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Going all in with Sara Sokol
Episode 3213th February 2023 • Direct Booking Success Podcast • Jenn Boyles
00:00:00 00:42:59

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Imagine finding the one thing that can help your short-term rental business stand out from the rest? 

This week’s guest is Sara Sokol from Bath, Maine, USA where she has one vacation rental. She has taken her passion from her day job as a dog trainer to a new level by going all in with being not only pet-friendly but pet welcoming. Making this decision started her down a path of helping other property owners and managers who want to do the same.

We talk about:

  • The fear of niching down
  • Removing barriers to guests booking like pet fees
  • Opening up your mind to be more pet friendly
  • Using and creating Facebook groups that promote your niche
  • Helping others attract the right guests
  • Allowing guests to match with the right pet-friendly properties
  • What direct booking success means to Sara

Have you done one thing in your business that has made a difference to your direct bookings? I want to hear from you! Let me know what you’ve done and you might be a guest on a future episode. Apply here:






Join the Marketing Hub Free Facebook Group:

Sign up to the Free Direct Booking Success Summit:


Facebook group:

Facebook page:

Dogs welcome website:


Email addresses: and


Ep# 32 - Going all in with Sara Sokol

Jenn: Hello and welcome to the Direct Booking Success Podcast. If you've been listening to the podcast the last little while, you might have heard me asking owners and managers to come forward if there's one thing they've done in their business that has made a difference to their bookings. I'm excited to be bringing you the first episode of this series.

And if after listening to this episode, you think you have done something you'd like to share, I'll give you those details on how you can do that at the end of this episode. So let's get to my guest. Today I am speaking with Sarah Sokol of a little dog, little white dog properties. I almost forgot that little white dog property.

Thank you, Sarah, for coming on the

Sara: podcast. Thank you for having me, Jen. I'm very excited to be here

Jenn: today. I'm so excited too. So let's start with; maybe you can tell us a bit about who you are and where you are and

Sara: what's going on? Sure. So as you said, I'm Sarah Soel. I live in Bath, Maine, which is a small town on the coast of Maine.

and I own, little white dog properties. I have one property and it is in Georgetown, Maine, which is about 20 minutes away. a coastal, island off of, just off of Bath. So I have one property, that's a, like I said, a waterfront property. We are going into our third season. being in Maine, we don't do a whole lot in the winter.

so I think of my seasons as kind of being more summertime, but I'm growing into my third season, this summer. And we are lucky enough that the last. Two years. So after our first full, season, we were voted best pet-friendly lodging in the state of Maine. one of the local newspapers does, Annual like polling of, where the, where readers vote for the best pet friendly, all sorts of different categories, but lodging is one of them.

Sara: And so we were lucky enough to win that. and so I think that that has, boosted my, my desire and my drive to be a super pet friendly, and not even pet friendly, but pet welcoming and dog welcoming. vacation rental here. Oh, I didn't know that. So

Jenn: this was the first, after the first season you got this award?

Sara: Yeah, and I, well, I, yes, but I will tell you this, that I, in my quote unquote real day job, I am a dog trainer and I have one best trainer in the state of Maine for the past eight years. So I think a lot. So I . So it was fixed?

Jenn: Is that what you're saying?

Sara: I think a, yeah, I think a lot of my voters just, I mean, listen, I was very open about starting this, this property bus or this property management company, and with my dog training clients, which paid in dividends because. They've supported me and, and, have helped me, have as much success as I have. As, as well.

But yeah, I do believe that they did quite a bit of voting for me in that department as well. But you know, I'm certainly grateful . I

Jenn: bet, I bet. Especially, yeah. I can see that being as a big pat on the back, right? That you're doing something well. And especially after the first season where you can get a bit like, oh, you know,

Sara: is this really it?

Yeah. Yeah. I, I didn't, you know, I, I, I didn't, I figured I'd get a couple of votes, but I didn't anticipate, winning. And that was, and that was, it was huge. And it meant a lot to me that they, that they took the time to do that. And it certainly speaks volumes to, I use that for marketing like crazy, you know?

Um mm-hmm. I have that listed that we're be voted best pet friendly lodging in the state.

Jenn: Yeah. Oh, I think that's really great, . Yeah, that's really, so let's move into the one thing that you've done that has really, you know, boosted your business, changed things for you. And I think probably,if you're listening, you can probably guess what that might be.

but maybe you can tell us a bit more what you've gone all in on.

Sara: Yeah. So, so yeah, the first season we were open, i o obviously being a dog person, I wanted to allow dogs, and I did. And, and this was, you know, getting into this, this business was all new to me and I certainly listened to all the podcasts and went into all of the Facebook groups and tried to learn as much as possible.

