The Wink DC: Making a Strong and Independent Statement of Success

Managed correctly, leaving a major hotel chain like Marriott can be the start of something special. But it takes hard work. Strong communication and business analytics. And a strong brand identity that’s based on a signature and unique event experience.

No problem there.

The Wink DC, formerly known as the Renaissance Dupont Circle, set out on its own on Jan. 10, 2018 — and it hasn’t looked back. The hotel reflects Washington’s emerging personality of eclectic sophistication, driven ambition, and connectivity. At The Wink, event venues are all about “getting down to business” within a fast-paced and think-smart environment. Located in the heart of D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, the hotel hosts a healthy mix of events for groups of 200 or smaller: 25% associations, 20% corporate business, with a mix of social groups, government meetings, and university confabs making up the rest.

It’s a mix that includes its share of exceptional events and high-maintenance guests. From diplomats and politicians to industry leaders, the most high-powered people in the world call the capital home. In such a setting, The Wink team is comfortable with meeting the highest demands from the most demanding event attendees. With all that going for it, The Wink was strongly positioned to boost its group business as an independent property — but still faced an uphill and treacherous journey to establish itself.

Leads? What Leads? Starting Over

Make no mistake: Deflagging from a brand as powerful as Marriott — especially for the renowned Renaissance Dupont Circle — is a risky, high-pressure power move. For Julia Quinn, it meant a new challenge, and one the director of sales and marketing was eager to take on. The crux of the issue was volume: a stunning 40% drop in leads coming to the hotel as a Marriott brand, almost overnight. “It was a change in the year … for the year,” Quinn says. “And we really had no preliminary marketing or prep. It was like, we’re The Wink, now start producing!” In addition, there was the problem of brand: After living in the relative comfort of a big chain for so long, and after having established a local brand experience in Dupont Circle, shifting the customer eye line to a new, unique experience is daunting and a little scary; business and careers were at risk. Quinn got to work selling a new experience and building a new brand story.

You Just Lost 40% of Your Leads. What Now?

If you’re Quinn, you don’t panic. Instead, you take a breath and then start building a program based on analytics and communication. “When our leads went down, it was pretty scary. But we realized that with the right tools, we could convert more group business with what was already sourced to us,” she says. “We also realized that we could find areas of opportunity for our brand of event, just by watching our KPIs and analyzing the data story.” To do that, Quinn identified trends in her competitive set to optimize communication with ownership, motivate her team, and gain actionable insights.

Motivating the Sales Team Using Business Analytics

Quinn uses actual data-based reports to see where the team is improving and highlight areas of focus. It’s especially valuable when it comes to key metrics such as response time. “It helps me focus on the total picture,” she says. “I want to make sure they’re encouraged, and I want to create an incentive. How are we doing compared to the market overall? It’s good to compare to see how we’re performing.”

Quinn’s team is, perhaps, among the few in the D.C. area who see the reporting on a consistent basis. “It makes us very competitive. I challenge my team constantly to do better at response time. I say … ‘I know we’re not responding fast enough. So let’s beat the time and get better.’

“We have this conversation on a weekly basis.”

Overall, Quinn’s creative use of business intelligence helps her plan strategically and execute relentlessly. It also serves as an early warning system about potential trouble spots. “I can see eight out of 10 metrics to work on,” she says. “That helps us stay on track to our goals and strategize about the future.”


Brian Chee

Written by Brian Chee