The geo-effectiveness of coronal mass ejections (CME) is determined by a complex chain of processes. This paper highlights this fact by first discussing the importance of CMEs intrinsic properties set at the Sun (e.g., trajectory, eruption process, orientation, etc.). We then review other key processes that may occur during propagation (e.g., shocks, compressions, magnetic flux erosion) and in the specific interaction with Earth's magnetosphere (e.g., magnetic properties, preconditioning mechanisms). These processes sequentially have a significant influence on the final geo-effectiveness of CMEs. Their relative importance is discussed. While the CME's trajectory, magnetic field orientation, velocity and their duration as set at the Sun certainly are key ingredients to geo-effectiveness, other processes and properties, that at first appear secondary, often may be as important.