Want your customers to think you're special? Do something special for them. Bradley Co., a $2 million developer of software for managing business forms, has been holding annual user conferences since 1987. The three-day events are filled with seminars on software applications, discussions on customer-selected topics, and social events. Customers learn what Bradley can do for them, and Bradley has an exceptional opportunity to explore customer needs.

"It's the extra 5% that makes a conference extraordinary year after year," says John Zitzner, president of the Cleveland-based company. Following are examples of Zitzner's "extra 5%":

Keep 'em guessing. The location of the banquet is kept a mystery.

Add the unexpected. One year, the president and staff personally greeted guests at the airport and carried luggage to a waiting van.

Recognize customers. Two or three individuals and one firm are honored with customer appreciation awards. Bradley employees vote on which customers went above and beyond by training their staff on Bradley systems, or by giving extensive references to prospective clients.

Invite the right people. Most attendees are the regular folks punching away on Bradley computer systems. The business trip may be the only one many will take all year - and likely the only one during which they'll stay at a fancy hotel. The trip should feel like a big deal to them.

"Little things have an impact," says Zitzner. "When I travel to client locations, I invariably see our customer award on the wall and the group photos taken at the banquet pinned to cubicle walls. People keep the things that have meaning for them."