Many of us dream of one day meeting a celebrity. Be it a movie star or a pro football player, we have a tendency to idolize these individuals, even looking to them for guidance as we make life decisions. In business, we can also find people we idolize. Individuals who have achieved great success with their own company or even revolutionized an industry.

From these people, we can learn key skills, gain valuable insights or even form partnerships to take our own business ventures to the next level. Yes, it is possible to form real relationships with your business idols or industry influencers. But like any other relationship, it requires work.

Here’s 6 ways you can start forming the relationships that will make a lasting difference for your entrepreneurial goals:

1. Do Your Research

Facebook stalking may be creepy for normal relationships, but doing some online research is perfectly okay for business leaders and influencers. After all, most influencers are extremely active online, either through social media, their own website or guest blogging. This basic research gives you a chance to better understand your business idol.

What do they like or dislike? What are their opinions on current trends? What do they talk like? These simple bits of information will help you better know how to approach them and determine if a relationship could prove beneficial.

“The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” – Robert Kiyosaki

2. Comment Carefully

Your initial research also serves as your first chance for engagement with your business idol. By liking social media posts or leaving thoughtful comments on blog articles, you can make a positive first impression.

Of course, leaving quality comments is sometimes easier said than done. As Kevin Duncan of SmartBlogger explains, thoughtfully contributing to the discussion with personal experiences or meaningful questions are a great way to get the conversation started.

“When you share a personal insight, bloggers can more easily relate to you. You’re no longer just an unfamiliar name making a comment that could have been left by anyone …the more personal your insight, the more unique it will be. And the more unique your insight, the more memorable your comment will be and the more you’ll stand out.”

3. Group Participation

Business leaders and influencers won’t only be found on blogs. Many are also active participants in online industry groups. Whether on Facebook or LinkedIn, these groups allow industry professionals to discuss current trends, ask for advice, or share new opportunities.

If you wish to make a positive impression, you should seek out, join and actively participate in these online groups. Avoid the temptation to promote yourself or your business. Instead, engage in conversations much like you would with a quality blog comment. By sharing your unique experiences and insights, you’ll build a stronger reputation among your peers.

4. Face Time

Online discussions are a great place to start, but the best relationships typically require some face-to-face interaction. You make a much more lasting impression when you have an in-person conversation. Industry conventions or lectures are great places to connect with others in your field. When you show yourself as a living, breathing human being, rather than just a name behind the computer, it becomes so much easier to make a personal connection and form a real, lasting relationship — and that can pay big dividends for future pitches.

Setting up a face-to-face meeting can be tricky. After all, you don’t want to come off as creepy. However, if you’ve already established an online rapport, asking if an influencer would like to briefly meet in person at an event you’re both attending shouldn’t be a problem.

5. Add Value

All relationships have a bit of give and take — and this is especially true when forming relationships in the business world. If you’re only approaching a business idol because you hope to gain something (like an extra investor in your startup), you likely won’t have success. Instead, find ways that you can contribute value.

As leadership consultant Randy Hain explains, “‘What can I do to help you?’ is absolutely one of the best ways to get business relationships off to a great start. Invest in the other person first, with no expectation of return. Do not keep score. Simply make the investment and over time you will benefit from the seeds of generosity you have planted.”

“Networking is the No. 1 unwritten rule of success in business.” – Sallie Krawcheck

6. Focus On the Long-Term

The aforementioned tactics aren’t “one and done” tips. Instead, you’ll need to continually practice them to show your genuine interest and build the kinds of friendships that can pay lasting dividends for everyone involved.

Relationships aren’t a short-term investment — and this is especially true if you want help on your own road to success. Real relationships need time to grow. They need continual nurturing. With a patient, long-term approach, you’ll be less tempted to jump right into a sales pitch and more likely to focus on a genuine friendship that delivers a real payoff.

Becoming an entrepreneur may put you in the role of the underdog — but this doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. As you form genuine relationships with influencers and other business professionals, you’ll gain access to new sources of knowledge.

You’ll find friends who are willing to help or mentors willing to share their time. You may even find a new business partner. Relationship-building is a lifelong endeavor, but it will always pay off in the end.