aims to sell 8,000 litres of cider this summer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was considerably more.

If you’ve got a unique example like this of how a company or individual communicated to customers to win great sales please email me at info@costellomedia.co.uk and I will share on the Costello Media blog.

Bernadette Costello is the founder of communications consultancy Costello Media. As a drinks and property journalist she is passionate about how companies communicate to their customers through sales, marketing, PR and social media.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve just met Henry Hobhouse – he has a pitch opposite me at our respective “pop up” food businesses at Westfield Stratford.

    I’m selling exceptional baked goods & Christmas treats and there’s Henry bawling out to the throng about the merits of his pickles.

    He is indeed a consummate salesman – but it seems to come from an essential love of what he sells and the love of winning people over.

    He has also what my first boss called the “common touch” – all things to all men and condescending only in the best & truest sense of the word.

    He certainly converted me to his products!

    Mark Ryan

    • Dear Mark,

      It’s lovely to hear that Henry is still on top form! He certainly has a natural gift for winning people over.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your comments and I hope your time at Westfield is a fruitful one. I adore Christmas markets and if I’m out that way I’ll pay a visit.

      Best wishes

      Bernadette

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