NASHVILLE—For the 40thtime, the Communications Marketing Association (CMA) will host its annual Communications Marketing Conference, which is designed to help educate independent representatives about the latest products and feature sets from myriad manufacturers in the industry.

While some dealers sell exclusively from a single manufacturer’s portfolio, independent representatives sell products from multiple manufacturers. But one of the challenges to this approach is trying to train the independent reps on the product lines from each of the manufacturers they represent. For independent reps, attending separate seminars was a significant time drain for them, as well as being a significant cost.

CMA’s event was designed to address this situation, according to Carroll Hollingsworth, owner of DH Marketing and a past CMA president.

“It was 40 years ago that a group of independent manufacturers reps, like myself, decided that there was a need for a venue where manufacturers could meet in one place to train their manufacturers reps on their products,” Hollingsworth, a longtime CMA board member, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It was decided that, if we could put all of them in one place at one time, that would save everyone a lot of time and a lot of money.”

With this in mind, the CMA event is attended by manufacturers, independent representatives and distributors. End-user customers are not present during the event, which allows for industry players to interact in a manner that is very different from a typical trade show, Hollingsworth said.

“This is the only big event in this industry that I’m aware of where there are no customers,” he said. “It’s important to my company. We get so much out of it every year—and not just the training. Quite frankly, I think I get more out of the networking.

 “It’s the only time every year where I can sit down—even with my competitors—and we can talk about [the industry], and there are no customers there to cause a conflict. We can sit down and talk about what’s important to us. The networking is very, very important. … It works for the manufacturers, too. It’s a good time for them to sit down—even competitors—and talk about the industry in general.”

This week’s event will mark the conclusion of CMA President Elaine Walsh’s term as the head of the organization. CMA’s incoming president is Rex Reed, an area sales manager for Aeroflex.