From Trash to Treasure: Turn Product-Led Leftovers Into a Content Super-Source

There’s a hidden epidemic in the Product-Led Growth (PLG) movement, and it’s happening right under our noses: the waste of valuable by-products. Every day, teams create artifacts as part of their work — presentations, demos, interview transcripts — that could make for great content. Instead, these resources go to rot in digital archives.

This waste contradicts a core feature of Product-Led Growth (PLG): efficiency. PLG makes the product itself the main driver of customer acquisition, essentially giving you a “two for one” deal: an exceptional user experience that also attracts new customers.

But conventional product-led content puts a product front and center by talking about it directly — think tutorials and template libraries. Instead, content marketers should embrace efficiency and turn to by-products to score a double victory: Use materials you already have to create original content that’s connected to the value prop of the product.

Welcome to the Sweet World of By-Products 

By-products are incidental resources you gain while creating a product. In sugar production, you get molasses when you extract sugar crystals from boiled-down sugar cane juice. You can then use this thick dark syrup to make rum, porter, or gingerbread. 

Digital product development also generates by-products. For example, data from product analytics, quotes from user interviews, and industry insights from competitive research.

These by-products offer a wealth of information. Using them in your product-led content allows you to:

  1. Unlock new formats. By-products let you expand your palette of product-led content types. You can create data reports and behind-the-scenes stories directly inspired by your product development process.
  2. Reduce production costs. By-products reduce the time required for research since these materials are readily available internally.
  3. Increase originality and authenticity. By-products are unique to your organization. They give a rich, authentic source of content that resonates with your audience and distinguishes your brand from competitors.

Once you recognize the value of by-products, you’ll see product-led content where others see waste.

3 By-Products to Stir Into Your Content

In the physical world, every process generates unique by-products. Woodworking produces wooden furniture and sawdust. Winemaking gives you wine and grape pomace. Refining crude oil gives you gasoline and asphalt.

Digital products also have specific by-products. These typically include product data, in-house expertise, and stories from your product development journey.

1. Product Data: For Audience-Centric Narratives 

Chances are, you're already collecting and analyzing data to enhance your product. There's an opportunity here: turn this data into narratives that help your audience. The result is content that captures attention and delivers information gain

Anyone who’s seen people sharing their Spotify Wrapped will know that Spotify is the master of leveraging product data for marketing purposes. (Side note: Apparently, I’m in the top 5% of Shakira’s listeners.) Spotify for podcasters is no different. Spotify’s fan study, aimed at podcast creators, shows how listeners consume podcasts. Each piece of data is paired with practical suggestions.

Source: Spotify

For example, the study shows that people tend to start listening to new podcasts in four specific months (January, March, July, and October). It details strategies for how to make the most of these peaks, like planning cross-promotion opportunities and customizing your show page for new listeners leading up to these months. The content doesn’t just inform readers; it motivates and guides them to use the product — Spotify — to reach new listeners. 

Tips for using product data in content:

  • Harness proprietary data. Prioritize data coming directly from your product. This approach lends authenticity to your insights and ensures you're contributing fresh information to the online conversation. 
  • Champion privacy. It’s essential to anonymize data and focus on user segments and benchmarks rather than individuals to respect customer privacy.
  • Showcase your expertise. It's not just about the data — it's about how you present and interpret it. Curate and analyze data to showcase your in-depth understanding of your industry. Spotify, for example, doesn't just present data; they interpret it in a way that underlines their profound industry knowledge, earning the trust of podcast creators. 
  • Prioritize your audience. Only share insights that are relevant and have a practical application for your audience. Spotify excels at this by filtering their vast array of listener data to only give information that their audience can act on. 

2. In-House Expertise and Opinion: To Cultivate Brand Authority 

Teams that build innovative products often brim with expertise and creativity. They continuously learn, share knowledge, and debate. This environment leads to a wealth of wisdom that builds your brand's credibility. 

Amplitude is a leading digital analytics platform that helps companies understand their customers better so they can optimize their products and marketing. But, the analytics and data expertise found within the Amplitude team doesn’t just go into the product. It radiates throughout their content strategy. 

