If sending a payload to GEO (geosynchronous orbit) or any other high orbit, you could start off launching to LEO (low Earth orbit), and then use a Hohmann transfer to raise the height of the orbit. I think this is pretty much the standard of how it's done. Hohmann transfers are the most efficient way to raise orbit, but that doesn't mean that going from ground->LEO->GEO is the most efficient compared to other options.
Do launches ever bypass LEO altogether? For GEO, couldn't you just launch straight to GEO? So at an altitude of 300 km or so, you would be flying almost vertically. Is this ever done or seriously proposed for real launches? Would it be more or less efficient?