What's your business vision?
One of the first things I ask my new design clients is what is their vision for their business? This often stifles folks. Most people think that getting a logo and some marketing materials is the first and main thing needed to promote a successful small business. But how do you know who to appeal to or where to put your efforts if you don't know where you want to go/grow?
In my half hour free consultations, I often ask question after question, trying to find the correct design style and direction that will match my clients' needs. If you don't have a clear vision of what you want for your business, how can you effectively appropriate money and time into marketing and advertising? If you have a plan but fail to convey it to your designer, how will they create something that appeals to your target market as well as create something that can grow with you?
If you don't know where to start, then start by asking for clarity. Second, talk to a marketing firm. Third, seek help from small business development centers or business life coaches. Or, if you haven't the time or money for those and need to hire a designer anyways, find a designer that has a marketing background so you can formulate a direction and plan that works for you.