And one thing that I kept seeing before when I was setting my rates and all of these things, Was you charge a pet fee, right? So I thought, well, I'm gonna have dogs. Okay, I'll charge my pet fee, because that's what everybody says you do. You charge your pet. So that first season, I, I allowed, allowed dogs and I, there was a pet fee associated with those dogs and I had a two dog limit.

and then I decided at the end of that season, we, you know, we had a, a great first season and, and, and our dog guests were wonderful. We didn't have any problems with any of the dog guests, but when we won the best pet friendly lodging in this date, I thought, you know, this is an opportunity for me to really niche down.

and instead of just being a great coastal vacation rental property, I wanna be a great pet-friendly, dogs welcome property. Like, that's what I want my niche to be. So I decided when we won that, that it was time to change things. I dump my pet fees, so there's, I'm not charging any pet fees anymore. I bumped up my number of dogs that I am allowing in the property to four, if I'm at my max capacity of humans.

Sara: I mean, there's only so much space in, in the house, . And, and, and unlimited if you have less people. and so I really decided to embrace, embrace that niche and decide that, that those are the guests that I wanted. I think when you're going into, a new business, it's scary and you just want to take whatever you can grab.

but I realized pretty quickly. That being very specific with who I wanted in my property. And those were generally families with dogs, though. Those were the people that I wanted in my property. And being a dog trainer, I know what people who, who have dogs want and like, and I know what those dogs need in order to feel comfortable and safe.

Sara: And so it was very easy for me to be able to provide those things for them. So in addition to the, the, you know, dropping the pet. I just started adding a bunch of amenities for the dogs and the property. So I'm, I've put bowls and there's poo bags and there's, blankets to cover the furniture with, and that obviously helps myself and my cleaners out as well.

I have dog beds and they get washed after every guest and I have agility equipment in the yard. And I have a dog welcome, baggy that they get, so they're treated. For me, they're treated no different than, than my human guests are treated. It's almost like

Jenn: the dogs come first, you know, you're, you've got this place for the dogs to come and they can bring their humans to pay

Sara: Yes. . I try to walk that line, right? So I don't want it to seem like I'm really not interested in the people coming and really just the dogs. But yeah, I try to walk that line to make sure that they realize the dogs are welcome, but I do want them there too. . And so

Jenn: how have you worked that in with your marketing?

What. Scene you said, cuz something that I found interesting, what you just said is you figured out who you wanted to stay and I know that a lot of, owners and managers will have resistance in figuring out who that ideal guest is cuz they think, oh, well then nobody else there. It's like I'm turning down other bookings, which really isn't the case.

You know, anybody who resonates with that message can still stay. I'm sure you have people who don't have dogs. Yeah. But still

Sara: come. Yes, I do. I, I, there are a few, I do have guests that, that do not have dogs, and I have guests who, well, I'm, I'm mostly a drive to destination, but I do have some guests who will fly and they'll have dogs that don't come because they have flown and they've left them at home.

and they, you know, they've all said to me after they've checked out, you know, I was a little concerned having, you know, booking a pet friendly property with me not having a dog or not having our dog. Was it gonna be clean? Was it gonna smell like dogs? You know, and they were like, oh, we were so pleasantly surprised, that it wasn't, you know, we didn't find one dog hair during, during our stay.

but yeah, like I said, it, I think it's scary. I think it's scary to, to, to narrow it down and say, this is what I want. But, you know, here's the deal. They're, you know, I'm, obviously, I'm in the US and 40% of households in the US have dogs. So like that's a huge amount of, of people who are traveling, that have their dogs and who want to travel with them.

especially after the pandemic. So many people were home for so much time with their dogs. The thought of them leaving them when they started to travel, Wasn't it was it unheard of. They didn't wanna do that. And so I think a lot of people won't travel if they're not, if they're not taking their dogs with them.

and again, I think my. My job as a dog trainer gave me enough confidence to know that, this isn't narrowing it down all that narrow. I mean, there are, you know, there are a lot of people that have, that have pets and, and have, and, and are traveling with them. So I think, I think my, my day job is what helped me feel confident that, but I will tell you, I posted in, a local, Vacation rental group here in Maine, you know, just advertising the property.

Sara: And, I had a woman comment, you know, I was just, I was highlighting all of the amenities and I included the dog amenities as well, and I had a woman comment. That the dog amenities didn't make her want to book. And I thought, that's okay. Like, yeah, I obviously didn't, you know, I didn't respond to her comment or anything.

