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ICE Framework: The original prioritisation framework for marketers

Article originally published in February 2022 by Stuart Brameld. Most recent update in October 2023.

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Introducing the ICE framework

The ICE framework is the original scoring mechanism for growth marketing teams. It is widely considered to have been invented by Sean Ellis, considered by many to be one of the leaders in the growth hacking movement and now the CEO of GrowthHackers.com.

As a result, the ICE framework is probably the dominant scoring framework used by growth teams today.

What is a prioritisation framework?

A prioritisation framework, or growth strategy framework, is used by product teams, growth teams and marketing teams to prioritise work and to assist with decision making.

Using these frameworks ideas from marketing teams, product teams, stakeholders, partners and consultants are assigned a quantitative score to determine the order in which work should be done.

There are a number of prioritisation frameworks, or scoring frameworks, all centred around the same theme. These include:

FrameworkDeveloped byScoring factors
RICESean McBride at IntercomReach, Impact, Confidence, Effort
ICESean Ellis at GrowthHackersImpact, Confidence, Effort
PIEChris Goward at WiderFunnelPotential, Importance, Ease
HiPPOn/aHighest paid person’s opinion
BRASSDavid Arnoux at Growth TribeBlink, Relevance, Availability, Scalability, Score
HIPEJeff Chang at PinterestHypothesis, Investment, Precedent, Experience
DICETJeff Mignon at PentalogDollars (or revenue) generated, Impact, Confidence, Ease, Time-to-money
PXLPeep Laja at CXLAbove the fold, noticeable within 5 sec, high traffic pages, ease of implemention and more.
Prioritisation frameworks for growth

What does ICE stand for?

ICE is an acronym for 3 factors that make up an ICE score, these are:

  • I – Impact
  • C- Confidence
  • E – Effort
ImpactHow impactful do I expect this test to be? Consider any relevant metrics and past data to calculate the likely impact on your baseline metric.
ConfidenceHow sure am I that this test will prove my hypothesis? Use data and past experience to assign a confidence score.
EaseHow easily can I get launch this test? As a marketer, if an idea needs no development work and you can complete it on your own, give it a higher score.

How do you calculate an ICE score?

Firstly, a score of between 1 and 10 is assigned to each individual factor (Impact, Confidence and Ease) and then all 3 scores are multiplied together to provide an overall score of between 3 and 30.

Image source

The biggest advantage of ICE prioritisation is its simplicity, decisions can be made very quickly, particularly where ‘good enough’ is the goal. That said, the main criticism is the subjectivity within the scoring, particularly for newer growth teams where there may be little or no historic data with which to accurately determine potential impact or confidence in an idea.

ICE framework template

The image below shows a set of ideas scored based on Impact, Confidence and Ease. The ideas with the highest score rise to the top of the list (or backlog) thereby creating a prioritised to-do list for the growth team.

Image source

Why use the ICE framework?

As with any prioritisation framework, the scores themselves are largely meaningless. The goal of using ICE prioritisation is to:

  1. Assess the idea in a thoughtful, structured and unbiased way
  2. Provide the ability to easily compare the ideas against others

Further resources

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