Alongside guides and explainer posts, Amplitude regularly publishes pieces that voice contrarian opinions, adding thought-provoking perspectives to the digital analytics space. For example, VP of Product Ibrahim Bashir argues that product managers need to connect their work to revenue instead of just focusing on product metrics. Solutions engineer Aaron Cheung warns against the temptation to use auto-tracking tools — though they are quick and easy to set up, they ultimately create more work and distrust in data. 

Other articles delve into the evolution of their industry, exploring trends and predictions for the future. For example, amid changing data privacy regulations, product evangelist Adam Greco imagines what would happen in a world where all users are anonymous.   

These articles equip readers with the critical insights necessary for mastering data-driven success. They also reinforce Amplitude's stature as an industry vanguard; each piece positions the company as a thought leader and innovator.  

Tips for using in-house expertise and opinion in content: 

  • Build opinion on expertise. Amplitude’s thought leadership pieces aren't just opinions. They're fortified by real-world examples from the experts' careers and narratives from Amplitude's customers. These posts don't claim authority; they build it, piece by piece, through logical, experience-backed arguments.
  • Create a library. The seeds of great content live tucked away in corners of your organization. Gather potentially valuable resources (like recorded sprint reviews, presentations, and Loom recordings) into a centralized repository. When you’re ready to ideate new content, you’ll have a range of information to pull from. (I use Grain to highlight sections of calls for future reference). 
  • Again, prioritize your audience. At the core of Amplitude's content strategy is a relentless focus on delivering value to its audience. To do the same, start by tuning into the challenges your potential customers face. Then, dive into your repository of in-house expertise, extracting advice to address these challenges.

3. Your Journey: To Attract Customers and Loyalty 

Build in Public” is an approach to creating a business or product while sharing the development process online. The aim of embracing transparency is to forge trust, attract investors, and nurture a community around your product.

Apply the Build-in-Public concept to your content marketing by sharing stories from inside your company, such as the reason behind product decisions. Ditch the polished façade in favor of genuine, open communication. Transparency invites understanding and trust: You’re much more likely to support someone you’ve known for years than a stranger.  

Substack is a publishing platform founded in 2017. They position themselves as a haven for creators seeking refuge from the unpredictable tides of social media algorithms and ad-driven content.

The Substack team often shares the reasoning behind their business model and product changes. Unlike the enigmatic changes of platforms like Instagram, which have burned a lot of creators, Substack's approach inspires loyalty. It conveys: We’re on an honorable mission, the product is a work in progress, and we’re on your side. 

The candor extends to acknowledging imperfections. In “An algorithm for quality,” Chris Best, co-founder and CEO of Substack, shares, “[the Substack algorithm is] not a perfect system, but it is new, and it allows a kind of work to thrive that is different and better than what wins on other platforms.” 

He also admits that they’ve gotten things wrong in the past: “It’s tempting to blame ‘the algorithms’ — and plenty of people do. (In fact, we ourselves have at times been guilty of muddying the waters.)” This open attitude sparks engagement from the Substack audience, as shown by the lively comments section underneath the post.  

Tips for turning your company journey into content: 

  • Don’t just share the wins. Embrace failures and learnings. It’s easier to feel close to a true story than an immaculate press release. 
  • Take a stand. If your content has no point of view (or adds nothing new to the conversation), then people have no reason to engage with you. Present opinions, back them up, and invite a discussion. 
  • Say it with me: Prioritize your audience. Creating content about what your team did over the holidays or all the product features you’ve been working on might be fun. But it doesn’t matter to your audience unless it relates to issues they’re wrangling with. When validating content ideas, think: Why would my audience care about this?

Your By-Products Deserve a Second Chance

The best by-products might not look like much. Molasses is a dark brown puddle of gloop at the end of the sugar production process. But it still holds immense value. 

The by-products in your company are the same. They quietly reside in overlooked files, sprawling spreadsheets, and forgotten Slack threads.

As a content marketer, it’s your mission to delve deep into the everyday workings of your team. Explore the nooks and crannies of projects and processes. Find the molasses you can turn into gingerbread — delicious narratives that others didn’t look twice at.