It was a little malicious, but, but I thought to myself, that's okay. Like, you're not the guest I want there, you know? I want the guest who reads. This and who goes, oh wow, this is great. My family can have all of these, these, these fantastic amenities, and my dog gets to do all of these wonderful things too.

so that those are the people that I want, and I'm, and I'm not, I'm not afraid, to let the others go that are a little bit unsure or, or aren't interested because I welcome dogs. Yeah. And it

Jenn: is, it is a fear, isn't it? When you don't pick a niche or you don't go all in on something, sometimes, you know there's other factors, of course.

Mm-hmm. . But there can be that fear of, oh, who, you know, who is gonna book. But then you also have to think of the flip side at the end of the, holiday when people, or the vacation, when people are leaving reviews, you want that person to have had the best time. Mm-hmm. , and they have to be that perfect fit for them to have such a great time to give.

Best review they can to then tell other people about it if the play, if it was just so, so.

Sara: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. You know, and, and honestly, dog people are passionate people like they, you know, if they have a positive experience. on vacation with their dogs. They're gonna tell other people who have dogs that they had this experience.

You know, part of the reason why I did so well in my first year open is that because when I, when I bought the property and I started marketing it, I shared it on my, on my, I have a very large social media, media following on my dog. Facebook, not so much Instagram, but Facebook page. And I shared it there and they shared it like crazy.

And because of that, my first year I had 50% direct bookings. 50%. Wow. And my first year, just because my dog, people who are my dog training people shared, shared this property, with other dog people. And I'm still, I mean, just from that alone, I'm still getting clients who not have. stayed at my property who are local and they just wanted to get away, even though they live here.

And I have clients whose friends and family came from out of town to stay there because they know that it is a place where not only can they enjoy themselves, but their dogs are welcome and can have a wonderful time. Yeah. And

Jenn: there's nothing like,like a personal reference, you know? Yes. It's like, I know Sarah, she's, this place is gonna be great.

You know, go and stay or, I've stayed there. You're gonna

Sara: love it. Absolutely. Absolutely. Those are the clients I want. . Yeah. Those are the, those are the, those are the guests that I want.

Jenn: So, Sarah, tell me what you're doing in your marketing. What are you doing to get that dog friendly message across?

Sara: Absolutely. Yeah. So I, when I decided that it was time to like, go all in with the, with welcoming Dogs, I've always loved, marketing through Facebook, and I started looking on Facebook for groups. So, you know, ob obviously I'm a member of a couple of local, you know, new England and Maine vacation rental groups, so I like to market my property, but I, I thought, well, there's gotta be a dog friendly one out there, right?

I just need to find the dog friendly groups and start. travel groups and start posting in there. And there were none. There were none. There were a lot in the uk mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . But in, in North America and United States, there was nothing, there was not one group that was focusing on, pet friendly vacation rentals.

So I started one

and once again, I use my connections in the dog community that I have, so I started this, this Facebook group called Dogs Welcome. And I wanted to get word out about it as fast as possible because I, I know that it wasn't gonna work super well if there weren't a lot of travelers and there weren't a lot of hosts in that group.

so I decided I, I am, friends as much as you can be friends with people on Facebook, you've never actually met. But with the, with the gentleman who runs the Canine Enrichment group, who has, they have over five. Thousand members. I think it's a massive group. and I asked him, I if I could post this new dog's welcome group in his group, so that I could build some, some members.

ne enrichment group, I gained:

and as of now, the group is about a, a year. And it is, we're just a little over 5,000 members. I don't know. I don't, there's, I'm not a way that I have found in Facebook groups to be able to determine who's a traveler and who's a, who's a host. They're more travelers than hosts, so it's a virtual jackpot.

Sara: of travelers, with that wanna travel with their dogs. And I will also say cats as well. I've got a couple people, people in there wanna travel their cats and a bird or two I think. yeah, so the group helps connect. Pet friendly vacation rentals with travelers who are traveling with their animals. And it's an opportunity for travelers to post an i s O within the group saying, I'm going this location and I'm looking for this.

and then, also an opportunity for hosts to advertise and post their property in the group. So I do a. Of advertising and posting my own property within that group. I've gotten quite a number of bookings as I have a lot of the other hosts in the group. I always get messages. They get so excited when they get a book.

Sara: Like, Sarah, I got a booking through your group and I had someone the other day tell me they got their very first direct booking, from a group member, which made me really, really happy. so that's, that's that's really great. Yeah, it makes me really happy. plus it makes me happy that these people with dogs are having a place where they.

