Step 1: Focus on your clients only. These are the people spending money with you today. Prospects can come later. Existing clients is where you start your 2012 Trend Analysis.
Step 2: If you still remember how to engage a customer on the telephone - make the call. If these skills are forgotten, then turn to email. If you are excellent at reaching out through social media then you go that route.
Step 3: Design a three to five question survey and practise it many times before calling your clients. The questions you will ask have everything to do with whether or not your clients are planning to travel in 2012, when, and where and if you have the guts to ask, how much they intend to spend.
Step 4: Once you have called your 100 to 1,000 clients you will have all the trending data you need. Your next step is to graph your customers response's and then review the graphic to determine the upcoming trends for your agency. You may see a shift in cruising and a further shift in price range, itinerary and class of ship. There may be some movement towards adventure and eco tours. Beach vacations may stayt he same or increase but show a tendency to favour a different island. What you have in your hands is the true trending for your business, based on your location and trading area.
Step 5: Now you can compare your actual trends to what the trade is predicting. Check for similarities and if you identify an opportunity that you have not yet ventured into, but there are signs within your data that suggest potential business then you can do the math and make an informed decision as to whether or not to invest in a potential trend.
Step 6: Any additional trend that you invest in should actually be based on your own passion for a certain destination or type or style of travel. Your intention here is to promote what you like and want to see and take a group fo 20 to 30 lke minded clients with you. When it's based on your passion, your new idea will carry the energy that is attracts others.
So be warned about chasting too many rabbits and catching none. The art of trending is many times based on someone contacting 1,000 people and then recording the responses, factoring in a 2-5% leeway and then posting the results as if they represent all of North America. If you have 1,000 clients and follow the steps above then your data is 100% correct - for your business. With this data you can now report back to your own clients, or to everyone in your local trading area what the local travel trends are. You can also report that this information is based on what your clients have stated. This is an excellent method to use when you want to attract new customers to your agency.
Let me know if it works for you and what trends you discover. By the way - as you list what each customer tells you, you also jot down the dollar value in the month the want to go.This will give you a rough idea of when commissions will be coming in and you would have created an at-a-glance income spreadsheet. This in turn 'advises' you the months that are light in business and what needs to be push-marketed in order to build the sales during the low periods.