Paper or Pixels? Why Going “Old School” with Your Surveys Can Pay Off in Today’s Digital World

Computer workstation set up

Apr 7, 2020 | Marketing & Branding

We don’t need to tell you how important surveys are to the senior living business – and to business in general. They’re a great, fast and fairly affordable way to collect data from your leads as well as your current residents. You get the benefit of verbatim responses and the satisfaction of solid info from real people. Now comes the difficult part: how can you get your residents, leads and everyone else to actually respond to your surveys?

“Format plays a huge role in determining how many responses you’ll get from your survey,” says Malissa Illiano, Vice President of Market Research for SageAge Strategies. “A lot of businesses are moving to digital surveys, simply because they’re so easy and affordable to send out. However, in the senior living space, we’re seeing that digital isn’t always the best format if you’re trying to get as many responses as possible.”

It turns out, says Malissa, that response rates are much higher when senior communities use hard copy surveys. “It seems rather old-school in today’s increasingly digital world, but for the senior population, there’s something about filling something out on paper that appeals to them,” she says.

According to Malissa, response rates for SageAge clients using digital surveys are less than 1%, while response rates for hard copy surveys can be upwards of 5%. “Seniors still feel a desire or the need to complete and return something they receive in the mail,” she says. “This may change another 10 years down the road as our seniors get more tech-savvy, but for now, paper surveys can and should play a role in your lead generation and nurturing campaigns.”

This is particularly true right now, she says. “Ever since COVID-19 has made headlines across the globe, surveys have become more important than ever for lead generation,” she says. “You have a practically captive audience sitting at home, looking for things to do – hopefully, even more individuals than usual will be willing to take some time to complete and return surveys!”

Online vs. Paper: The Benefits of Both

According to the SmartSurvey blog, “Surveys: Online vs. Paper,” the popularity of online surveys is fairly obvious. Here are just a few of the biggest advantages of online surveys for businesses:

  • Security – Online surveys allow businesses to control access through password and username protection.
  • Speed – Online surveys are immediately accessible, can be sent out in no time flat and can receive responses just as quickly. ​
  • Cost – Compared to the cost of printing, mailing and following-up that you get with paper surveys, online surveys are incredibly cheap. It’s also incredibly environmentally friendly!​​
  • Analysis – Thanks to the metrics and tracking software available with online surveys, you can get real-time results and in-depth analysis on your surveys and responses with very little extra effort on your part.

However, even though online surveys are smooth, efficient, cost-effective and make the process much easier for senior living communities, they don’t receive nearly the same response rate as paper surveys. Here are some of the advantages that paper surveys can bring to your lead generation and nurturing campaigns:

  • A sense of intimacy – Seniors, in particular, enjoy the literal “hands on” aspect of filling out a survey and mailing it back.
  • More thoughtful responses – When a person sits down to actually fill out a survey via pen or paper, you know that they’re putting actual thought into what they’re saying. Not only do you get a higher response rate, but you also get rich information that you might not have received if you did an online survey.
  • Easier readability – Not to stereotype, but seniors can sometimes have difficulty viewing or reading text on a monitor or smart phone. A paper survey can make it a lot more user-friendly for seniors (or family members).

Surveys in the Age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the senior care industry in many ways – and may continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Senior living communities have already taken action, putting in place precautionary measures and lockdowns in order to keep residents, staff and shareholders safe and healthy.

One unforeseen way this pandemic has affected businesses like yours is on the sales and marketing side of senior living. “Because of stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures, your marketing teams may be busier than ever trying to stay in touch and in front of potential leads,” says Malissa. “Unfortunately, a pandemic does not shut down the need for new business development and marketing in order to maintain your occupancy rate. It does mean, however, that you will be working in dramatically different ways than usual.”

According to Malissa, this is an opportune time for your community to get the pulse of your leads by sending out surveys. “This is a great opportunity for you to connect with your audience and find out what information is important to them at this time,” she says. “For example, you may want to have a survey of what information you can provide, how you can better help them and how your community can add value during this time.”

Industry experts are saying that, although things look scary for the senior care industry, this outbreak may actually end up showing the true value that senior living communities offer families and residents.

“As a senior living community, you are here to help your residents and their family members through whatever issues arise, including COVID-19,” says Malissa. “The same is true for SageAge Strategies and our customers – we’re here to help you through this crisis, continue gathering the information you need to market to your leads and help you emerge strong after this outbreak has passed.”

SageAge Strategies: Here for You, Always

At SageAge Strategies, our marketing team excels in helping senior living communities target prospective residents and gather essential information through surveys, focus groups and other tools that will help communities just like yours get the information you need to succeed.

If you need assistance in any areas of marketing and integrated growth strategy to improve your business results, we invite you to contact us today to learn more about our proven strategies that have transformed other senior living communities like yours.

SageAge Strategies is a multiple-award-winning, strategic growth, marketing and consulting organization that operates exclusively in the unique senior living marketplace. For more information, please call or email Melinda Schmitz at 816-349-0464 / You can also visit us on our website at

Contact Us Today!

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