You know, that they can go and travel with them, that they may not have found if it weren't for the group. So, yeah, so the bulk of, I do a lot of marketing in there, but then when I'm marketing outside of, of the group, A again, I'm really gearing it towards, towards making sure that I'm, I'm pointing out the dog amenities as well as the human amenities.

because as, as I said, and, you know, I don't want the people there necessarily that aren't dog people. I mean, if they want a book, that's totally fine, but really I'm trying to really push towards, towards people with who are traveling with their dogs. And in my market it's generally families who are traveling with their dogs.

Sara: Mm-hmm. . And

Jenn: I'm glad that you mentioned other types of pets as well, because I was gonna ask you about, because we, I have a cat. Yeah. Who, when I was living in Europe, this cat's been to 11 countries. Okay. Wow. Now we're talking Europe, so you know, you can drive. When we, when we lived in sort of mainland, Europe, the cat would go traveling with us.

And, it was very odd sometimes asking, you know, it's a dog friendly or pet friendly family or a property. We have a cat. Is that okay? You know, and, and most people, you know, I guess all people said yes. And one trip that we were, on in Austria, we actually met someone else who was traveling with their cat.

Mm-hmm. . So we didn't feel so weird to be traveling with this cat, but she used to go all over the place. So it's nice to hear that there's other crazy people out there with their cats. And Did you say

Sara: a bird too? I, yeah. And actually I inadvertently hosted a bird. I didn't know they were bringing a bird until after they left.

And the only reason, it's not like , they didn't ask me, but I would've said yes. It's not like I, they, they didn't leave a mess, but there was a big thing of, of. Pet bird seed in that was like set on top of the trash bin, like empty container. That was the only reason I knew they had brought a bird, but, but , yes.

Birds. I don't think anybody, I don't think that anybody's mentioned anything other than like average. No one's just talked about a lizard or, although, you know, I would imagine that those pets wouldn't be terribly difficult, right? They're probably in a cage. Like what's the big deal you. Yeah, no, they

Jenn: might not be that bad.

Well, there you go. There's a new stream for you. , you could get into the

Sara: reptiles rep, , reptile friendly , vacation rentals. I don't, I don't know if that's a, that's a very, very narrow niche for sure. .

Jenn: Yeah. Maybe keep it more to, to pets dogs, yes. Yeah. Right. So, so this Facebook group has been a real turning point, hasn't.

Sara: Yeah, absolutely. And, and it, and it, one of the things when it first started last spring, that kept coming up from all of the, the members, especially the travelers, was that, you know, when they would search for properties on Airbnb or vrbo, or there's another site, that's somewhat popular called Bring Fido, which really all bring Fido does, is it pulls VRBO and Airbnb listings who are listed as pet friendly and puts them on their site.

So, But with all of those websites, there was no way for them to, to use any sort of filters to kind of, look for very specific criteria for properties. So, for example, you know, travelers who have giant breed dogs who, or maybe over a hundred pounds, or travelers who have multiple dogs. Yeah. Or travelers would be such

Jenn: a difference, wouldn't it?

Yes. And it's, it brought. You know, a couple of little Chihuahuas versus a

Sara: Great Dane. Absolutely. Yeah. And then there's breeds too that are on the quote unquote dangerous dog breed list that some insurance companies don't cover. And so, you know, some properties will have restrictions on breeds as well.

And, and that's time consuming because you have to contact each host because, but Airbnb and vrbo, I mean, obviously if you're booking direct, probably hopefully a host is having that information on their website, but, but the channels aren't, They're not providing us. Mm-hmm. , you've gotta contact each and every host and ask, can I bring my 150 pound dog?

I have six. Is that okay? , you know, I have a bird, I have a lizard, whatever. So, so I decided that, and there was a lot of people saying that they would love, you know, properties that have fenced in yards. That was a big thing that came out of the group. So I decided it was time to make a website, a dog's welcome website.

And so I created a dog's welcome. This is a listing website only. where there are filters that travelers can use to find that property that they are looking for. So the filters that they can, there's, I mean, there's a two bedroom. You know, there's bedrooms and there's bathrooms and sleeps up to filters.

But the primary filters are, you know, allowing two plus dogs. dogs are allowed on furniture in this property, fenced in yards. No pet fees. no breed restrictions, no size restrictions. I actually do have other animals allowed as a filter in there. great. Yeah. handicap, not hand. What do I have it listed as?

I think I have like, Limited access. I don't remember exactly how it's listed, but a property with no stairs for like if you had an aging dog who was really having a difficulty with stairs. So, I have all those filters on the website so that as a traveler you can actually find a two bedroom, one bathhouse that sleeps four with a fenced in yard that allows over two dogs, and one might be a giant braid.

So it, and it's been, and it's, and it's been extraordinarily, popular and very useful. So it compliments the group. So yes, people are still, posting ISOs and, and tr and hosts still, marketing their properties within the group. But there's also this resource. That they can go to on the website, and they can look for something that fits their needs.

It just

Jenn: sounds amazing that you've taken this, you not just gone one step, now you've gone two steps further with it and you've gone so into this and it's. You've opened it up. It's Canada in the States, is that

Sara: correct? Yeah, so far. Yeah. So yeah. North America and Canada so far. Yes. .

Jenn: Yeah. Cause I was saying to, yeah, I was saying to you before that if you opened it up to England , it would just be huge because I know, yeah.

The pandemic, especially, you know, there are dogs everywhere. Yes, I know. I, and you know, we take dogs to the pubs here and you know, in Europe you can take dogs to restaurants and,

Sara: and I know you shame us with your dog friendliness there. Yes. You put us to shame, man. We don't, we don't hold a candle to you guys.

Well, I remember visiting a

Jenn: friend in New York and she had a dog, and she couldn't go into Starbucks. There are other coffee places available, of course. Yeah. But she couldn't go in with her dog to get a cup of coffee. Yeah. So she took advantage of me being there. I held the dog while she went in and got coffees and that.

But you know, you wouldn't think twice here in England Wow. Of taking your dog in, getting your coffee and, and going off. Wow. I don't know what the legalities are around that. Yeah. But, yeah, I just, yeah. I don't think you can take a dog to a grocery store. You might be in trouble there. Yeah.

Sara: Too much food. Too much food there. Yes.

Jenn: That's it. So tell us a bit more about this listing site and how it's going.

Sara: Sure. So, so it is free for hosts to list. there's a form on the website. The website is and I'm sure you can put that in the show notes for me. Definitely. so it's free to list, you just fill out the form on the.

On the dogs welcome website, and I get the information for the filters to, to go up on the website. You, as a host, you get to choose what link you give me to drive, those travelers to. So I think what I really like about the site is that it's an opportunity for host to provide a direct.

Booking link. so if you have and are doing direct bookings, then give me that link so that I can help drive you some direct bookings instead of giving me an Airbnb or a VRBO link. but you will take those if they don't Oh, AB website. Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. And I want, I also wanna make sure that I, I'm telling you that, that.

Anybody who takes a dog or a cat is welcome in the group and is welcome on the website. So there's the only criteria is that you allow a dog or some form of animal on your property. So if you only let one dog who's under 25 pounds and you charge a pet fee for that dog, that's fine. You are still welcome to join the group and you're still welcome.

Mm-hmm. , to, to post or to list on, on the, website. They

Jenn: might be the perfect place for someone that's looking for that. So that holiday

Sara: application. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, and there's some properties that aren't, like a lot of condos specifically have restrictions as to, you know, how many dogs and the size.

And so it's not necessarily the host that's putting these limitations. It could just be the property or the size of the property or whatnot. So, so I wanna be clear that. You know, it's welcome to anybody who allows any form of animal, even if it's just a bird you can put, put you in the other animal's.

Welcome,filter on the website, but I also have, so it's free to list. And I, but I also have decided to start, a Certified Properties program, a dog's welcome certified properties program. and that there is a fee for that. I think very affordable. It's $99 for a year. and what that, so what certified hosts are stating, I'm trying to create like a standardization of what being a dog's welcome property looks like.

And that was the idea with the certification program is to try to create this standardization. and so pretty easy stuff, but it the, for, to qualify for a, certified property, you have to not charge a pet fee, cuz that's huge to me. I really think that part of Welcoming Dogs is not charging a pet fee.

I think that, a, we need to be reducing those fees anyhow, but b like that doesn't. Give these travel travelers who are traveling with their dog, a sense that you want your dog there when you're charging them a fee. And listen, I charge the fees. I I totally get it. I know. We think we're supposed to. I've also found, and I've spoken with other hosts who don't charge fees and, That people tend to take better care of your property when they're not charging a fee.

Not that the people are intentionally trashing, you know, your property because you're charging them a fee, but they feel so taken care of and so like privileged that, oh wow, this is so getting get to bring my dog and my dog just gets to be part of this. It's not a, it's not this thing I have to tag on.

Right? Yeah. Cause there's

Jenn: a mindset isn't there of oh, well I'm paying for it. If she goes on the, if the dog goes on the sofa or the couch, it's no big deal cuz I'm paying for the cleaning, the extra cleaning.

Sara: Absolutely. And I will tell you, you know, I recently had to spend an afternoon in a hotel in Boston and I had to bring my dogs with me and, and they charged me a pet fee.

And in my first gut reaction when they said that was, well, I'll let the dogs get up on the sofa without putting a blanket down. And it was just like, it was just an instinct. And I thought, well, no, I'm not gonna actually do that. But I was like, Ticked off that they were gonna charge me a pet fee. Mm-hmm.

And what was my gut reaction was that well, he fine then I'm not gonna put the blanket down before my dog gets up on the sofa. I did. But, but that was, and that's me who works in this industry and who runs, you know, so, so that's, that's human. It's a human reaction. And you know, the other thing is Whedon, we're not charging fees for kids or grandma.

Like, can you imagine if there was like a child fee or a grandma fee, you know, like

I look at , the

Jenn: outrage. I don't even know what to say to

Sara: that , the outrage. Can you imagine the outrage? I mean, it's, it's a, it's ridiculous if we someone were to charge that, you know? I look at, look at welcoming dogs, my property. The same way I look at any other amenity that I offer my guests. So whether that is my grill, whether that is my kayaks, whether that is the air conditioner that I have in there, it is part of the experience of staying with me.

I'm not charging you extra for that because a lot of times with pet fees, people will push back and say, well, oh, you know, my cleaners are gonna charge me more or, you know, there's gonna be more wear and tear, or I have to buy more supplies or whatever it is. Build that into your rate. Yes. Yeah.

Build it in, build into your rate and make that part of the experience. You know, I, that, to me, that's just it. It's just no different. Welcoming dogs is no different than having kayaks that I've built into my rate, that I've hang up, grilled that's built in my rate. It's just one more thing that it's part of my experience.

And you know what, if you don't have dogs, That's you, you don't, you know, if you think the rates are too high, then don't book. But I also am sure of guests who don't use the kayak kayaks and they've paid for them, and I'm sure they have guests that don't use the grill and they've paid for it. You know, so I, so I, I think that we need to get out of this mindset that we've got to be charging for these dogs.

Now, one of the, one of the things with the, with the, the certified properties and the no pet fees is I do, you can still become certified if you charge a refundable. , right? So if, if you're charging like a deposit, a, you know, a pet cleaning deposit or whatever you wanna call it, that, well, I will still fly be, that will still fly for, to become certified.

because again, that's something that I, I think most people are gonna take very good care of that and get that, that refunded. Mm-hmm. . But the idea is just that they're not charging a fee. Fee, in order for the dogs to even show up. So that, that's the first item for the certified properties. The other thing that I ask for certified properties to provide are covers for the furniture so that the dogs can get up on the furniture I have for me, it.

Sara: Welcoming Dogs is about making it easy for guests to have their dogs there, and also making it easy for them to keep the property clean and making it easy for my cleaners to clean up after there's been a dog in the house. So I think pro, doing something simple like providing blankets for them to put on the sofa, Is easy or the other, the other thing that's for the certification is that they have leather furniture that that will do if you don't wanna provide blankets for your leather Yeah.

Furniture, that's, that's totally fine. But they do need to provide covers for guests. And I'll tell you, I, I've been providing covers this whole time and people always used them. Mm-hmm. , well, I had one guest who didn't, but they also destroyed a million other things. I mean, it was a bad guess. Is a bad guess, you know?

Yes. I

Jenn: was gonna ask you if you had any horror stories, because we've got two, we've got two issues here. We've got. You going all in on this niche, which has been amazing for your, your bookings and your marketing. Yeah. But then on the other, the other side, it's what that niche is, which is dog friendly. And I know some people are just like, I don't wanna have dogs, which is fine.

There's no one out there saying you have to take dogs. You know, Sarah's selling her story about why she's taken dogs and why she's gone all in on it, and how doing that one thing has affected her whole business. It's not to say everyone else has to copy this, you know, but I do wanna ask you if you've had any horror stories with dogs or with the human companions that they bring along.

Sara: Yeah. . Yeah. So, yeah, so I, I, I have had two, knock on wood, two horrible, I don't know even be horrible, but two bad, guests. And they weren't even, one wasn't even a bad guest, it was just a bad situation. where there someone did pee the bed, and that was pers that was a human, there was a human left here, and it was not a dog, it was a human, you know.

So I did have that. I had, I had to replace, Mattress covers in a, in a in case, but in, I guess it had been left on there and it soaked through. Anyhow, so that was, there's my, there's a human that did that. And then as I said, yeah, I did have, I did have some guests last summer who did not put covers on the couch.

Did not pick one pile of poo up in the yard. My poor gardener had a lot of, work that he had to do while he was there, but they broke my screen. They, they trashed my grill. They almost destroyed my cooktop. They exploded butter in the microwave. They broke one of my curtain rods. Like, like, like the dog piece.

The dog of it was not . It was the problem with the people, you know, like that they just happened to have dogs. Like they did a ton of other pro things that they, that they. It caused my cleaning crew a whole lot of problems. It wasn't just the dog. Mm-hmm. . So, so, yeah. So, again, knock on wood so far, and, and I, you know, I, I attribute that to.

To me, providing things that, again, makes it easier for them to keep the property clean. And, you know, I give them poop bags to pick up the poo and there's a dumpster, you know, a little, a poo bag dispenser thing and, and, and trash bin easy right there in the yard. Like, so I think that, and I get, and I know there'll be more, I'm sure that things are stuff's gonna happen.

It happens regardless as to whether or not you're taking dogs. It does happen. but I think that, I think that providing them, and I provide them a vacuum and, you know, I don't tell 'em they have to use it, but it's there. You know, so, so I think, I think providing them with the tools to so make good choices, so to speak, or to help Yeah.

Make that clean up easier, I think. And

Jenn: whatever niche that would be, you know? Yeah. If you went into a, a baby niche, maybe Yeah. You really wanted to attract, your property was perfect for those with newborns. You, you know, and maybe not newborns, but little babies, you know. And maybe all the amenities you do are around that.

Yeah. You know it, it doesn't have to be this specific niche. It's just one of the many things that you could do by going all in on some

Sara: something. Yeah. Yes. Ab yeah, absolutely. Think about like bachelorette parties, like I'm sure there's a lot of glitter going on there. Yes. No. You know, like, so not a, so a vacuum there, right?

Jenn: I have had the, somebody had, they call them hen parties over in England here, and somebody had one at our place and I swear that glitter is still stuck and confetti is still stuck in the vacuum and you still see the odd piece and he just, ugh,

Sara: you know, worse than dog. Worse. Way

Jenn: worse. No. The dog, we are, we're dog friendly and we're a boat.

Yeah. And you should see, it's really quite funny to see dogs who, it's the first time on a boat, you know? Yeah. Cause they're not quite sure what to do. And why is it move?

Sara: I bet.

Jenn: Bet. but I get people asking, you know, saying We have two dogs, can we bring them, you know, and they're, you know, Labradors or, or whatever.

And I say, yeah, sure. If you wanna be on a boat with your two medium large dogs, fine with me. Yeah. You know? Yeah. Yeah. It's fine with me if they're not gonna fall in, you know, or anything like that. , , you have to take responsibility for them. But yeah, bring them, they're part of your family. The same as a baby.


Sara: it, you know. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I, I, but I, you know, I, and I also have, so in addition to like the cleaning stuff, like I also have my sofas that I have in the house. They have slip covers, and I have, I have alternative slip covers. So if my cl I told my cleaners, if you go in there and whatever, you have one of these, these breeds that you know, Those short prickly hair and it's shedding like crazy and they put the blankets on, but it was still some got under.

I was like, don't waste your time vacuuming. Switch out that cover. Bring it out out. We'll get it washed. Do you know what I mean? Like, yeah. So I, I just try to have all these things in place, so that it's. So that it, it's easy for the guests. Yeah. And that, and it, and it's easy for my cleaners because it's gonna, because yeah.

Hair is gonna get places. Mm-hmm. Absolutely. Mm-hmm. So I have a good vacuum and I've got these, you know, there, there's, there's things in place just like there is with anything, to help make that as easy as possible. Yeah. So, and that's say, yeah, go ahead.

Jenn: I was just gonna say, like, say if your niche was going to be cyclists, You know, and maybe you have some pumps there for tires or you have a, oh, somebody, one of my clients once had, they were gonna go in with sort of a cycling niche and they were sort of canvassing all the cyclists that they knew, and people were saying that their bikes were so much that they wanted to be able to bring them inside the cottage.

Wow. Because they couldn't leave them in the car, you know? And she's okay. She was thinking, now what can I do? I want to, we're on like this beautiful cycling path. This would be a perfect place for people to stop for a day or two, you know, before they continue on. or they do day trips from here. What can I do?

And she ended up, building a, a shed, a lockable secure shed for people to put their bikes. Cuz she's like, I get it that they're expensive. I don't really want them in the hall. .

Sara: Yeah. Yeah. But that's so smart. . Mm-hmm. . Yeah. That's so smart. Yeah. And, and that's it. Yeah. It's what, it's, that's exactly it.

It's making it easy for, for that ideal guest. It's making it easy for them to have what they want. Yeah. And

Jenn: the other thing that makes it easy is that your marketing seems to just make more sense, doesn't it? Mm-hmm. , because you're not going, okay, I'm gonna talk about this today and not tomorrow, and this the next day.

You know, your whole message is, Hey, we're dog welcome,

Sara: you know? Yeah. Yes, yes. Absolutely. Yeah. And it makes it easy for the guests to find you too. Mm-hmm. , you know, if there's no one else doing that and that, and the, and their dogs are important to them, you know, then, then it makes, then, then the choice to book with you is easy.


Jenn: And that's what we want, you know, especially if you're direct, we want. To find us, come on our website and book. We just wanna make it easy as we can. Yes,

Sara: absolutely. Yes. Right.

Jenn: Well, I have absolutely loved this conversation, , and I hope, yay. I hope those listening have as well. Now I want to know your answer to this very special question that I like to ask everyone.

Yep. What does direct booking success mean

Sara: to you? So I think for me it's the opportunity and the privilege to provide my guests with the experience that I wanna give them from before they've even booked to, after they've checked out and past that until their next stay or the next email they get from me.

So being able to. Control. Maybe that's not, that sounds sounds bad, but being able to control every aspect of that guest's, stay and provide them with the experience that I want. That's what that is for me. That's what direct booking success is for me.

Jenn: No, I think that's a fine word. Control cuz you're in control.

That's what it's your business. You know, it's your life. It's you, it's your rules. You know, that control, I think is very

Sara: important. Yes. And, and then the ability to be able to communicate the way that I wanna communicate with them.

Jenn: Mm-hmm. . Yeah, without having to go through a third party where everything's redacted and you can't say anything and no, my goodness.

Absolutely. on that note, tell us where can people connect with you? I'll add them into the show notes as well. The Facebook group, the listing site. Tell them to us one more

Sara: time. Yep. So, my personal business is little white dog properties. it's Hello at little white dog That's a big one, long one.

Sorry about that. . for the dogs welcome, the, the Facebook group is dogs welcome. There is also a corresponding Facebook page for that group as well. That's called Dogs Welcome. The. Page is more geared towards, promoting the website and, the, certified properties. Get some free advertising and stuff on that page.

But the, the website is and my email there is hello At Dogs dot, I'm sorry. Dogs

Jenn: Right. Okay, well I'll put those into the show notes. Okay. And the listing site is North America, so you, US and Canada? Yes. The Facebook group is,

Sara: The same? Yes. Okay. Yes, it is the same. I did have someone try to post a UK property the, the other day.

I think I'm thinking about possibly opening it up to other places. Okay. So watch

Jenn: this space and we'll see. Yes. We'll see what we can do to get the rest of the world on there too, because you know, I know people that travel in, you know, most of us would, would It's driving with your pet, isn't it? Yeah. Yeah.

But some people will

Sara: take them on. Oh yeah, absolutely. No, absolutely. I just, I, I have to , I feel like I've niche the group to just being North America, you know, so I have to, I have to think about whether or not, cuz I, I know it, that will open up a lot more. So, so stay tuned. Yes, but I,

Jenn: my cousin flies from Vancouver to, Nova Scotian, if anybody knows candidates, west Coast to the far East coast.

And she does that a few times a year with her little chihuahua. Wow. She goes everywhere with her, you know? Wow. And just travels all over the place, so, yeah. Yeah. Brilliant. Well, thank you Sarah, so much for coming on. I've learned a lot, and it's been great to hear about your, the, the thing that you've done in your business that has really made a

Sara: difference.

Thanks, Jen. Um, it's really been exciting being here today.


wow. I loved listening to Sarah's story about the one thing that she has done. It's snowballed for her, hasn't it? Just by going really deep into that niche, she has created a Facebook group and now the listing site, and it's really taken on a life of, of its own. So I would like to hear. What you've done.

Perhaps you've been listening and you've been thinking, Hey, you know what? There's actually is something that I've done in my business, something that has brought in new bookings or made a difference with your existing guests. Come and tell me what that is. It doesn't have to be a big thing. It can be a small thing.

I just want to hear about it, so go to my. Direct booking thing, and that's spelled out. So O n E thing. One thing. And perhaps you'll feature on a future direct Booking success podcast episode.

Wouldn't that be fun?